As the 2016 rally season starts to wind down it’s already time to start planning next years events.
Last weekend at Bridlington, representatives of the larger clubs (and rally organising individuals) sat down for the annual BSRA meeting to discuss proposed dates and venues.
The final list of destinations can be found below but what do you think of the rally destinations for 2017? Exciting? Predictable? Stale? As you expected? Rallies are what you make them and it doesn’t matter where you are?
You can have your say in the comments at the bottom of the post but let’s have a quick look at the dates and towns before we delve a little deeper into the rally scene…
National Scooter Rally destinations 2017
Easter April 14th-17th: Run by VFM, Scarborough and Whitby rotate every Easter so 2017 sees us back at the pretty little harbour town of Scarborough with its magnificent Victorian Spa hosting the entertainment.
May Day April 28th- May 1st: Run by South West Scooter Clubs Weston and Exmouth also rotate but the date for Weston has moved to the May Day Bank Holiday for 2017. It’s a welcome change but it means B&B accommodation will be snapped up quickly due to the earlier date and potential for colder weather.
Spring Bank May 26th-28th: Kelso is run by the Scottish Number ones and is the only Scottish National. It’s just over the Scottish border so if you’ve never been before give it a go, it’s closer than you think and is a lovely town.
June 9th-11th: Big 7 is run by Big 7 Scooter Club and their rally at the Hop Farm in Kent takes us nicely into summer. This already successful club rally gained National status for 2016 and retains it for next year. It’s still new enough to be exciting.
July 7th-9th: Cleethorpes is run by Mansfield Monsters/Olympics Scooter Clubs. This event celebrates its 20th year in 2017, it’s a great town for a rally with an abundance of pubs and a great campsite.
July 21st-23rd: Llandudno is back for 2017, run by VFM it’s good to see this rally back on the calendar, it’s a great little town with everything a horde of thirsty scooterists need.
August Bank holiday 25th-28th August: The Isle of Wight is run by VFM and is the largest scooter rally in the world. It’s still very popular and has plenty of variety on offer around the island so you can make the weekend a bit different if you fancy a change.
September 22nd-25th: Woolacombe is run by South West Scooter Clubs. It’s an event with the busiest Sunday night on any rally – even though it’s not a Bank Holiday weekend. That’s usually due to an inspired and varied choice of Sunday night live entertainment. The accommodation on site is usually sold out a year in advance though so you have to get in quick or stop elsewhere in town or camp.
October 27th-29th: Bridlington is run by VFM & LCGB. Let’s face it, this is the perfect venue to host an end of season event with a huge Trade & Custom show as the main attraction. Although this event also suffers from over population so getting a room in a B&B isn’t easy but there are a couple of campsites with static caravans for hire and if you turn up on the day and are prepared to walk around knocking on doors somebody might take you in.
What does a rally town or venue need?
Although we may get tired of the same rallies, year in, year out it’s not an easy task to put one on and it’s not the kind of thing you can just do in any old town. Organising a national rally that is capable of accommodating 3,000 or more people, with a venue that holds at least 1,000 of them, preferably with a decent campsite, enough B&B accommodation and a fine selection of welcoming bars is no mean feat. As a bare minimum a national rally town/location needs the following…
- Enough accommodation to hold 3,000 people
- A venue capable of holding over 1,000
- A selection of bars/restaurants
- Preferably a campsite
- Facilities for campsite
- Catering for site
- Badged security staff for the numbers expected (1 per 100)
- Additional stewards
- First aid provisions
Impact of a rally
If you’ve been doing the rallies for a while you’ll no doubt be on first name terms with your regular B&B owners and probably be on their Christmas card list. If you’re a rally organiser you’ll have everybody from the local mayor to the fire service and tourist board on your case making sure that you’ll be going back again next year.
A recent conservative estimate into the revenue we take into Cleethorpes each year puts the scooterist pound at £900,000. That’s a lot of cash going into a local economy during a weekend. Just think how much you spend in a town during a rally weekend, include accommodation, fuel, food, beer and times it by 3,000. It soon adds up.
Back in those hedonistic 1980s we were the scourge of seaside towns, turned away like lepers, tarred with the brush of badness by anybody in a position of authority. Councils fought against us, injunctions were served on organisers and we were barred from shops, pubs and restaurants. The heavy-handed police stopped and searched us going in to towns. Tools were confiscated, documents checked, producers issued. At Whitley Bay the police even noted any distinguishing marks and described tattoos (a lot of paperwork in itself judging by the amount of ink on the average scooterist).
Local pubs and promoters are quick to cash in on this weekend invasion, sometimes their involvement can be a welcome addition to a rally but at other times it can have a detrimental effect. I’m one of the organisers for Cleethorpes and most of the local bars have tribute bands and scooter style DJ’s on during the rally. That’s great in some ways but it means people are tempted to stay in town rather than heading down to the official evening events.
A better way for a town to get involved is the way some bars in Weston work alongside the organisers, they’ll have live music during the day and evening but observe a 9pm curfew so people can enjoy themselves but still have a need to go to the do later. This in turn builds a better atmosphere in the do.
Outside promoters on the Isle of Wight organised a music festival during the rally for a couple of years and even tried to get coaches picking scooterists up from the official rally site at Smallbrook Stadium. Hardly helping to foster relations and unite each other. The point being here is that if the rally organisers’ events are not attended then they will lose money. If they lose money then there is every chance the rally may not happen again. Then the local pubs won’t have any scooterists to bleed dry of cash and will have effectively killed the golden goose. Geddit?
Most rally towns are set in stone, or at least seem to be and social media is alive with moans and groans from long-in-the-tooth scooterists. You can’t ride the same ride and visit the same towns for 30-odd years without getting slightly bored after a while. We all like new adventures, different scenery and finding the best pubs in a new town. Or discovering the atmosphere of a new venue for the very first time. Having to book a B&B a year in advance (if there’s no site) can kind of take the spontaneity out of a last-minute decision to attend a rally.
Finding a new or long forgotten town and sorting out all the headaches that go with organising a new rally there takes up a lot of time and effort. I know from personal experience with Cleethorpes and other rallies I’ve been involved with that it can take a few visits to a town each year to sort out any problems, visit venues and campsites and negotiate all the red tape that goes into the behind-the-scenes part of rally organisation. Add a completely new town into the equation and you’re starting from scratch, you need to develop a relationship with the venue owners and get the local council on your side. Try and get across to landlords that we like a drink or two so they won’t run out of beer over the weekend, or scrimp on bar staff. Sort risk assessments out, secure public liability insurance, consider traffic management, signage, locate a workable campsite, find plant hire firms, skip hire, shower and toilet block hire, fencing. Sort out local licensing applications, jump through hoops and juggle plenty of plates. There are lots of unseen jobs that go into rally organisation.
Mix it up a bit
Although the national rallies are predictable they can still be as enjoyable as they ever were, especially if you’re with the right bunch of people. It may not be easy to change which towns we visit but you can mix it up a bit.
Take a new route
You know the route to the Isle of Wight, Cleethorpes or Bridlington like the back of your hand. Your scooter has it’s own National Rally autoroute setting, just press the button and it rides itself there. Maybe try using the A-roads or a scenic route instead of a direct route there.
When you get there, rather than sticking to the same tired old pub route try and find some back street out of the way establishments, ones you never knew existed and turn the town into a different experience.
Rather than blindly booking your usual bed & breakfast live dangerously and camp, or vice-versa. Try and find last minute accommodation when you get to a town. Do a rally on a 1980s budget, live off the land, cook your own food and drink warm White lightning out of the bottle.
Armchair moaner? Keyboard warrior?
Although it’s very easy for the armchair keyboard scooterist to sit and moan about where the rallies are, or how bored they are it’s much more strenuous and difficult to try and do something positive to try and change things. If you’re one of the many moaners who sit back year after year looking for a change of scenery why not do something about it?
Look around for a new (or long forgotten) town, go there and check things out. Make sure it has everything a rally town needs. Is there a suitable amount of B&B/hotel/caravan accommodation? Is there a place for a campsite close to, or in town? Is there a large enough venue to hold a do for over 1,000 scooterists? Do they have any free weekends during the rally season? You need to speak to the council and make sure they don’t have any other large-scale events around the time you’re looking at. Then you need to start speaking to other rally organisers to see if your new super-town can fit into or replace an event on the calendar for the following year. You’ll also need to raise the cash needed to book venues/campsites/insurance/plant hire in advance and have (not too bad if you’re part of a large club) or be able to hire in the staff you need to run it.
Finally you need to get the new event proposed for the 2017 BSRA meeting. Or if you’re already running a club rally that could one day become a national (as Mersea and Big 7 have done in the past) move things up a gear.
Running, or being part of a large event on such a diverse national scene isn’t easy, there are no short cuts to creating a successful scooter rally. It’s a lot of hard work (and financial commitment) just to get a scooter rally up and running – especially with all the legal implications in the modern world.
Thankfully a core of road-going scooter riders are still in control of our scooter rallies, they’ve done the miles and still are doing the miles. They know as much as anybody what makes a scooterist tick. They know or try to guess what will and won’t work. They know, or at least have an educated guess whether a band is likely to go down well with a crowd, or if putting an extra room, or rooms of music on is a good idea. They’re also willing to make sacrificies to ensure your weekend away with mates is as good as it can be. They’ll take days off work before an event to sort things out.
During the rally weekend they’ll work until 3am at a do after setting up a campsite early that morning and then still be back on a gate shift or setting up a parts fair or custom show by 7am on the Saturday morning. All to try and keep our national rally scene alive.
It’s a thankless task but is it worthwhile? Seeing people enjoying themselves during the weekend is all the reward you need and if there’s a few quid in the club bank account afterwards to help subsidise our expensive weekends away then it makes it all the sweeter.
Nothing is guaranteed though, it only takes bit of bad weather, either just before or during an event and it can mess things up big style and it can happen at any time. Day trippers won’t come out in force if the weather is bad on the Saturday, many campers won’t come if the forecast is bad leading up to the weekend. At Cleethorpes this year day visitors were down by at least 1000 on the Saturday and we had 500 less campers than the previous year. All weather related.
If you’re a scooterist who likes to criticise what we have but aren’t prepared to put yourself out to try and change things, maybe just get out there and enjoy yourself wherever you go. Remember we’re lucky to have the scene we have and the friends we’ve made along the way are part of the enjoyment. Make the most of it whilst we still can.
Have your say
Right then, with that off my chest, the page is open for your comments and views. Try and give constructive feedback and solutions rather than useless whining. Get typing folks and post them below this article please (not on a Facebook page) so everyone’s views are all together.
Who knows, some of what people have to say may prove useful for rally organisers in the future.
Words and photos: Iggy
Additional edit: Andy Gillard