Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our one hundred and eleventh guest was one of the senior members of Knights of the Empire – Mick Byrne.
Lightsabre – Mick, welcome to Lightsabre.
MB – Hello everyone, it’s a great pleasure to be part of this, very exciting.
Lightsabre – Star Wars has had a profound effect on all of us – it’s why we’re here talking about it, but what was it that started you off on your Star Wars journey?
MB – I remember watching John Craven’s Newsround on the BBC in 1977 as a 13 year old and there was a trailer for a new film that had been released called Star Wars…I can still remember sitting in front of the TV open mouthed at what I was watching and that was when the Star Wars bug bit me. I’ve been addicted ever since.
Lightsabre – Knights of the Empire has grown tremendously in the last few years, making a name for itself as a force for charity raising in the UK. Tell us a bit about the history of KOTE.
MB – KOTE was formed in early 2005 by members of the 501st UK Garrison who were all based in the Midlands at the time. We had asked the 501st to be a “squad” and had been refused and had ideas that we couldn’t really move forward on within the existing structure, so the Knights of the Empire was born as an alternative to the 501st and has grown really ever since.
The first 12 months were really hard work as we were the first club to breakaway and had to prove our existence, so we attended many many small events supporting charities and growing the KOTE name which was very exhausting for ourselves and our families but our break came when we were asked to attend and support the Caudwell charity ball in Staffordshire. This was a very high profile fundraising event thrown by John Caudwell the owner of Phones 4 U and a Star Wars fan. It was wall to wall celebrities and we had to share a changing room with Rachel Steven and Liberty X!
From this point on we knew that we could make a difference and went on to attend many high profile events supporting charities along the way and growing as a club all the time.
Lightsabre – Which of the six episodes stands out as your favourite?
MB – A New Hope….beyond all reasonable doubt, it can never be beat.
Lightsabre – As a fan, what is it like to be part of the Star Wars phenomenon?
MB – It’s a great honour and a very special feeling to be able to and be allowed to recreate the characters from Star Wars and to bring the magic to life for many many people. To see the smiles and excitement on the faces of not only children but adults is very rewarding and it’s something very special to be a part of.
Lightsabre – As a fellow fan you must have many golden Star Wars memories. Tell us about some of them.
MB – My favourite memory is travelling to the locations a couple of years ago in Tunisia. To walk into the Lars homestead was the most amazing feeling ever regarding Star Wars, to be at the actual site and sit in the Lars kitchen and to walk the stairs to Luke’s bedroom is something I’ll never forget.
We went on to The Phantom Menace sites and also to the Cantina at Mos Eisley which was great but I then went to Tatooine which is a real town occupied by the French foreign legion and from there I sent myself a postcard from Tatooine and postmarked ‘Tatooine’!
Lightsabre – Which of the Star Wars characters is the closest to you?
MB – Mmm, I read this two different ways.
Closest to myself as a character it has to be an Imperial Stormtrooper, as soon as they blasted the door of the Tantive IV and ran through I wanted to be one. Closest to KOTE is Gerald Home who is a gentleman and fantastic ambassador for the films and the fans.
Lightsabre – What would you change about Star Wars if you could go back in time and make alterations?
MB – I stop George from remixing and re-editing the original trilogy, especially A New Hope with all those added FX and things, I like the films as they were, that’s why they were special.
Lightsabre – Tell us about your interests outside of the Star Wars arena?
MB – Lol KOTE took over my life! We have just started a new club called the Galactic Legion (www.galacticlegion.com) and have expanded in to Sci-fi, Fantasy and horror costuming.
We have Cylons, Freddy Kruger, Rocketman, Ironman, Heroes, Ringwraiths and Daleks to name a few. It’s new and exciting moving into other areas and all the indications are that the public like to see other characters from other films. Again all our costumes are to to the same high standard of KOTE and we are always on the lookout for new members who want to join in the fun. Outside of that I love rock music and I am a huge fan of KISS.
Lightsabre – Through your work with Knights of the Empire you must have travelled the UK extensively. Tell us about some of the places and events you’ve visited with KOTE?
MB – Wow where do I start! We have done the Download Festival and been backstage with Metallica and Iron Maiden wanted us to go on stage with them. We did get on stage a couple of times with the KISS tribute band Dressed to Kill which was so surreal as it was the two biggest icons from the seventies united on stage, the crowd went nuts!
The last attracted over 5000 people at Spaceport Liverpool and Peter Mayhew asked us if he could attend!
We have toured the UK twice now with Charles Ross and One Man Star Wars and will be touring again shortly with him.
Our next exciting Star Wars adventure will be in October in Belfast which is being organised by KOTE’s Irish members the Emerald Squad. This will be a huge event with an expected 20,000 people expected and will have stars from the film and some surprise attractions.
Lightsabre – And where do you think Lucas will take us next on our trip through the Star Wars galaxy?
MB – I really don’t know but I do hope that it isn’t flogged to death just to keep it going. I wasn’t a fan of the prequels to be honest and prefer the originals as to me that’s where the magic lies. However, whatever does happen, I think it’s fair to say that there’s still a lot of life left in Star Wars yet.
Lightsabre – What do you foresee for yourself in the future?
MB – Ideally retired with a huge bank account with summer houses in Italy and Greece! however the reality is that’s not going to happen lol. As KOTE grows it’s starting to look after itself with some great members on board who are passionate about Star Wars and costuming so I’d like to grow the Galactic Legion, keep on dressing up, having fun and just enjoying life.
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site. Any comments?
MB – Only it’s BRILLIANT! it’s great to see the enthusiasm and the commitment of the fans of Star Wars all enjoying something very special through top class sites such as (your site). It’s a honour to be involved.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Darth Vader needs a detachment of troops to assist him in pacifying an uprising on a Rebel moon. Your C.O gets the call, but you are already booked to attend a charity fund raising parade on one of the moons of Bogden. You can’t let the charity down, but you don’t want to incur the wrath of Vader either, so what do you do?
MB – We attend the Charity event and in the meantime we hijack a load of Trekkies, stick them in armour and let them face the wrath of the Dark Lord!
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 22nd June 2008.