Great stories for speedway fans!
Great stories for speedway fans!
…is the only author writing novels specifically aimed at fans of motorcycle speedway racing.
Sadly, speedway in Britain today is very much a niche sport but it was not always the case. In the years between its introduction in 1928 and the war, crowds at dirt track meetings were huge and speedway riders were some of the highest-
These are the periods in which Michael Hansen’s novels are set -
Zamalek Speedway, Cairo, 1928. The track was reportedly constructed inside the dog track belonging to the Egyptian Greyhound Racing Association
In doing the preparation for the book Cobble Street Speedway Star, much of the research involved life in Salford during the 1920s and 1930s. I was lucky enough to be able to consult many, highly-
For the episode set in Egypt during the autumn and winter of 1928, however, material was far thinner on the ground and often ambiguous. The story follows the real-
The closure of an unlicensed track by the Manchester coroner in 1931, following the death of 28-
Kenny was from nearby Salford, the ‘Dirty Old Town’ of Ewan MacColl’s iconic song and the setting for Shelagh Delaney’s harrowing depiction of working class life, ‘A Taste Of Honey’. His situation was that of many in an age of mass unemployment: desperate for work of any kind, attracted by the glamour and potentially high earnings of the speedways and at the mercy of unscrupulous entrepreneurs. It was James Kenny’s story that provided the inspiration for Cobble Street Speedway Star, a novel about the earliest days of dirt track racing in Britain.
So much happened so quickly in that first, ground-
‘He doubted whether he had ever seen such a purposeful looking machine…’
By the end of its first league season in 1929,
speedway’s death toll had already reached into double figures
TRADITION dictates that British crowds first thrilled to the sights, sounds and smells of speedway racing at High Beech, Essex, on Sunday, February 19, 1928. The sport chose to mark its Golden Jubilee in 1978 and closely involved in those celebrations was veteran impresario Johnnie Hoskins. Received wisdom also maintains that it was J. S. Hoskins who started the whole thing back in his native Australia in 1923 and brought his circus to England five years later. It credits him, too, with inventing the name ‘speedway’ for what was commonly called at the time ‘dirt track racing’. Speedway historians, of course, disagree about some or all of the above. Pages of print and months of research have been expended by some of the sport’s most proficient writers in arguing about its true origins. Was it actually born in the United States and taken later to Australia? Did the dirt track racing that undoubtedly took place in Britain before High Beech actually count as speedway? Was there even an Irish forerunner to the enterprise that still excites its much-
THOSE of you ‘of a certain age’ may recall with fondness the BBC comedy, A. P. Herbert’s Misleading Cases. It ran over three series from 1967 until 1971 and starred Alastair Sim -
A P Herbert, otherwise Sir Alan Patrick Herbert, 1890 -
1929 marked the first full season of dirt track racing in Britain. It also saw the introduction of league competition for the first time.
Twelve teams contested the Southern League and seventeen inaugurated the English Dirt Track League of northern clubs but very often the real attraction for spectators remained the star riders from the USA, Australia, New Zealand and, increasingly, Britain.
Promoters who had invested considerable sums in building or renovating stadiums were anxious to recoup their outlay by pulling in as many punters as possible. To that end, advertising in their local newspapers -
With admission prices at 1s 2d (6p) and 2s 4d (11½ p), car parking for 2000 and buses to the track from all parts of the district, Long Eaton Speedway opens in May, 1929
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IN the 1970s, it was frequently claimed that speedway was Britain’s ‘second most popular spectator sport,’ the first being the Glorious Game, the nearest thing Britain has left to a religion.
It may be hard to believe now but the dirt-
In those days, of course, the terraces throbbed to the chants of thousands, bobble-
Nicholas Ball in ‘Hazell Goes To The Dogs’ Thames Television, 1977