Taking a SLUK back at 23 years of Whitby Rallies| NOSTALGIA
Large scale scooter rallies have been met with some serious opposition over the years. Local residents and councils with the ‘we don’t want you in our town’ mentality, police forces not wanting extra trouble to deal with, and the very real threat of the Government’s Public Order Bill were all obstacles put in our way in an attempt to stop scooter riders descending to a town (usually the seaside) on mass, for a weekend of fun.
Who would have ever thought that it would be a global pandemic that would cause havoc across the planet? Killing tens of thousands of people around the world, and obviously restricting peoples movements everywhere. It goes without saying that our scooter rallying lifestyle would have to halt immediately until the whole thing is brought under control
The virtual rally last weekend in Whitby went down a storm lifting people’s spirits. I used my weekend at home going through my old archives for photos and jogging a few memories to share with you. I always like to drop a couple of interesting facts in along the way, so here goes.
The small but beautiful gothic seaside town of Whitby is about as far as you can possibly get from a tacky seaside resort. I’d had the pleasure of some very good club rallies in the town and used to visit and travel to rallies with members of Whitby Scooter Club long before the first National Rally in the town, back in May of 1997. I sort of knew what to expect, unlike many riders visiting this scenic popular place for the first time back then.
Where’s the campsite?
Amusingly, back in June of 1989, I was riding with our small club of riders from here in Scarborough with plans to meet up with about ten members of Whitby SC, and then travel on together up the coast to the National Rally in Whitley Bay. At our petrol station meet up point, the forecourt was already packed with a full club of Scooterists from Lincolnshire, who were desperately looking for the campsite and had been riding around and around the town for nearly an hour.
One of our gang laughed and blurted out “This is Whitby mate, the rally is in Whitley Bay it’s about 80 miles further North.” Back in the day stuff like that happened all the time; we didn’t have maps, and half of our lot struggled to read road signs anyway. After much piss-taking of the Lincolnshire gang we all joined forces and set off on our way. And, as I remember we virtually all got there with only two stricken scooters left en route.
End of the NSRA
Back to the mid to late 1990s, the numbers attending rallies were down massively on the decade before. The first National in Whitby had been organised by the NSRA, but by the time the rally happened at the end of May, the NSRA organisation was coming to an end. It is well documented that with massive help and guidance from VFM and other die-hard Scooterists throughout the UK the BSRA was formed. The venue used back in ‘97 was the same Pavilion venue still used at Whitby rallies today.
The official attendance that weekend was about 600-700. Numbers attending the evening venues were very low. Back then the NSRA photo ID card system was still in use to gain entry to the dos. But, for the first time at an NSRA night do, non-members were allowed in, which in turn brought a few non-scooterists in. This was deemed a real low point for those that had stayed loyal to the NSRA card system. Some members threw their cards in at the staff on the till at the end of the night vowing not to support official dos in the future. It is worth pointing out that whilst numbers attending rallies had dropped massively, the rallies that had a VFM alternative night do proved very popular. Whitby 1997 ended up being the last National Rally where a members card needed to be shown to gain entry to the official do.
A long-standing tradition of the Whitby rally is the Sunday ride-out to the very small village of Goathland situated about 10 miles south-west of Whitby. It was made famous in the filming of the 1960s based TV drama Heartbeat, where it was known as the town of Aidensfield. Even back in ‘97, the ride out numbers were well over 100, which was a very big percentage of the people at the rally.
After a gap of a few years, Whitby hosted its first Easter National rally in 2002. This time, it was organised and run by the BSRA. Numbers were far higher than the previous rally and it seemed to run far smoother. The Pavilion venue was buzzing to the sounds of “The Repertoire Dogs” and “Skaville”
The next visit was a pre-season rally in the March of 2005, spoilt for many by the weather – snow, cold wind and rain ruined the ride there. The popular ride out was cancelled too. That weekend’s live bands were “The Tickets” and “The Cool Jerks.”
On to 2006 and Whitby was the June National Rally. A town is so much more appealing to visit in the sunshine and warmth. This was the first time many would actually camp at the rally. “Jarvis Humby” and “The Complete Stone Roses” played at the rally again at the Pavilion venue.
The 2008 rally was much the same if not warmer, the rugby club campsite was busy. That weekend’s bands were “The Uplifters” and “Jam DRC”. Of all of the Whitby rallies so far I think the ones in ‘06 and ‘08 were my favourites. But that’s probably down to the weather in June and long light nights helping the mood.
By 2010 Whitby had fallen into to its bi-annual Easter slot, and so for the last decade, it has rotated the Easter weekends with the town of Scarborough. Whitby hosting Easter on the even-numbered years and Scarborough hosting it on the odd-numbered years. Strangely though the Whitby rallies do end up being a fair bit colder than the Scarborough ones. The custom shows in the downstairs room at The Pavilion are always bursting at the seams but well organised. Live bands in 2010 were “Basket Case” and “The Beat”. When we visit towns repeatedly on the same weekend it’s easy for them to blur into one – that’s the main reason I’m quoting which bands played at which rallies to help people remember if it was a rally they attended. We often hear Scooterists arguing ‘which year did we go there’ and so on.
On to 2012 and another nippy one! The buzz of the first big blow out of the year is the attraction of Easter to many; seeing mates you haven’t seen for months heightens the need to get there. Quite a few custom scooters or plain winter rebuilds are debuted at the Easter rally. The bands “The Detail” “The Pepperpots” and “King Kurt” played this one.
The campsite at the rugby club in 2014 was probably where I decided, that as much as I like the atmosphere of a well-run scooter campsite, my days of camping as early as Easter are over! “Heavyball” “The Selecter” and “Jam DRC” (the only band to play Whitby twice so far) played this one.
2016 saw more bad weather, the hardcore that camped at the rugby club were battered by a storm, and two of the main roads in and out of Whitby were closed for a while by heavy snow on the surrounding hills. Weekends like that usually just add to people’s determination for a good laugh when normal members of society would simply give up and go home. Scooterists step it up a gear and carry on. Performances by “Rhoda Dakar and the Bodysnatchers” and “ The Northern Soul Elite” kept people warm in The Pavilion night dos.
Big in 2018
2018 was our last visit to the town, a well-attended one at that. The scooter scene is possibly more diverse than ever before. The days of most rally goers turning up to a bank holiday rally on the Friday and not setting off home until the Monday morning are long gone. The massive numbers of riders that come for one night or day trip the rallies is clear for all to see. On the Saturday morning of the 2018 rally, I saw more people packing up to head for home than I’ve ever seen before, but for each rider that left more arrived. Some of the largest groups of scooters I saw were the packs setting off for home at the end of Saturday’s custom show. Although a select bunch stay right through until Sunday night’s low key do.
People have busy lives nowadays, grabbing at a small or part section of a four-day bank holiday weekend is just enough for some to get the scooter fix they need. A jam-packed scooter calendar of events forces Scooterists to pick and choose more than ever before where and when they go. “King Hammond” “The Rockercovers” and “Jennie Bellestar” all entertained over the weekend. The Whitby rally never disappoints – that is a fact!
2020’s rally looked to have a superb live band and custom show line up, which makes its cancellation even more upsetting. For now, anyway, riders don’t seem to tire of the Whitby rally and what it offers travelling Scooterists, we will no doubt be back visiting there sometime soon
Anorak time; who else had spotted that every Whitby rally patch always has a Lambretta on it?
There’s lots of talk at the minute as to when the last UK National Rally was cancelled, usually referring to the 40 years or so that there has been a recognised list of Nationals. History shows the kind of scooter gatherings that took place in the 1950s and the 60s is extremely well documented too. For me I admire the Scooterists that kept the scene very real in the 1970s; maybe scootering’s leanest times. It certainly was for new scooter sales anyway – though all long before my time!
When the earliest No1s meetings took place at the start of the 1980s they laid down a format that is still followed today – a recognised fixture list of 8, 9, or 10 rallies throughout the year. I don’t ever recall an Easter National not happening in that 40 year period. I’ve certainly read all about the ones that were on in the years before I started riding, and I’ve never missed one since I started riding.
But here’s a fact many of you will have missed – if you look at the northeast coastline of England (in particular the 180 miles of coast that stretches from Whitley Bay high up in the northeast, down to Skegness on the east midlands coast) that’s home to what has been seven different National Rally venues. Ranging from Whitley Bay, Redcar, Whitby, Scarborough, Bridlington, Cleethorpes and Skegness. They have amassed a combined total of around 90 National Rallies since the start of the 80s. It’s the most regular coastal area visited by scooters in the whole of the 3000 mile of coast that surrounds the UK. 2020 will be the first year ever not to host a National rally on that stretch of coast.
Stay safe, until we can all ride safe SLUKers
Words and photos: Col
Col’s Whitby Rallery 1997-2018
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