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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 12:02 GMT
Bond fans fight another day
Pierce Brosnan and Toby Stephens in Die Another Day
Most fencing clubs look a little less glamorous

It lasted a matter of minutes.

Madonna, the fencing instructor, looked on while James Bond picked up an epee and fought the bad guy.


The Bond film has resulted in more people being interested in fencing

Barry Paul
MD, Leon Paul
Then they switched to real, sharp, swords and drew blood.

The scene might have been short, but it was enough to spark a new interest in the sport of fencing.

Clubs around the UK have seen a sudden increase in new members.

And fencing equipment manufacturers say business has picked up.

Hitting the target

The film was released only three weeks ago, but the publicity beforehand made it clear that a sword fight would be part of the action.

Actor Toby Stephens
Bond villain Gustav Graves found himself at the wrong end of 007's sword

"We have had an increase of 25% in turnover over the last three months," says Barry Paul, owner and managing director of Leon Paul, the UK's only fencing equipment manufacturer.

"And we can even see this month it'll be more than last month," he says.

"Certainly for us there's a sense that the Bond film has resulted in more people being interested in fencing, ringing up and looking at our website."

Making a point

Leon Paul is a family-run business with a factory in north London, a staff of 28 and turnover of 1.2m ($1.9m) a year.


A lot of people from America put at the end of the e-mail: 'We saw the James Bond film'

Ben Paul
Leon Paul

It makes and sells all types of fencing gear from swords and masks to breeches and electronic equipment.

But Mr Paul says his export sales have been hit by the strength of the pound compared with the euro.

"The pound is overvalued to the euro by about 20%," he says.

"It has made my goods more expensive abroad and I have lost some of my export market in Europe and around the world.

"We used to sell half our goods through exports, now it's about a third."

Reliving the past

His company supplied all the equipment for Die Another Day and he hoped it would pay a dividend by boosting fencing's popularity.

A fencing mask being welded at the Leon Paul factory
Leon Paul exports a third of its products

But there is surprise at just how much the fencing scene has caught people's imagination.

Mr Paul's son, Ben, deals with the internet side of the business.

He says e-mails from the US have increased by about 20% and from the UK by about 15% thanks to 007.

A lot of people from America put at the end of the e-mail: "We saw the James Bond film".

"People have come into the shop and have mentioned that they saw it - it reminded them of their fencing days at university and they decided to take it up again."

A new wave of 007s

It is not the first time that fencing's appearance on the big screen has encouraged beginners to don masks and gloves and take to the piste.

Rosamund Pike playing Miranda Frost
Bond's Miranda Frost was an Olympic fencer

Zorro, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings have all had an impact, but the Bond effect seems to be greater.

Peter Huggins, the England youth team manager, is seeing new members at the clubs he runs in Kent.

"There is obviously a percentage that will come in and do five or six weeks, will have 'done fencing' and will move on to something else.

"We have got to maintain an interest - it's up to us, as fencing coaches, to make it last."

Steven Paul, a cousin of Barry Paul, runs his own club along with Battling, a company that imports fencing equipment.

He says he has not yet noticed an increase in sales, but he has been overwhelmed by young beginners queuing up to learn to fight like James Bond.

See also:

22 Nov 02 | Entertainment
18 Nov 02 | Business
03 Nov 02 | Entertainment
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