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R2-D2 lives in my lounge

Londoner Simon Battell had a dream: to possess his very own R2-D2. Around 20 years and £8,000 later, he’s built one

R2-D2 and Simon Battell by Rog Greig

"I’ve always wanted to own an R2-D2. It’s been my dream ever since I first saw “Star Wars” as a 12-year-old boy at the Dominion Theatre in Tottenham Court Road. As a kid, I bought all the R2-D2 action figures you could buy. I filled my house  with R2-D2s. He’s just so different, isn’t he?  So unusual. He’s very funny too. Just from some of the noises he makes, you know exactly what he’s saying. You know when his bleeps mean: “You’re being a bit of an arse, C-3PO.” 

‘I actually started with a Stormtrooper costume. I joined this group called The UK Garrison who dress up as Stormtroopers for charity events. Funerals too: sometimes you get people whose last wish is to have some Stormtroopers and an R2-D2 at their funeral.  So we follow the hearse down the road, maybe go to the wake. It’s the way I want to go. I want guests at my funeral mingling with Stormtroopers. 

‘Anyway, they had a couple of R2-D2s and I started thinking I could build one. But really, it was British Telecom that helped me. Around the year 2000 I got a job as a BT engineer, which increased my knowledge of electronics and meant I was earning enough money to afford it. I got the information on how to do it from the worldwide R2 Builders’ Club and then spent the next two years building it during evenings, weekends and the odd day of annual leave. It’s not cheap. That R2’s cost me about £8,000. Aluminium is expensive.

R2-D2 lives in my lounge

‘A Virgin Media guy came round to repair my internet connection and I couldn’t get him to look at my broadband until he’d finished playing with my droid’

‘Now R2-D2 lives in my lounge. He wasn’t going to at first. While I was building him, my wife kept saying to me: “When he’s finished, you’ve got to keep him in the shed.” But once he was built, she took one look and went: “You can’t keep that in the shed, can you?” People love it when they walk in and see him there, although it does have its downsides. A Virgin Media guy came round to repair my internet connection and I couldn’t get him to look at my broadband until he’d finished playing with my droid. 

‘I’m one of the founders of the UK R2 Droid Builders’ Club. There are 200 of us now. We have meetings, we give each other tips. Our main thing is taking them to conventions, though. That’s when you really see how much R2-D2 fascinates people. Quite often we get people saying it’s the best thing they’ve seen all day. That’s quite a big deal. They’re saying: “This is even better than seeing Dave Prowse!” ‘Building R2-D2 has changed my life. It’s given me hundreds of friends. I’ve even done TV adverts: one was for Hewlett-Packard, which means my droid’s been seen in practically every country in the world. That makes you very proud.'

Meet Simon's R2-D2

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By: Tom Huddleston

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