Part 1 – Col takes a look back at the Big 7 rallies | NOSTALGIA
Usually at this time of year we’re all chomping at the bit, munching the miles to rallies up and down the country. Frantically rebuilding stuff we’ve broken or blown up (although maybe that’s just me?). This year has been massively different though and doesn’t look like improving socially for some time yet.
Don’t worry though, Col has raided his archives, we’ve got 200 photos and the great artwork of Si Barber Designs on the rally flyers. This weekend Scooterist Internet Radio are hosting a ‘Virtual Big 7’ (details later). Many of us would have been riding down to Kent today. Sadly, not this year but enjoy the memories.
2020. The cheapest most miserable scooter rally season ever? It’s starting to feel that way, isn’t it!
Here’s a quick look back at what we are missing out on this weekend. Yes, that’s right folks – it’s BIG 7. A humble start back in early August 2012 with a scooter rally at the Tally Ho Pub in Knockholt saw just over 400 scooterists cram the camping area to full capacity. Those that attended claim you couldn’t have scarcely pitched another tent by early evening on the Saturday (no social distancing needed back then). I didn’t go to this rally, and so quite why I’m describing 400 people at a new event as HUMBLE may seem a little strange. But I guess the fact that this event now attracts 2500 people to a massive newer venue sort of justifies the comment.
Maybe the clue was always in the title “BIG 7”, and so by 2013, the rally had moved to the Hop Farm venue in Paddock Wood near Tonbridge. It’s a superb venue with masses of camping space and very good facilities – pub, restaurant and café all on-site, with other food vendors brought in for the rally weekend. The onsite toilet and shower block are as good and modern as on any rally I’ve attended anywhere. The Hop Farm itself is a quirky looking place. It’s actually the largest collection of Oast houses in the world – built 400 plus years ago to dry hops for the beer brewing process. Maybe they had a future vision of thirsty scooterists.
Live music plays a massive part at BIG 7; I think I’ve counted 36 different bands taking to the various stages over the years, as well as many of the scene’s best DJs spinning more diverse music than at most other rallies, in my opinion.
The bands that have played
The Weller Collective
The Ska Tonics
The Top Fuellers
The Curb Pilots
Seven annual rallies have taken place there so far, each one better attended than the last, and some say it’s a rally that’s getting better and better each year. I’ve attended the last four Big 7 rallies, and thoroughly enjoyed them all. But for part of this ‘look back’ I’m relying on info from people that attended the rallies I didn’t get to, along with a brief look at the flyers for each event.
2013, 2014 and 2015’s rallies were all held on the 1st weekend in August at Paddock Wood, carrying on the tradition of a well supported (and very well organised) ride out.
I’m not sure which rally was the first to have a dyno in action, but certainly the last four or five rallies have had one centre stage in the main field. It always draws a massive crowd of spectators to watch some of the South East’s most powerful road-going scooters being thrashed.
By 2016, the rally had gained National Rally status, but with a date move forward to the month of June. And so it has spent the last four years in a row as the 4th BSRA National of the year. For geographical reasons it also grabs more than a few travelling European scooterists, as well as many UK based riders travelling to and from various Vespa World Days and Euro Lambretta events. On occasion, the BIG 7 organisers have had to juggle the date of their rally to not coincide with one of the mentioned Euro events; but then why wouldn’t they? The Kent Scooterists support both Euro and UK events themselves.
- Big 7 was the first National rally to offer pre-erected glamping tents.
- Big 7 is the only National rally to have constant CCTV running at the main gate, some say big brother is watching, I say “I feel that my scooters security is a whole lot safer with this in place.”
- ‘Mr Harrods,’ the Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed attempted to buy the 500-acre Hop Farm outright in 1997 to home his racehorses. If his bid had been successful, the BIG 7 story would be very different indeed.
I’ve had the pleasure, (albeit an awkward task) of trying to do this rally justice in the form of write-ups over the last few years here on Scooterlab (just search ‘Big 7’ at the top of the page). But, believe me, the Kent Scooter Alliance are a friendly and loyal bunch. They know how to make riders feel welcome at a rally. They also know which formula turns a club rally into a National Rally. Last year’s 2019 event had 2500 people through the gates. That’s a large turnout for a non-bank holiday event.
They also seem to have a knack of organising good weather. I thought 2017’s rally was warm, but last year’s was scorching. When every shop for miles around has sold out of bags of ice, you know your in for a warm weekend of camping and drinking.
And at the 2018 rally, I managed my achievement of being the first paying rider through the gates again. Mid-morning on a Friday when you’re 300 miles from home waiting for the rally campsite to open, you know you’ve had an early start. The gate stewards supplied me with a complimentary ice-cold beer, saying it would probably help me put my tent up…
If you live in the South East of England you will probably know exactly how good, and what the BIG 7 is all about. If you live further afield why not make the 2021 rally the event your club or riding mates make the effort to travel to? If you like a rally with an ‘Old School Vibe’ with very ‘New School’ decent facilities, Big 7 is definitely the rally for you. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Virtual Big 7, rally patches and discounts
On Saturday of this weekend, be sure to tune into Scooterist Radio because (other than quality tunes played by rally going DJs) these guys will give you the official heads up on the date for BIG 7 2021. Scooterist Radio will also give details of how to buy a commemorative 2020 rally patch for the rally we are all missing (just 500 available).
As the saying goes ‘support those that support us’. Please also remember that this club has donated over £20,000 to charities over the years!
10% off at Crusader – during the rally weekend
Scooter rally t-shirt and patch printers, Crusader Promotions are also offering a special 10% off on their website, just use the code ‘Big 7’ during the weekend.
I think the BIG 7 rally crew, agreed with my comments on their 2019 rally, so for them here they are again.
Over the past few years, the Big 7 rally has had quite a lot of criticism on the internet for the amount of four-wheelers attending. The never-ending, and frankly boring, debate regarding cars vans and motorhomes on rallies drags us all down. But, I’m willing to bet this rally has considerably less non-scooters in attendance than a lot of other large rallies. In the adjoining fields to this venue, there is a car boot sale, a caravan club site, and an area for storing brand new and second-hand cars from a dealership. Many of the moaners/critics, often see pictures of these vehicles in the background of rally photos (on Facebook and the likes) and assume, that they’re all there for the scooter rally, and completely overlook the fact that most of the vehicles just happen to be in neighbouring fields to the scooter rally.
The Big 7 Scooter Club positively encourage attending by scooter, and charge extra money for those not on one. This event is for scooterists and their families and not a cheap alternative weekend for festival-goers. The rally organisers invite all open-minded scooterists to attend, they say
Ride safe, play safe and then keep the faith..”
There are 200 photos in the ralleries, can you spot yourself or someone you know?
Roll on 2021…
Stay safe, until we can ride safe SLUKers
Big 7 rallery #1
Not been there, not done that? Buy a t-shirt instead