Speedway and sign writing

Oral history

Derek talks about his journey from speedway fan to sign writer for the leading riders

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I kind of properly discovered Belle Vue in 1962 at the age of fourteen when I went along with a friend to see the Speedway, didn’t realise what it was I was just going to Belle Vue that was enough.  But I walked into the Speedway Stadium for the first time to see four lunatics going round on motorbikes with no brakes, throwing shale over the fence and I was immediately hooked and it was fabulous.  And at that time they had the world champion that year Peter Craven and his arch rival XX Funding use to come, who use to ride for Norwich and yes, hooked all my life.  Never missed a season since, still go even now but it became a job because I drifted into the sign writing side with my dad who got the contract at Belle Vue and I kind of drifted into using fibre glass and then I learnt how to take moulds and took a mould off a Speedway rear mudguard owned by Ivan Major who was riding for Belle Vue at the time, who was the triple world champion.  It doesn’t get any better than that really does it.

And he used to have a chequered helmet and I use to do little checker design around his helmet, paint that on.  So I started making the mudguards and because you couldn’t really get them anywhere in the late sixties, early seventies, every Speedway rider beat path to my door.  Now can you imagine being a Speedway nut as a kid and then meeting all these riders from the world champion downwards, it was brilliant.

But getting back to 1962 and discovering the Speedway, after the Speedway finished you got to walk into the grounds and into a full blown funfair and then when the season finished you got the firework display.  It was just a place for a young lad at the time, watching his Speedway and Stockcars; I enjoyed the Stockcars as well to a certain extent and then wondering into the funfair.  I didn’t really have two ha’penny’s to rub together at the time but just to stand there and smell all the candyfloss and hear the rides and experience the atmosphere it was, what can you say it was an incredible place and I will never, ever forget it.

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