James Brown, no not the infamous funk and soul legend, but Derbyshire’s world-record breaking collector of vintage hoovers, has put Heanor on the map once more after already making national headlines as one of Britain’s dullest men.
And James, a ‘normal’ 36-year-old (who also enjoys to go out and doing things like the rest of us) claims he is glad the book will normalise those ‘dull’ men, who are vilified for simply getting excited about some of the more mundane things in life – like hedges and roundabouts.
James owns the Mr Vacuum Cleaner shop in Heanor’s Market Street, complete with an in-house vacuum museum, and says he was honoured to be approached by author Leland Carlson.
He adds: I was very happy to go into the book, it was never about being dull, it’s a bit of an ironic title to peak people’s interest.
‘I love Kirby, they’re the Porsche of the vacuum cleaner world.’
James Brown, hoover collector
“And it’s helped me make some contacts – I didn’t even know there were many vacuum collectors out there, I felt quite isolated.”
While you might find it boring, James said he is fascinated by the history of vacuum cleaners and has collected over 300 so far. He started his shop in 2010, originally in Eastwood and his Market Street museum has been shown on national television after actor Warwick Davis stopped by for a tourism series. One of his Hoovers also appeared in the period drama The Village.
It was at the tender age of four that James’s fascination with vacuums began.
“I just started liking them. I was quite a small boy and when you’re that small any machine is quite big and impressive,” says James.
“And when I was eight my mum had some cleaning help and I liked to help them with the house work.”
James’s first vacuum cleaner was an Electrolux 345 – but it was at age ten he firstdiscovered his favourite brand, Kirby and has been collecting them ever since, with his museum now boasting a range of models going back as far as 1919.
His invention inspired American janitor James Murray Spangler to design the first portable, upright hoover in 1907, later selling the patent to industrialist William Hoover because he coudn’t afford to develop the idea.
James adds: “Kirby is the Porsche of the vacuum world. A brand new one retails for over £2,000. Pre-war hoovers have a similar price tag, but back then the machines were built to last for 30 years.
That’s something disappointing about vacuum cleaners today, he added. “They’re so throw away. When it breaks you buy a new one.” But James says he does still get a lot of repair business.
“It’s interesting that some people do get attached to their machines.
“They get the new model and don’t like it so they go back to the old one.”
And the history of hoovers will really suck you in…
James tells on his website that the first mechanical vacuum cleaner was invented in 1901 by a Briton, Herbert Cecil Booth.
“He had seen other machines which blew the dust around and thought the idea would work, and he proved the idea by placing a hanky on a sofa and sucking with his mouth,” says James.
So he’s proud to offer something quirky on the high street, in this modern world of pound shops and coffee chains.
“The butchers and bakers are all going, so it keeps our high street different, so its not all charity shops and bookies.”
Dull Men of Great Britain is out now, also featuring president of the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society Kevin Beresford and Neil Brittlebank from Yorkshire, who collects bricks.
Do you think you could take James’s place as Derbyshire’s Dullest man? Tell us about your quirky hobbies at firstname.lastname@example.org