Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Golden Demon Painting Competition in the 1980s: Graham Apperley's Collection and Interview

From time to time I receive emails from Old School Warhammer fans drawn to the Oldhammer Community. Most of these are joyful texts, full of rediscovered passion and a happy realisation that 'they are not the only one' who prefers or enjoys older Citadel Miniatures out there, and that there is a previously unknown community out on the interweb for them to enjoy.

Once such email came from Graham Apperley. He had read some of my comments about the old '80s Games Days and Golden Demons, that sprang from the interviews and pictures supplied by painting giants, Andy Craig and Guy Carpenter, inviting anyone with memories or photographs from this event to come forwards and share what they have with us here at Realm of Chaos 80s. 


So he did. 

What follows is a short commentary from Graham about his experiences and plenty of good photographs from his collection of period models, conversions and dioramas. We both hope you enjoy what you see and read and are inspired to produce something special of your own.  Let me just take this opportunity to thank him for sharing these wonderful photographs with us, and for reaching back into the dark depths of his memory space for some personal recollections about the competitive painting scene of the late 1980s. 


GA: I was a fairly regular patron of the Birmingham GW shop and remember entering a converted Orc with free hand standard, for the regional heat for the first Golden Demon competition in 1987. I was very proud of my effort and more than a little disappointed when I didn’t get through to the final. I had to admit though, that the standard of the entries blew me and my Orc away and raised the bar considerably. The Birmingham store was the home store of some of the best painters in the UK. The Slayer Sword was to be won that year and the next by two of my fellow entrants, Brian Moore and Ivan Bartleet!

GA: So when the 1988 regional competition rolled around, I raised my standard as well.  I had realised that attention to detail, the quality of the basing and the overall presentation, were the differentiating factors between a nicely painted figure and an entry which would give me the coveted t-shirt, a  gw voucher and a place at the finals. Success spurred me on to start work on a more impressive entry for the day itself.

GA: My trip to the Victoria leisure centre later that year found me clutching 3 entries, the Legolas single figure which had got me through the regional heats, a Melnibonean cavalryman and my Dragon Rider into which I had poured hours of my free time.
GA: My recollections of the day are somewhat shrouded in the mists of time and beer now, but the event was lower key than every other event I attended subsequently, and I recollect attendees being in the high hundreds not thousands. I was not overly optimistic but I was aware my Dragon Rider was drawing a few admiring glances and comments. It was still with a sense of some disbelief that my name was read out as the winner of third place in the Demon category. I duly collected my small trophy and envelope of GW vouchers and headed happily home without my winning entry. In those days the winning entries were carried back to the GW studio for photographs and eventual return via the shop you entered through.
GA: Some time later an unexpected footnote was added to this story when I received the letter shown below, inviting me to visit the studio with my miniature collection. To say I was excited by this development was an understatement and a week or two later I headed upto Nottingham with my best figures in a box under my arm.
GA: Phil Lewis was a lovely guy and photographed some of my figures, gave me a guided tour and then took me to lunch in a local pub. John Blanche joined us and I sat there a little bit in awe of this guy who was already a bit of a legend in our geeky universe. I have no recollection of any of the conversation but thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. I think my figure collection was a bit of a disappointment for Phil Lewis as most of it was painted to gaming standard only. My Demon entries were of a much higher and time consuming standard and these had of course already been photographed (the cavalryman being in the Fantasy Miniatures book along with my Dragon Rider).
GA: When 1989 rolled round I set my sights on another trophy but it was not to be. I qualified in 1989 and 1990 and have figures photographed in the 2nd and 3rd Fantasy Miniatures books (Harlequin Jetbike and Traitor Terminator respectively).
GA: 1990 was the last attempt I made. By then the competition was such a large event with thousands of entries that I felt my humble efforts were just not going to win again. I had pushed myself to my own limit with the freehand and conversion on the Traitor terminator and I didn’t think I could improve on that piece. It had not been good enough, possibly too subtle amongst so many entries and I decided to call it a day.

GA: My admiration for anyone who can win Demons on a regular basis is enormous as I know how much effort I put into my entries and how difficult it proved to be to win even my one treasured Bronze Demon.
Big thanks again to Graham. I am sure you will show your appreciation below in the comments section. Additionally, if you are reading this post and have information that you feel may be of interest to readers of the blog and the wider Oldhammer Community, please don't hesitate to contact me at



  1. Graham, Thank you very much for sending all of this in! Great to hear about the old days, and I'm sure we can only imagine how cool that lunch was! And thanks for the pics of your great models, I love the banners and freehand stuff. Really appreciate it - but I was unsure of one thing I'd like to know is if you are still painting? So thanks again!

  2. Good read, The last stand and Khornate Terminator are just plan amazing. Reading and looking at pictures such as these is why I love Oldhammer so much.

  3. Oh and that brilliant rogue trader in yellow like the one in the book of the astronomican. So good.

  4. Great to hear about it all Graham. Still hoping to see some of those lovely figures in person - how about you sign my Fantasy Miniatures books?!

  5. You are all too kind. I'm glad you have enjoyed reading my little story and looking at the photo's.
    Yes I still paint, almost exclusively WH40k, but for tabletop gaming not painting comps as such. I have been lucky enough to win a few best army trophy's at tournaments over the last few years and had the privilege of showing my Chaos daemon/ Black legion in a display cabinet in the Warhammer World museum a couple of years back which was quite surreal. I am thinking of starting a blog of my own to show some of my stuff but I think I will probably post a few things in a thread on the Oldhammer forum if you think they would be of interest. I just need to work out how to upload pictures (my IT skills are somewhat lacking). my current passion is for the old rogue Trader stuff which I am now starting to dig out and start painting...Squats, Eldar and Slann at the moment.

    1. Definitely looking forward to seeing your models in the forum showroom. Anyone will gladly help there in case of IT skills matters.

    2. Squats and Slann you say? Um.. marry me so I can have half your collection ;)

    3. I think the wife might have something to say about that, which is a shame as she has no love for my toy soldier collections :-)

  6. Great stuff - thanks for sharing Graham and James!

  7. Thanks Graham and Orlygg

    Graham, great stuff you have shown here and I do recognize a few of them from the Fantasy Miniature books. Especially the Traitor Terminator which I really liked back in the days and still do. The conversion and free hand really works.

    I think I must unconsiously stolen your shield design of your Melnibonean rider. I do alot of black and white and quick often with those spiky edges.

    Very much looking forward to some more pics of e.g. you curreny armies on a blog or oldhammer forum

    Thanks! /Hans

    1. Thanks for your kind words Hans. Glad you liked them. You are welcome to steal any of my ideas...I probably stole them myself anyway !
      I will put some more of my collection on the oldhammer forum in the near future.

  8. I love that freehand on the Tratior Termie Graham.