A MILLENNIUM FALCON exhibition will be opening at the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre in West Wales later this year thanks to £8,000 funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The permanent installation will tell the story of the building of a life-sized model of the iconic Star Wars starship in the town in 1979 for the Oscar-winning film The Empire Strikes Back.
It appeared in the film alongside characters including Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca as they battled the evil Darth Vader in a galaxy far, far away.
But away from the alien planets, spectacular space battles and the glamour of the red carpets, the life-sized Millennium Falcon had a humbler beginning.
“The worst kept secret in Pembroke Dock”
Craftsmen from a local engineering firm built the model – the first of its type ever constructed, in the Western Hangar – a WW2 aircraft hangar, in the town’s docks.
The work took place under a veil of secrecy, but eventually word got out into the close-knit 1970s community that they were building a UFO in Pembroke Dock.
“It was the worst kept secret in Pembroke Dock – everybody in the town knew they were building a UFO in the hangar and that period of time and that story is an important part of the town’s living memory” remembers Gareth Mills, who is a trustee of the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust.
“The story of the building of the Millennium Falcon in Pembroke Dock which we will now be able to tell in a new and permanent exhibition, is an iconic event to fans across the globe. The exhibition, once opened, will provide a significant boost for Pembroke Dock with increased visitor numbers helping with the economic regeneration of our town and will also have major benefits for Pembrokeshire.”
“One of the most iconic spaceships in science fiction history”
The Millennium Falcon exhibition is due to open at the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre midway through 2022 and local Star Wars expert and enthusiast Mark Williams will oversee the project.
“George Lucas set a new standard in both storytelling and film making with Star Wars and the story of the Millennium Falcon being built in Pembroke Dock was big news at the time. The whole world knew about it, then the story faded into legend” said Mark who is a member of the 501st Legion Star Wars costuming group, which sets out to promote interest in Star Wars.
“With the recent resurgence of interest in the Star Wars franchise, a new generation of fans has been created and as these fans start to look deeper into the saga, older fans tell stories about the original trilogy. The idea of a town in West Wales making a significant contribution to this incredible story by being the place where one of the most iconic starships in science fiction history was built, creates a mixture of disbelief, awe and pride.”
National Lottery funding
The £8,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund award will go towards creating a permanent display in the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre about the building of the Millennium Falcon model.
A walk-through display will tell the story with photographs, film, props and costumes and there may be crowd-funded recreations of sets from the Empire Strikes Back in the longer term.
“Pembroke Dock – the birthplace of the first-ever life-sized model of the Millennium Falcon, is getting a permanent exhibition for an often overlooked and unknown but major Welsh contribution to film and cinema history and popular culture,” said Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales.
“The funding for the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust has been made possible by National Lottery players who raise more than £30 million every week for good causes in the UK. It is just one of the more than 635,000 good causes in the UK that has received a share of over £41 billion raised by National Lottery players since 1994.”
Pembrokeshire’s other Star Wars connection
The Millennium Falcon isn’t Pembrokeshire’s only connection to Star Wars. Lynwen Brennan, Lucasfilm EVP and General Manager, is a Pembrokeshire native. “I am so delighted that this wonderful moment and place in Star Wars history will be preserved,” said Brennan.
“I love that such an iconic, beloved ship was built in the town where my Mum was born and in the county where I grew up, and I’m hopeful this exhibit will become a new destination for fans around the world.”