We love seeing the costuming community supporting good causes with their masks and costumes. We caught up with Simon Foxen, barber extraordinaire and mastermind behind the Essex costuming group Thundersley Superhero Alliance. He spoke to us about the club, how to get involved and shared his tips on how to set up a costume club.
I've liked dressing up as superheroes since I was 8 years old. When I got older, I started going to comic cons dressed as the Joker and different characters.
I now have a lot of hairdressing clients that sadly have children who have gone through Little Havens Childrens' Hospice. Back in 2017 I was trying to think of a way of raising money for the hospice. One day a little voice in my head said 'I wonder if they do a superhero day?' and sure enough they did.
Next I thought, why not do a fundraiser at my shop with everyone dressed as superheroes? I contacted a few friends to ask if they fancied joining in. I contacted Little Havens to tell them about my plans for a fundraiser which they said was fine.
Next I thought about creating a costume group and decided to call the group Thundersley Superhero Alliance. Then I got a few people together and we discussed who else we knew who might be interested in joining. A friend knew a costumer who does Captain Jack Sparrow, i.e. Steve from Mind Magic Studios, and it escalated from there.
As of 2021 we have 22 members. Some people can participate all the time, others like me who work on Saturdays can only do Sunday events.
Charities the club supports
We always support Little Havens and we will support any charity but our key focus is charities that support children. We bring superheroes but the real superheroes are the kids, the patients.
We recently won the Heroes of the Pandemic Award as part of the Pride of Essex Scheme, which is a team community award. We don't do this for awards but it was a nice surprise to receive the recognition for what we do.
Who can join
Anyone can join so long as they have a great costume. We don't expect people to spend thousands of pounds but the costume should be of a good quality. We also want people who are willing to project the personality of their character when they're wearing their costume. They need to be comfortable being in front of people and being that character.
We're fine with having more than one of the same character because not everyone can make the events. We have two Jokers, for example, so the more the merrier as we get invited to so many events!
We generally invite costumers who are over 16 but under 16s are welcome provided they can bring a guardian to events. At Southend Carnival for example we had a fantastic little Deadpool and his mum and dad came with him. He's one of the top gymnasts in the country and can really act the part. Another member has epilepsy and he has someone who comes with him to look after him.
I'd love someone to join us as Baby Groot but its really hard to get the costume. There's a lot to it.
How to join
Send a message to me via the Thundersley Superhero Alliance Facebook page, with a picture of yourself in costume, where you live and a phone number then I'll give you a ring and we'll have a chat about the club and your availability.
We welcome costumes of characters who are family oriented that families would recognise and who are well known iconic. For example, we have Indiana Jones, a Rocket Racoon, Captain America, Ant Man, Wonder Woman. In Christmas 2018 I was The Grinch for Little Havens at a family event.
Simon's favourite costume moments
My sister sadly died of a brain haemorrhage when she was 37 years old at Christmas. She is one of the reasons I do a lot of what I do. She sadly never saw me as the Grinch but I really enjoy the costume because he's so much fun and in the winter it's a nice warm costume to wear. I really enjoy doing costumes that emphasise an aspect of my personality.
Probably the funniest thing I ever did in costume was to fly to Scotland dressed as Father Christmas. It brought the whole of Luton Airport to a standstill because Santa had turned up. All the kids went berserk. On the aeroplane even the Captain was saying that we have special guest on board, Father Christmas, who is going to get his reindeer.
My wife had travelled up to Scotland already to stay with family and didn't recognise me when I came through the arrivals gate. On the same trip we went into Aberdeen with me dressed as Father Christmas. I didn't realise there was already an official event with an official Santa at the other end of the high street. Even the Mayor came up and asked if I was their Father Christmas. I told them I wasn't but people loved the costume so then they had to try to convince everyone to go back up the other end of the high street to see the official Santa.
My dream costume, the one I'm currently working on, is Captain Hook.
How to set up a costume club - top tips
I always say if you are going to raise money then raise money for something you feel strongly about and not because its fashionable. If it is something close to your heart then you won't mind going the extra mile for them. For example, if you love donkeys then find a donkey sanctuary to support.
Next approach the charity concerned, ask if you can do a fundraiser with your costuming friends dressed as superheroes or ask if they would like you to attend an event they already have planned because everyone loves superheroes. Once you start doing events you'll find that people start to approach you about joining.
For example, when we announced we were attending Southend Carnival a young lady approached us who had a fantastic Gomorrah costume, from Guardians of the Galaxy. She was 14 so came along with her mum. Other times you'll find friends of people who join want to get involved. That happened with one of our members who had a female friend who wanted to be a Lady Thor, which is great.
Many thanks to Simon Foxen for sharing his time to speak to Mind Magic Studios.