Celebrity backers have helped save a Huddersfield town centre shop from closure.

Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross and actor Michael Sheen were among stars to donate cash to help specialist TV and movie gift shop Diversions stay in business.

The shop in Imperial Arcade was at risk after a slump in trade left it with unpaid bills and the prospect of going bust.

In a bid to save the business, owner Gareth Hughes, 45, who opened the shop 19 months ago with a £25,000 inheritance from his father, turned to social media to highlight the plight of his shop.

He launched a Kickstarter campaign on Facebook and Twitter asking for backers to help raise £2,000 in 30 days to clear its debts.

Kickstarter webpage for Diversions, Imperial Arcade, Huddersfield.
Kickstarter webpage for Diversions, Imperial Arcade, Huddersfield.
 

By Friday’s deadline, he had surpassed his target raising £2,500 from customers and well-wishers – as well as getting offers of items such as comic book collections to add to his stock of goods.

Gareth tweeted QI presenter Stephen Fry several times – at first with no response. “We sent him a cheeky tweet asking why ‘the great’ Stephen Fry hadn’t responded,” said Gareth. “He came back to us within 30 seconds with a pledge of £100. Jonathan Ross pledged a similar amount and Michael Sheen pledged £200.”

Proprietor of the Diversions gift shop in Imperial Arcade, Huddersfield, Gareth Hughes (centre) as Tom Baker's, Dr Who character takes a stroll through the arcade with visitors to his shop who had come as characters from the Dr Who series through its decades.
Proprietor of the Diversions gift shop in Imperial Arcade, Huddersfield, Gareth Hughes (centre) as Tom Baker's, Dr Who character takes a stroll through the arcade with visitors to his shop who had come as characters from the Dr Who series through its decades.
 

Gareth also had retweets on Twitter from comedian James Corden and Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham, singer Tom Robinson, shopping guru Mary Portas and Dan Starkey, alias Strax the Sontaran from Doctor Who.

“In total, we sent out 5,000 tweets in 28 days and got 157,000 retweets in a single week,” said Gareth.

“We have had orders coming into our online shop from places as far away as Texas – and even Wigan! We’ve got new customers and people are supporting us.”

Gareth blamed the fall in trade on empty and boarded-up shops in the arcade and nearby New Street and changing footfall. He said the relocation of Kirklees College to Chapel Hill meant fewer students were passing his door.

Gareth said matters reached a critical stage earlier this year. “We had five or six Saturdays on the bounce when we took less than £100 in the shop,” he said.

Proprietor of the Diversions gift shop in Imperial Arcade, Huddersfield, Gareth Hughes (left) as Tom Baker's, Dr Who character and his 12ft long scarf with visitors to his shop who had come as characters from the Dr Who series through its decades. (left to right) Caitlin Hughes, Jessica Blackburn, Stephanie Robinson, Sophia Attwood, Louise Archer and Shaun Atkinson.
Proprietor of the Diversions gift shop in Imperial Arcade, Huddersfield, Gareth Hughes (left) as Tom Baker's, Dr Who character and his 12ft long scarf with visitors to his shop who had come as characters from the Dr Who series through its decades. (left to right) Caitlin Hughes, Jessica Blackburn, Stephanie Robinson, Sophia Attwood, Louise Archer and Shaun Atkinson.
 

“Now our customers have badgered their friends to support us, taken fliers round and we have also had people bringing in boxes of comic books for us to sell. There has been a real community spirit about it.

“We have re-energised the shop. Following the publicity we have had, the shop has had six weeks of normal trading – and beyond normal trading.

“We have built the stock back to the level it used to be and got new lines in. It has changed this little shop.”

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