A record-breaking 2,500 Star Wars fans visit the opening of May The Toys Be With You!

A record-breaking 2,500 Star Wars fans, along with a dozen Stormtroopers, attended the grand opening of the Beaney’s latest exhibition ‘May The Toys Be With You’ over the weekend (Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 December).

The exclusive exhibition showcases one of the UK’s finest collections of vintage Star Wars toys and original cinema posters, including a great treasure of movie poster art history which went on display for the very first time.

May The Toys Be With You Exhibition Interior 7

May The Toys Be With You Exhibition Interior 2

May The Toys Be With You Exhibition Interior 4

Visitors were treated to an appearance by the UK Garrison of Stormtroopers, the UK Branch of the 501st Legion, who marched into the opening ceremony to the delight of gathered crowds.

The UK Garrison Stormtroopers at the exhibition opening on Sat 5 Dec

Their appearance was followed by a welcome from Joanna Jones, Director of Canterbury Museums and Galleries and Matt Fox, the owner of the collection, who described his desire for collecting as a “sickness” and that “sharing it was the only cure”.

Joanna Jones, Director of Canterbury Museums & Galleries, opening the exhibition

Owner of the collection, Matt Fox, delivering a speech at the exhibition opening

Following the official opening, visitors revelled at the opportunity to explore the incredible, never-before-seen, collection. Fans of all ages explored the Beaney’s Star Wars themed activities from children’s mask-making to meeting a ‘moving’ and ‘talking’ R2-D2 who made himself at home for the day in one of the galleries.

Drawing in the crowds - A working R2D2 at the opening small

Drawing crowds from both inside and outside the Beaney, the menacing UK Garrison marched along Canterbury High Street where the undeterred public gathered for their Strormtrooper selfies.

Stormtroopers marching up Canterbury High Street

Stormtroopers outside the Beaney drawing crowds on Canterbury High Street

Stormtroopers paroling outside the Beaney

The opening coincided with the city’s St Nicholas Parade which stopped momentarily outside the Beaney whilst Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby greeted members of the UK Garrison.

Even the dark side recieved alms from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as the St Nicholas parade passed by the Beaney

Stormtroopers stop the St Nicholas Parade outside the Beaney!

Special guests at the opening included British designer and artist Tom Beauvais, the man behind several classic British movie posters of the 1960s and 70s, who has loaned his concept poster designed to promote the very first Star Wars film as part of the exhibition.

Tom Beauvais and his 1977 concept poster artwork for the first film. This is the first time it has ever been exhibited

Also in attendance was Shirley Chantrell, wife of the late Tom Chantrell who worked alongside Beauvais. Shirley was Tom’s model when creating the iconic Princess Leia pose on his ‘rival’ poster design which was eventually selected for the 1977 film.

Shirley Chantrell, wife to the late Tom Chantrell, whose poster artwork was chosen for the first 1977 Star Wars fiolm

Chairman of Canterbury City Council’s Community Committee, Cllr Neil Baker said: “It was great to have the Beaney galleries so packed with visitors excited about an exhibition that celebrates decades of cultural history, and our special guests and the Stormtroopers helped to make it a great occasion. Make sure you come and see the exhibition over the next few months – you won’t be disappointed.”

Dress up area within the exhibition

May The Toys Be With You’ runs until Sunday 6 March 2016 in the Beaney’s Special Exhibitions Room and visitors are asked to make a Pay What You Can donation to support future exhibitions.

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