Missing Scarborough? Col takes a SLUK back | FEATURE
For the second successive year, many of us are getting to find out what normal people do on Easter weekends. Staying at home seems to be the done thing so I’m not sure normal is a good state to be in. We’d usually be thrashing our scooters to the East Coast resort of Scarborough. Sadly, not this year.
Local scooter lad, Col takes us on a trip down memory lane to remind us about what we’re missing. There are some great photos from back in the day so be sure to flick through the two ralleries at the end of the article on page 2.
If you do want to get into the spirit of things over the Easter weekend, there’s a virtual Scarborough event on. More details here.
Original is best, or so the thinking goes. Well here we are for another scooter rally SLUKback. This one is for the UK’s original seaside resort, Scarborough. For more than 300 years, people from towns and cities all over the country have flocked to the North East Yorkshire coast for the clean fresh sea air and waters with (alleged) medicinal values. Amusingly, far more recently the scooter rally weekends bring visitors that pollute the air with blue two-stroke smoke, and these riders nearly all get giddy on slightly different medicinal drinks.
Scarborough, some say it’s the spiritual home of the scooter boy. A town that’s steeped in National Scooter Rally tradition. Infamous countrywide for the disturbances during the legendary 1980s decade of rallying; but a town that’s probably not hosted quite as many official National Rallies as you might think? To put it into some perspective, the towns of Cleethorpes, Woolacombe and Kelso are all far newer additions to the scooter rally calendar than Scarborough, and all three have hosted more National Rallies than Scarborough.
I feel I might be repeating myself again, but when I say that my rally flashbacks and facts quoted all start during the 80s, this is for two reasons – it’s when the organised format of rallies began, and it’s also the period of time when I started attending rallies. People have travelled to events and rallies ever since the first scooters rolled off production lines in the 1940s, 1950s and well-documented 1960s, although I admire the stories of the 1970s riders the most.
Since the start of the 1980s, eight different towns have hosted the Easter weekend National Scooter Rally, and 50% of those rallies have been on the same 40-mile stretch of the Yorkshire coast. Although, some people mistakenly quote Scarborough as hosting every Easter rally through the 80s, in fact, Morecambe on the west coast hosted more Easter rallies than Scarborough did in the 1980s.
Official Easter National Rallies since 1980
Great Yarmouth: 8
Whitby : 6
Isle of Wight: 2
The Easter weekend scooter rallies of 1980, 1981 and 1982 were all based in Scarborough, with varying attendances and varying amounts of arrests for trouble. All three rallies had sections of the seafront cordoned off for scooter parking and a makeshift campsite was twice used at the side of Oliver’s Mount racing circuit in an area called ‘The Mere’. These rallies were all before my riding time, however, a very vivid image I have, is one of me standing on the cliff tops looking down onto the beach and main promenade (Scarborough is my hometown).
It was the 1981 rally – 40 years ago this weekend. I was a 13-year-old kid watching scooters cruising up and down in a mass of colour and noise. Suddenly, two mounted police officers came charging down on horses to disperse a massive group of mods/scooterists that were all stood on the beach chanting and shouting. In retaliation, the scooterists bombarded the police and horses by throwing ice creams and hot dogs at them. One lad threw a large plastic traffic cone that nearly knocked one cop clean off his horse. I stood there, open-eyed, thinking…
This looks mental, this is what I want when I’m old enough to ride a scooter.”
In 1983, the Scarborough rally was in early August. The first big rally in the town not to be on a Bank Holiday weekend. It was blessed with far warmer weather than previous Easter visits. But it was a rally that didn’t go down as well as the previous three. A hostile reception from locals, pub landlords and some guest house owners, was possibly the towns way of saying…
Scooter riders are not welcome anymore.”
This one was probably the poorest attended Scarborough rally of the 1980s (although still big by today’s standards). In 1984 and 1985, the town was dropped from the calendar in favour of other resorts.
During the middle part of the 80s, members of our local scooter club would ride around town most weeknights, as did scooterists all over the country. Some of the Scarborough road traffic police would give us a hard time and pull us over for checks constantly. They knew we were local lads and seemed to hold us responsible for all the wrongdoings of scooter rally weekends.
A smug little bastard
One particularly notorious copper would regularly say to us, whilst taking down our details “In 1977, 58,000 motorcycle riders invaded town to watch the legendary reigning World Champion Barry Sheene, race around Oliver’s Mount race circuit. And other than some speeding offences they caused no trouble whatsoever. But a few short years later a few thousand of you scooter boy lunatics turn up in town and the place gets smashed to bits, it ends up looking like a war zone.” Every time he said it to us, I just smiled, and every time I smiled he called me “A smug little bastard.”
1986 was the next time the town hosted a rally, although it was arranged at short notice to substitute the cancellation of another rally. This would be the first and only time Scarborough would be the final National Rally of the year, held in October. It went on to be the poorest attended last rally of the year in the 1980s decade. Scootermania magazine editor and rally organiser (at the time), Martin Dixon, managed to persuade the police and local council to let scooterists have the use of a seafront underground car park for the Saturday night disco. One local councillor said “At last, a venue that is scooter boy proof, a concrete underground car park type bunker.” This rally was voted as one of the worst of the 1986 calendar in the end of year polls. A disco in a car park in the middle of October wouldn’t have the same appeal to us nowadays.
Scarborough rally patches over the years
Some like it hot
Onto 1987, and the rally was on August Bank Holiday. Some would say the warmest Scarborough rally yet with the best campsite and turn out of dealers so far. The campsite was about three miles or so from the seafront, at a site known locally as the “Racecourse” and because of this, it seemed to split the rally from those staying at the campsite and those who chose to try and find B&Bs closer to town. Sadly, this rally went on to be the poorest attended August Bank Holiday rally of the 1980s. It seemed as though Scarborough was losing its popularity with travelling scooterists.
A decade away
The 1988 rally was at the end of May Bank Holiday, with the campsite back at the venue used for the early 80s rally at the Mere near Oliver’s Mount circuit. A well-attended rally with good weather and decent facilities. This rally brought less trouble and subsequently less arrests than any Scarborough National so far. The police and council seemed more helpful than ever before – strange then that after the good vibe at this rally, Scarborough dropped off the scooter rally calendar for a decade.
Back with a bang
Fast forward to very early in 1998 and I got a phone call from the late and very great Jonnie Bolland. He said that after a ten-year gap, he and Fozzy (Steve Foster) decided that through VFM and the BSRA committee it was time to resurrect the Scarborough National Rally. My task was to try and find a night time venue for the rally. So, after visiting every large venue in town, some multiple times over, I had contact details to pass on. John and Steve managed to persuade the largest nightclub in town to allow us in for the rally.
At that time local businesses were still very wary of visiting scooterists, although strangely 18 miles down the coast the town of Bridlington had been welcoming scooter rallies with open arms for seven years at this point. I’ve never been a big fan of a rally on your doorstep, the backlash after any troubles would always cause us grief, plus I always felt cheated out of a journey. But that said, I will always feel a sense of pride in my small part of helping to get the 1998 rally on the calendar again. Wintery weather hit parts of that weekend and a couple of scooters were stolen from town.
Got a complex?
On to 2004, and a pre-season rally beckoned – far smaller in numbers than a National Rally. The Corner Complex for the evening dos and a leisure centre for the custom show and parts fair were at opposite ends of the town, which caused some confusion. This was a very good low key start to the 2004 rally season.
Easter 2007 saw the start of a run of superb Scarborough rallies that we could have only imagined in previous decades. The towns grand Spa building has housed the rally on alternate Easter weekends since ‘07. Whitby rallies are at Easter on even-numbered years – Scarborough on the odd-numbered years.
The parts fair and custom show are both massive and well organised in the Spa Complex. I can’t think of a popular band on the scooter rally scene that hasn’t graced the stage at the Spa at some point. A massive amount of top custom scooters have been debuted at the Spa custom show on Easter weekends.
20-odd years of hard work from VFM/BSRA and those of us fellow riders that support the Scarborough rally, have turned it into an event that the towns council are now genuinely sad to see not happen. The Spa complex is the biggest and best indoor venue in town, and we are welcomed to its facilities. 35 years ago, the 1986 rallies underground car park night venue, is actually the overspill car park for the Spa Complex – that’s some turnaround isn’t it! In the 1980s, we were begrudgingly let into a car park for a disco, but in the 2020s the same Borough Council is sad we aren’t bringing our custom to the best venue they own.
I’m really sad to see the second Easter scooter rally in a row cancelled due to the dreaded Covid-19 restrictions but, hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Stay safe SLUKers
Get your stuff ready for the start of the season (in July hopefully)
Rallery 2 – the 21st Century
Rallery 1 – the early years