Mark Enright left a 25-year teaching career to follow his dream and set up a business making film props and models. SARAH SINGLETON steps into his retrofuture of batmobiles and steam robots

Looking at the front of the house in a quiet Swindon street, you would never guess that a futuristic world of fabulous machines and monsters lay beyond it.

Step through the gate, and you enter a realm of the imagination – of steampunk robots and giant spiders, of ghost train spooks and alien motorbikes, of stylised Batmobiles and a skull-encrusted roadster, seemingly just rolled up from the dusty badlands of a Mad Max movie - complete with diesel-stained doll’s heads.

These astonishing masterpieces are all the work of Mark Enright, who turned a life-long obsession into a new career, giving up a 25-year career as a school teacher to devote himself to designing and creating props and models from film, fiction and his own fertile imagination.

“I have always built things,” Mark says. “It’s in my DNA. Since I was five years old – I was brought up on the animation of Ray Harryhausen, and I would think, how did he do that?”

Since that early fascination with Harryhausen films such as Clash of the Titans, Mark has been a keen fan of science fiction and film special effects – and he has figured out, designed and created all sorts of animated models.

Then in 2015, he took the plunge - and set up Podpad Studios as a company. Now he is providing props and models for events, exhibitions, film and television.

Mark, 52, was born in Leamington Spa and gained a degree in fine art.

“My aim in life had always been to work in special effects, and I got a job with a props company in Shepperton called Keir Lusby. I spent two years there, in the workshop. I remember doing work for the Benny Hill show - I had to make rocks out of polystyrene which could be dropped on his head,” he says.

Later Mark trained to be a secondary school teacher of art, music and drama and he went on to have a long career in teaching – in Swindon, at John Bentley School in Calne and at Springfields in Calne.

“I did enjoy teaching,” he said.

“In 2008 I started teaching ICT and I was always interested in making ICT more creative – with lots of robots.”

Inspired by his early love of Clash of the Titans, Mark created a replica of Bubo, a mechanical owl made of brass and iron who was sent by the gods to help Perseus. He took the model into school and said seeing the animatronic owl in action inspired pupils to take more of an interest in ICT.

“I said, if you can learn coding and programming, you can make one of these,” he says.

In his spare time, Mark continued to make his own models, such as a steampunk Daleks and robots, which he exhibited at events and conventions, raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process.

Never content to create something that only looked good, he always made sure his models worked – responding to external stimuli, giving off steam, making noises and moving.

“When I started off, we created lots of film weapons for low-budget productions, but that got a bit boring,” he explains.

Since the advent of Harry Potter, he has made several owls, which respond when you talk to them, and he exhibits them and his other creations at comic conventions.

“People love them,” he says. “I go to most of the UK comic-cons. It’s a huge scene, film conventions and, in the last year, car shows.”

His vehicles are the most spectacular of his working models. He has six now, including Steamer, an imagined steam-powered vehicle for Batman. Not only does Steamer look the part, it is interactive. Children can touch it, climb inside the cab and watch the animatronic Batman in the driving seat. It has notes in Braille on the exterior for children with visual impairments, and the wheels are covered in foam. Steamer even blows bubbles.

His 95 Spider Batmobile takes inspiration from the 1995 Batman film, and the influence of artist HR Giger shows in its bio-mechanical style.

The Apocalypse Bug – a stripped down and rebuilt VW Beetle – is a Mad Max-styled roadster suitable for journeys to the end of the world, bristling with weaponry, adorned with charred doll heads and bones, and complete with a working propane after-burner – perfect for your wasteland photoshoots. Mark also has several sumptuous, science fiction-style motorbikes.

He describes the genre of his models as steampunk and retro-futurism.

“Retro-futurism means taking old materials and building futuristic models,” he explains. “Most of these are made from found objects. I’m a nightmare if I go out – always looking in skips. I find things everywhere.”

The mighty exhaust for one of the cars is an old washing machine drum, for example. Although he does use sheet metal and a 3-D printer too, many of the materials are everyday objects, repurposed and refashioned, though it is hard to recognise them until Mark points it out.

“It’s about the vision,” he says. “Seeing it in a new way. Most people would just see the object, but I see what it could be.”

The fledgling business has gone from strength to strength and Mark is getting commissions to build his fantastical vehicles for admiring clients. It takes him about 16 weeks to build one. Wife Anna and grown-up sons Reaze and Luc are very supportive of his new enterprise.

“They were massively supportive of me turning it into a business,” he says. “This was always my hobby, and after three years it can support itself, and I want to take it forward.”

And he has vaulting ambitions.

“I have plans for something much bigger. I want to scale this up – to perhaps 10 times the size I am doing now. Creatures! Large-scale, mechanical and steam-powered creatures. It is going to happen!”

He refers to the giant mechanical marionette company based in Nantes, France – called Royal de Luxe – and thinks that Brunel’s old Great Western Railway works, particularly with the heritage of the steam and invention, would be just the place for a new creative centre.

“I would love to do something like this in Swindon, with steampunk. Potentially we could build these kinds of things in the old engineering works, working out of these sheds. It’s going to get bigger. It’s going to put Swindon on the map,” he declares. With this much imagination and ingenuity, it will be fascinating to see what Podpad Studios achieves next.

You can see Mark’s creations at the Swindon Steampunk Spectacular, at the Steam Museum on March 17 and 18. Visit