Jules Brown – LEGO Nostalgia
LEGO bricks as we know then have been around since 1953. It’s no surprise then that many of today’s Grandparents grew up playing with the bricks we love. Whilst they’ll insist that you could only get basic bricks ‘back in their day’ (which is not true) you’ll find that people who grew up as far back as the 1950s flirted with the LEGO brick in their childhood, and have fond memories of the sets that were available. Adult Fan of LEGO, Jules Brown, who started his collection back in the 1970s tells us about his popular, nostalgic display.
Hi Jules, good to have you on board for the show. Your set-up is quite unique. Can you tell us what led to you displaying your classic LEGO sets for the public to reminisce over?
I love seeing the wonderful creations at the big LEGO shows around the UK as they’re brilliantly clever. But LEGO is now also part of our history – as we know it today, it’s been around for almost 50 years so [Ed: 63 years], whilst the sets and creations get ever more exciting, it’s always fun to go back to what it used to be like. I love seeing the faces of grown-ups – people my age – when they see my set-up, as it brings back their childhood memories of fun times playing with their bricks. And it gets today’s children interested in how much LEGO has changed in the last 40 years. It’s a great contrast to all those amazing models built today.
Were the sets in your display from your childhood, or have you acquired them more recently as an Adult Fan of LEGO?
Almost all are my original sets which I had when I was a boy – over 60 of them! My collection started in 1978 and I was a lucky enough lad to get LEGO Town sets for birthdays, Christmases and with pocket money for years after. I meticulously saved everything in the original boxes under my bed and later in the attic, where it stayed untouched for almost 25 years! A few years back I unearthed it and decided to start ‘filling in the gaps’ with sets from the Classic Town era that I didn’t get when I was a boy.
Is there anything about your collection that might surprise people?
The layout is pretty much as I had it when I was a boy on my bedroom floor – is it surprising I can remember that? It also includes a couple of buildings which I designed myself when I was about 14, including my yellow town hall. That hasn’t been taken apart since – mainly because I’d be worried I’d never get it back together again to the same design!
When you’re not building retro-sets, we’ve heard you like to challenge yourself when creating original models (or MOCs) by limiting yourself to only the pieces from retail sets. Can you tell us about that?
Well as you now know, I don’t much like to mix up the parts from my sets (it’s probably an OCD thing!) but I still like the excitement of making my own models. So the challenge I set my self is to design new creations only from the parts found in one particular set, or multiples of the same set, and as I love modular buildings that’s usually where I start. This forces me to be creative! You can’t just go to your collection for that part you need, you need to find a solution using the parts you’re given. Restriction is where the ingenuity lies. Of course it’s best to do this with large sets full of great parts. It’s an awesome challenge and a great sense of achievement when it’s done.
How difficult is it to come up with an original model when you have the picture on the box and the instructions there?
Not too difficult. Usually one tiny element or another creates the spark. Unboxing 10937 – Batman Arkham Asylum Breakout, I noticed that Poison Ivy’s cell walls looked like Victorian bow-fronted shop windows, so I ended up with a Victorian Gothic Fancy Dress Shop. In the same way, 10193 – Medieval Market Village has become a modular Cheese Shop (complete with flippers for curtains!) and 71016 – Kwik-E-Mart is fast becoming a Corner Pharmacy.
Ben Fogle, former LEGO Ambassador has recently said that modern LEGO has “ruined the world” as the sets are too restrictive and limit the imagination. Given your love of LEGO old and new, how would you respond to his comments?
Silly Ben. How so, Ben?! How so?! LEGO is inherently creative – it’s fundamentally designed for free play and imagination, and I don’t understand how some people don’t get this. If he feels restricted by the instructions or the pictures on the box, then get rid of them! Parts are just parts and, without anything to tell us what to do, every one of us will put them together in a different way. Our creations should be as individual as we are!
Following your recent success as the winner of the Best LEGO Themed Build award at the Yorkshire Brick Show, are you working on anything new for the Block Con, Hull awards, and if so, what can you tell us about it?
So, as well as the Cheese Shop (yum) and Corner Pharmacy which I’ve almost finished, I’ve just opened the box for 70751 – Temple of Airjitzu. I’ve no idea where that’s going to lead me yet, or even whether there are enough parts for a proper modular building, but we’ll see!
Thanks for your time, Jules, and we look forward to seeing your display at Block Con. Before you go, are there any final gems of LEGO wisdom that you can share with aspiring builders?
Experiment like crazy, and don’t let a lack of parts hold you back. It’s your creation so just start building and see where it takes you!
You can see Jules’ models at Block Con, Hull in September 2016, where I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to talk more about them.