Like a lot of lifelong interests, Victoria Maclean's obsession with Harry Potter began with a chance viewing of Blue Peter. The 35-year-old from the Welsh town of Neath first came across Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone when the book was featured on the famous children's show back in 2001. Pregnant with her first child and suffering from severe dyslexia, the book helped her to overcome her condition but has also kicked off an obsession that has steadily grown for a little over 15 years.
Victoria's love of Harry Potter has helped to change her life completely. Beginning as a modest collection of ornaments, clothes and models, she now has over 1,000 items, making it one of the largest Harry Potter memorabilia collections in the world. It's a hobby that has seen her featured in the pages of The Express, The Sun and The Daily Mirror, and even feature on ITV's This Morning. She was even on the set of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, where she managed to witness a particularly memorable scene featuring Harry, Dobby the house elf and some sand dunes.
It's also a passion that Victoria has managed to turn into a job. As well as being a mum of three, she has also started on a career as an actress and entertainer, which sees her perform at local events and parties. She also managed to find the time to build props for the film and theatrical industries - a career path that is already gaining her some column inches. Her replica of the Game of Thrones Iron Throne has become an internet sensation - used at official HBO events and regularly touring the UK.
Let's start at the beginning? What made you want to start a Harry Potter collection?
Harry Potter is not like most films or cult franchises out there. Companies all around the world have produced some incredible prop replicas from the films. I think I started collecting because I wanted a piece of Harry Potter in my home, around me, surrounding me in the magic of the story even when I wasn't watching the films or reading the books.
I call myself a conservative Harry Potter fan, because I don't believe the magic is real. I don't play Quidditch or try and ride a broom but I do live, eat and breath the wizarding world and that's why I love it. It takes me away from the real world. A place for me to escape the troubles or to leave my past behind. I love the morals of the stories. That Harry still fights against evil, even though he loses almost everyone he loves. He never gives up seeing the good in the world. It's an incredibly immersive story.
How has your collection developed over time?
First of all, it was all the books, but over time, I started to admire the items I would see online or in the shops. I have a daughter, and when she was younger, I would buy her Harry Potter items, and then as she got older, she would give the items to me instead of throwing them out. Then when my Mum passed away suddenly, back in January 2015, I inherited her collection, as she too, was a Harry Potter fan. Over the last 12 months, I have also started to receive endless amounts of Harry Potter items to promote, so my collection is now one of the biggest in the UK.
At what point did you realise you were a collector?
I bought a collector's handbook for Harry Potter and was shocked to see that a lot of the items in the book were items I had. I never really set out to become a collector, especially a world famous one, but it's kind of ended up that way. I'm quite proud really.
What attracts you to a certain item?
I like collecting items that are in limited supply, mentioned in an interview or items that were handed out during some of the Harry Potter premieres. I often can't be there during the event, so I like to take a piece of the event home with me instead.
Is there one book or character that you're particularly interested in?
My favourite book has to be the Deathly Hallows or the Prisoner of Azkaban. I can't decide. It's like trying to pick a favourite child.
My favourite character is Harry Potter himself. I love the way he fights and never gives up. How he still manages to see a positive side, and truly loves the people around him. He is an incredible character and I truly admire him.
How has the release of 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' affected your collection so far?
Well so far, it's been really hard. I'm having to choose what I really want. Before there was only one film franchise I followed, now its two with more to come. Don't get me wrong, I truly love Fantastic Beasts. I've seen it twice now and I really love it. It's like the film franchise is growing up with its fans. I already have all the books, including the very first book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which I bought when it was first released. I have this book still in mint condition and unread.
Professor Dumbledore's pensieve
Some of Victoria's collection
How do you store and protect your collection - has it started to take over a part of your house?
I have to admit, that when I heard this question, it did make me laugh. My house IS Harry Potter, with a hint of Fantastic Beasts. My whole collection is in my house, mostly in boxes, but a lot has been put on display in glass cabinets. I have a few rarer items that are out of sight though.
Is it an obsession that comes and goes?
No, not at all. It is always there. As I own the Harry Potter UK and Fantastic Beasts UK Facebook pages, it's now become my job. I live, eat and breathe Harry Potter with my Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram and my YouTube channel. It's my life. Even my youngest son is called Harry! When fans meet me, I don't come across as an obsessed fan at all. I don't walk around wearing my robes, I don't cast imaginary spells on people and my ringtone isn't Harry Potter related, but once I start talking I think it then becomes apparent.
"I don't come across as an obsessed fan at all. I don't walk around wearing my robes, I don't cast imaginary spells on people and my ringtone isn't Harry Potter related"
How do people react when you show them your collection? Is it surprise, nostalgia, confusion or a bit of all three?
I think they're in total shock to be honest. When I was on This Morning with Harry Potter actor Tom Felton, they couldn't believe the items that were available to buy. A lot of people just stop and stare. Even people who are not Harry Potter fans, they just love how beautiful and detailed the items actually are.
Can you also tell us a little bit about your Iron Throne?
One of my hobbies is being a prop maker. I'm a very creative lady who loves to make things from recycled material. I was bored one day in May, 2014 and my husband said, "Why don't you make an Iron Throne replica from Game of Thrones?" I think I was more flattered that he thought I could make something so huge. Four months later, I had made a full-size replica.
It is now so sought after that it tours the UK and has been celebrated by HBO online, and has been used and signed by 34 members of the Game of Thrones cast. It's gone from being worth £400 to around £40,000!
What's the item in your collection that you're most sentimental about? What's the story behind it?
Wow, again, a really tough question. My Gryffindor Common Room by Valentines Miniatures. It's an incredible item and is so detailed; you sit and wait to see a Hogwarts student coming down the stairs.
In fact, it's so stunning, that I'm currently having a replica of Dumbledore's Office made by the same company.