Has the National Scooter Scene gone stale? | OPINION
Like many SLUK readers, I’ve grown up with National Scooter Rallies and over the last 32 years they’ve been the main focus of my scooter weekends away. I’ve always tried to support them if possible but things are changing. Or to be more precise, they’re not and that’s where the problem lies.
Number Ones meeting
We’re still three weeks away from the BSRA ‘Number Ones meeting’ at Bridlington. In years gone by this was the place where rallies were thrashed out around a table by the organisers of events deemed worthy of being granted National status by the British Scooter Riders Association (or NRC/NSRA back in the day). Various venues/towns and dates would be argued over, points raised and votes cast to make up the National calendar. The dates should be announced after the meeting giving everybody an equal chance of sorting accommodation etc. if needed.
Sadly, with the exception of the odd event, (Mersea/Big 7/Welsh National for instance) most of the Nationals are pretty much set in stone. Not only are the dates fairly well known but some of them have even been advertised as Nationals for a few weeks already. If I were a gambling man I’d be willing to bet on the following 2018 scooter rallies in this order…
2018 National Rally calendar
- Easter – Whitby
- May day – Tenby
- Spring Bank – Kelso
- June – Big 7
- July – Cleethorpes
- July Exmouth (already advertised)
- August Bank – Isle of Wight
- September – Woolacombe (already announced and accommodation sold out)
- October – Bridlington
Substitute Whitby for Scarborough, Exmouth for Weston and Tenby for Llandudno and you can plan for 2019 as well.
Not only does this make the scene predictable and to some extent boring but it also means accommodation for non-camping events is very hard to come by. If you want to go to a non-camping rally at the last minute you have to hope for a cancellation, or play B&B vacancy roulette when you get there.
Take Whitby for instance; try looking on Booking.com for Easter 2018 and over 90% of accommodation is already sold out. What’s left is either overly expensive, or out of town. Similarly with Exmouth, at the time of writing Booking.com has just 5 properties available in the town over the 27th July rally weekend. At least Exmouth is mid-summer so camping is a good option. If you want to go to Bridlington 2018 there are just 9 properties available in the town. Cleethorpes hasn’t been confirmed (I’m one of the organisers for that) but according to local sources, lots of people have already booked accommodation by guessing when it might be, if indeed it is on.
Booking.com is one of the main culprits, it’s made it far too easy for people to book early. Having no deposit and free cancellation as a policy means people can speculate on events and book ‘just in case’ without losing money. I imagine many people have already booked for Scarborough 2019. It’s taken much of the spontaneity out of the rallies, unless of course camping is available.
Victims of our own success?
This is merely an opinion as a fellow scooterist and I’m as guilty as the other rally organisers of not shaking things up. Along with my club, the Mansfield Monsters and our friends from the Olympics SC, we’ve run Cleethorpes for the past 20 years. It’s a successful rally and a great town; people love it for its old-school rally feel, great scooter-only campsite and the welcoming town. We have considered stopping it over the years but if we did the rally would get taken over by local scooterists and publicans, in a similar way to Skegness. That would dilute an already over-saturated scene even more. The same goes for rallies like the Isle of Wight. Certain events like those are hard to drop unless you can find something new and exciting to replace them and even then the new event will take a few years to build up.
Back in the late 1980s rally venues were kept secret in a bid to keep hangers-on and troublemakers away. A newsletter would arrive a few weeks before by post with the date and venue for the next rally. There was no social media/internet or mobile phones to spread the word instantly back then. It was all word of mouth, letters and phone calls. If you were posh enough to stay in digs you had to trawl the Yellow Pages and phone around, or just turn up and knock on doors. This kept things exciting but wasn’t popular with everybody. It wouldn’t really work in that way anymore, but there must be a way to spice up the National scene. Bridlington with a campsite in summer? A new town other than Kelso for Scotland? Maybe a Lake District National? Whitley Bay for Easter? If you’re capable and willing why not have a look into putting a new rally on yourself? It takes time, lots of effort, some cash and a fair bit of risk to pull a National off from scratch but it can be done.
Party like it’s 1999
Five years ago our gang would be 30 strong heading excitedly to the Easter rally, this year heading to Scarborough our numbers were way down. 2018 looks like being even thinner on the ground if our recent club meeting and rally discussion was anything to go by. People are getting bored of the monotony, it may be great to ride there and you have a good time when you get there but spicing things up, riding new roads, finding new pubs and dancing in a new venue keeps it feeling fresh. If you want to party like it’s 1999 just visit most of the Nationals.
The rallies themselves are still very busy, certainly much busier than they were at the turn of the century but people are getting older and we need to keep them interested. Many of my own social circle are already picking and choosing events, looking for new adventures and doing more Euro rallies than ever before.
Many scooter riders object to being surrounded by people who don’t ride scooters and have no intention of going to a rally by one. One knock on effect of busier events is that larger venues are needed to cope with the numbers, or more rooms of music catering for different genres. A Northern Soul room, Darskide, Main room, Reggae room etc. This in itself has caused musical apartheid amongst groups of friends. At Bridlington you may as well be on different rallies, some friends will spend the night in the soul room, others in the Darkside and another group in the main room.
Have your say
We’d like to hear your opinions on the National Rallies and what could, or should be done to shake things up a bit. Maybe your thoughts could be shared around the table at Bridlington in a few weeks time so leave your comments below…
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