- Phil the Spill
Originally it had been my bad luck to be on night shift for the Friday (13hours!), but with a bit of swapping about I managed to get an earlier one, and so it came to pass that I managed to escape the gravitational pull of Uxbridge by 6:30pm. By the time I got to Peterborough it was dark and this may be this reason that I couldn't see any signs for the event, but I think the real reason was that nobody had put any up as far out as the A1. I blame my getting lost entirely on this. But I did find it eventually, picking up signs from about a mile out, and I arrived just two hours after I left work.
When I got in I was stunned - the site was almost empty! During the May event there is hardly any room for a tent until you get almost to the edge of the site, but now I could put my tent up anywhere I pleased. I chose to pitch quite close to the entrance to the showground proper - near to the four food vans! On Saturday this dropped to three when one guy realised there were more people on the other side of the fence. The fence was a lot less imposing than the one in May, too. It was, at most, half the height, therefore a lot easier to get over, if anybody wanted to. There only appeared to be a few marshals on security, at least on Friday, but the information sheet did say that 'facilities and security would be at a minimum until Saturday'. When I got there the arena was being used for a speedway meeting, as I think it is on most Friday nights.
After putting up my tent, I went to watch a few races before investigating the only marquee open at the time. There were five 'themed' marquees for the weekend, each representing one of the five main motorcycle producing countries, the German one was open on Friday, (although not 'themed' until Saturday), the Italian, Japanese, American - actually a barn, not a marquee - and British ones were shut. A disco was running and the - very small - bar was open. The size of the bar was adequate for the number of people there - there could not have been more than 200 people on site by this time. (I wonder how many in the marquee were spectators from the speedway audience investigating these drunken strangers in their midst?) As I was extremely tired by this time, (only 11pm!), I decided it was time for bed and found that I could hear the disco from my tent, but it wasn't loud enough to disturb me. (I'm sure I heard the DJ complaining about people climbing the marquee poles - thereby proving that it was a BMF event after all!) Whilst sorting myself out in my tent, the gas for my lamp ran out, but I knew where I had put everything, so that was no real problem.
BMF Promotions, who ran the event, decided to call it a 'World Party', and to set up five themed marquees - three at the top of the showground and two at the bottom.
The Germany one sold German lager, and had an 'Oompah' band on Saturday night.
The Italy one sold wines, and whatever Italian beer they could find, and hosted mainly cabaret type singers, (singing along to backing tapes from what I saw). It also hosted the 'Battle of the Bands' competition where people could vote for one of the bands to appear at next year's BMF Memba Rally.
The Japan one sold 'Kirin' beer and had a rock disco and a couple of rock bands. (Not exclusively Japanese, surely?)
Down at the other end of the showground the America barn sold American beers & whiskey, had a disco, Country & Western singers & dancers and a blues-type band followed by the tribute band 'A Taste of Meatloaf' (more of them later). They also had a mechanical bull, which was throwing people all over the place most of the night.
The Britain marquee had various bitters and mainly Rock'n'Roll & Rockabilly music.
Each marquee had suitable food vans outside, (except the American one, which was big enough to have them inside), although the van outside the Japanese marquee sold mostly Chinese food - I don't think that many people go for sushi.
During the day each marquee had a couple of examples of the national motorcycles tucked away in the corner, but these were removed by the evening. Personally, I think the theme thing was overdone somewhat - the tables had tablecloths in the colours of the national flags of each country and dozens of flags were hanging from the roofs. (Although the ones in the Germany marquee weren't there after Friday night.) It was nice, however, to be able to sit on a chair most of the time. Strangely, the biggest venue (USA) had the fewest seats.
I couldn't believe the campsite on Saturday morning - it was still mostly empty! During the day there were quite a few stalls selling the usual bits and pieces, and it was nice to be able to walk about without the crush usually experienced in the showground. The vintage speedway in the arena was enjoyable, but the games scheduled for 2pm were cancelled as hardly any club entered teams. The ever-present 'Moped Mayhem' started at 5pm-ish and, due to the late timing, finished under floodlights. By this time the entertainment in the marquees was starting, (except in Italy where it had been going on all day).
There was an extra item in the German 'Bierkellar', before the Oompah band started - an appearance by the comedy duo 'Accident & Emergency' that I had seen a few years ago at the Window Lickers Rally up near Derby. Their act contained such gems as 'the human dartboard', 'stapling the £20 note to the forehead' and 'tribute to astronauts', (which included fireworks up the bottom!!!). Watching the reactions of others, who hadn't seen them before, was almost as much fun as the act itself. As soon as they finished, before the band could get fully set up, almost everybody left the marquee, myself included, going to catch the bands elsewhere.
This is where the spread-out nature of the event really became annoying - it was a very long way from Germany/Italy/Japan tents at the top to USA/Britain at the bottom. I wasn't worried about the acts at the Britain tent - 50's stuff is just outside my interest, and the less said about the cabaret acts in Italy the better. As for the German Oompah band... well! When I passed by the marquee later on there were approximately ten people in the audience! So it was basically a choice between Japan and USA for my musical entertainment. There was a band on in Japan that had been on at this year's Memba Rally, 'Born to be Girls', who I wanted to check out as I didn't remember them, and I was a bit intrigued by their name. Unfortunately they were on at the same time as 'A Taste of Meatloaf' in USA, so I just waited to see them setting up, satisfying my curiosity that they were, in fact, girls and not a drag act, before starting the long walk down to the barn. The tribute band impressed me, although the singer looked only a little like Mr Meatloaf, he sounded spot on! Almost the best bit of the act was (apparently) unplanned - towards the end of the first song - "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that" - 'Meatloaf' and his female colleague were belting out the song with such emotion, and just before the last line there was a dramatic pause - and a guy in the audience shouted out, very loudly, "I LOVE YOU". The whole audience broke out laughing, as did the band. It took everyone a few minutes to compose themselves and finish the song. The next two hours just flew by. The band did most of the well-known stuff, plus a couple of the more obscure numbers, before the final encore, which, of course, was "Bat out of Hell". Very enjoyable. If the BMF don't book them for next year's Memba they are insane. There was another mass exodus when this band finished as well. I think most people were leaving by this time (nearly midnight), or going to the Japan disco for a boogie, or Italy's cabaret for a sit-down. (But not to Germany.)
I had managed to buy some gas for my lamp during the day, so there was no problem doing my packing up before bed and, as everything was shut down fairly promptly, there was no music coming from over the fence tonight.
I had a fairly mundane trip home, the trip took me two hours again - I suppose the petrol stop took up as much time as the getting lost bit on the way up - and I arrived home in brilliant sunshine.
A nice weekend, but could have been better - perhaps they will have got their act together for next year.
- Phil (the Spill) Drackley