May The Force Be With You

Shaun McDermott is a PCSO on the community beat. His way of relaxing with the kids involves going to a galaxy far, far away…

We all have ways of relaxing and enjoying ourselves in our free time. For many it’s playing sports, or watching films, or going to the theatre or to concerts; it might be walking the dog, looking after your allotment, running marathons – or a simple pint down the pub.

Then there are those people like Shaun McDermott, from Doncaster, who have hobbies that are a little out of the ordinary. Shaun likes to dress up. To be exact: he likes to dress up as a stormtrooper, from Star Wars.

By day Shaun, 46, is a police community service officer. And in his spare time, he attends comic conventions with his two boys Noah (11) and Seth (8), who share his passion, the three of them dressed in stormtrooper costumes that Shaun has made himself and which are truly out of this world.

“I’ve been a fan ever since I saw Star Wars as a seven-year-old kid,” he says. “I was brought up on Star Wars, as many people my age were. And as my children got into Star Wars themselves, it’s been great to share that interest with them.”

The reason that the hobby has extended beyond simply watching the films and collecting memorabilia, he explains, is his interest in costumes and role-playing.

“For a number of years I was involved in a Roman re-enactment group, travelling to historical sites throughout Europe, spending days in authentic costumes, simulating battles, and sometimes working as extras in films and on TV.

“I did that for 12 years, but increasing work commitments made it difficult. So I was out of costuming for a while. And I missed the buzz. Then one year I went to a fancy dress Christmas bash, and hired a Star Wars costume. And that got me thinking that maybe I could make my own.”

And with that, his galactic hobby was born.

Star Wars cognoscenti will know that there are many different stormtroopers. Shaun’s favourite is the Imperial Scout Trooper from the third film in the original cycle, Return of the Jedi. He researched the costume, sold things on eBay to raise the money for the materials and took eight months to make what he calls ‘an absolute screen replica’. He’d never used a sewing machine in his life. “It was the most creative I’d been since making my kids Lego set.”


He’s got other hobbies, including fell walking with his own father. But, he says, “this particularly hobby is about total escapism. And I just find it a fantastic way of expressing myself. It’s about more than putting a costume on. It’s about meeting other people, being creative. It’s great to spend a few hours together with the boys, doing dads and lads stuff.

“And it’s relaxing. When I’m having a bad week at work, if I know I’m doing something fun at the weekend it does drive me on.”

Shaun has been a PCSO for 10 years. Before that, he was a community safety worker, with a local authority safer neighbourhood team.

“Not every day as a PCSO is a great day, as you can imagine,” he says. “The role puts us in contact with less desirable people in the community as well as nice people. It’s the rough with the smooth. But it’s an enjoyable role on the whole. I do like working with members of the public and I get a kick out of helping people, if I can.

“What I don’t enjoy is the shift work, and weekend work, which has an impact on your personal life. Recently we’ve started to work even more weekends – I only get one weekend in three off, which has even more of a detrimental effect. I don’t feel stressed, but often very tired. And I feel that I’m missing out on things.

“So I view every moment away from work as solid gold. Time is such a precious commodity to me.”

Of course, while Shaun’s enthusiasm and attention to detail are admirable (for the record, his sons’ costumes are from Attack of the Clones), he admits that not everyone in the family shares his passion.

“My wife thinks I’m absolutely crazy,” he laughs. “And I don’t blame her. We do have a six foot stormtrooper in our bedroom.”

Watch the inspiration for Shaun’s Stormtrooper costume