For many marque club members, the annual national rally is the highpoint of the club’s social calendar. It’s the ideal opportunity to meet like-minded folk, admire their motorcycles and ride classic bikes in good company. But events like this require considerable inspiration and dedication to organise – as you’ll discover, with this behind-the-scenes review of the AJS and Matchless Owners’ Club 2018 extravaganza…
‘Gw’on, Gw’on,’ said Roy Bellett, ex-President of the AJS and Matchless Owners’ Club. ‘Running a Jampot Rally is easy.’ Full of beer at the 2016 Jampot Rally in Scotland, Barry and Steve volunteered our Heart of England section for 2018. They told us when they got home. Shortly after, Steve emigrated to Norfolk. Whether these two facts were related I couldn’t possibly say…
We soon had a venue in mind; Rushden rugby club. It was perfect apart from a steep grass slope into the proposed rally site. To punish him for volunteering us, we had elected Barry as event head. He looked at the slope and said ‘That’s going to give us grief’.
Pah! Overcome with optimism we ignored him.
A short history: the Jampot Rally is the annual rally for members of the AJS & Matchless Owners’ Club. It has been held every August since the 1950s, each year by a different section of the club. This gives a great variety of locations and style. There is a run out every day and nightly music. Recently it has become more difficult to find sections willing to run one. The organisational requirements, which soon became apparent, may explain why.
Barry and I took on the roles jointly as main organisers of the event but delegated the run organisation to John and Tony. While I organised caterers, set up a website and Facebook page, organised badges and rally shirts (thanks Devon Shirts and Premier Badges; you were fab!), Barry got stuck into dealing with authorities.
Dealing with councils and official bodies proved interesting and Barry and I had many meetings and discussions with councillors, police, etc. One of the more bizarre requests was the insistence by Northamptonshire Police that we have a ‘lost child’ policy. Despite insisting most of our members were geriatric, rather than paediatric, they would not be moved. So, we set it up and I spent several happy months ridiculing it and Northamptonshire Police for imposing it…
The rally was due to start on Thursday 15th August. On the Tuesday we were all on site setting up. The marquee arrived. The showers and portable toilets arrived. 27 ales arrived. The rubbish bins didn’t…
And the many pieces of wood faithfully promised by A Member as sidestand supports didn’t either. Fortunately Carole Nash came to our rescue and delivered stand supports – the same day (thanks Carole – fantastic!) but despite daily assurances that our bins would ‘be delivered today’ they never did arrive.
Thursday did arrive though, as it usually does, and the rally was due to open at noon. At 8am the torrential rain started. At 11am a lost child appeared…
The child policy swung into action and parents were soon found. (Er, apologies to Northamptonshire Police).
Although our entry slope looked greasy, knowing we had mature and sensible members, we weren’t unduly worried. The first member arrived in a van, panicked on the slope, spun the wheels and the van, transforming our slightly greasy slope into a trials section. The smoke from the wheels was reminiscent of drag racing. Oh joy.
Over a hundred members arrived that day, without further incident on our slope. On the Friday we had our first run which went to Rushden’s preserved steam railway station. Fascinating venue with an excellent real ale bar. A nice rural run there. The Matchless machine gun outfit breaking down did cause a few worries but it was soon sorted. Our biggest headache was to come…
Dinner was served from 6pm to 8pm. We hadn’t foreseen that everyone would turn up at 6pm prompt. Catering was swamped. At one point it looked like some people might not get served. Surprising how hunger annoys people! We introduced a dining rota by section so that was easily sorted for the following days.
On Saturday the run destination was Olney, a picturesque little town. Many hours had been spent arranging with the council to cordon off a car park for our sole use. We even confirmed it with them a few days before. On arrival, not only was it not cordoned off, it was full of cars. The town rugby club allowed us to park on their pitch which gave us a grand display line of machines so all’s well. That evening’s meal sessions were sternly Maître D’d by young Tim, so no problems there.
We’d sold tickets for packed lunches at our Sunday run destination; Milton Keynes Museum (this museum is a little gem, do visit it if you can). There’s always someone who forgets to take their ticket on the run so I cycled round the site with a loudhailer; ‘don’t forget your lunch ticket or you won’t get a lunch’. There’s always one idiot who forgets though. Er, sadly this year it was me. And I got muchly ribbed for it.
Prior to the run we looked short of volunteer marshals. 35 were required. I zipped round the site press-ganging members. We ended up with 60! Well, the extra 25 got to the venue before everyone else…
Monday was packing up day; a chance to say goodbye to old friends and new ones made at the rally. Everyone enjoyed the rally and we received a lot of compliments which made the hard work worthwhile. From noon on Thursday the weather had been brilliant and our wicked slope had become a pleasant and trouble-free jaunt.
The members of Heart of England and other section members who helped out were great. Everybody mucked in – literally! Cleaning and servicing loos, running the reception tent, drinking the ale; the tasks seemed endless. I was caught in the ladies’ loo on several occasions. My excuse was I was either cleaning them or changing broken loo seats. How do ladies break loo seats? Anyways, my excuse was accepted. You can’t imagine what womenfolk chat about though whilst on the loo. I was shocked!
Next year the rally is at Horndean in Hampshire. I’ll be there because the Jampot is an experience like no other. Great fun and great people. Try it out!
Words by Lawrence Howes
Photos by assorted members of AJS & Matchless Owners’ Club
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