Vespa World Days, Belfast, June 14-17

Scootering - - Kickstart -

There’s no doubt that the Vespa Club of Bri­tain were un­der pres­sure this year. The last time VWDs came to the UK was in 2012, an event that’s widely ac­cepted to be one of the least suc­cess­ful VWDs to date. Any­one with lin­ger­ing doubts need not have wor­ried though as the or­gan­is­ers had pulled out all the stops. Even though it was a two ferry jour­ney for many Eu­ro­pean vis­i­tors, the of­fi­cial at­tendee fig­ure was over 3000. In­ter­est­ingly only 150 chose to camp.

In re­cent years Belfast’s trans­formed it­self from trou­ble spot to tourist des­ti­na­tion and by lo­cat­ing it­self close to the city cen­tre, VWDs al­most im­me­di­ately lost con­trol of its au­di­ence. Although Ret­ro­spec­tive’s work­shop was kept busy with run­ning re­pairs and SIP were dis­play­ing their lat­est prod­ucts, many of the big names were ab­sent, hav­ing been put off by the cost of trans­port. This left an open­ing for lo­cal traders to show­case their wares but over­all the ‘Vespa Vil­lage’ felt more like a fete than a scooter rally. It’s hard not to feel sym­pa­thy with the or­gan­is­ers who’d put on a full pro­gramme of en­ter­tain­ment, only for some of the bands to find them­selves en­ter­tain­ing an au­di­ence in sin­gle fig­ures. They deserved bet­ter but who wants to drink Guin­ness in a plas­tic glass from a mo­bile bar when the real deal’s only a short walk away?

Opin­ion was united on one as­pect as the ride-outs were su­perb. Satur­day’s cav­al­cade to Car­rick­fer­gus Cas­tle saw lo­cals lin­ing the streets and wav­ing to the pass­ing riders. Or­gan­i­sa­tion along the route was flaw­less, with many rat­ing it as one of their most mem­o­rable scooter­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. Satur­day’s gala din­ner was held in a va­cant in­dus­trial unit but what it lacked in acous­tics it more than made up for in at­mos­phere. Any­one who’s never ex­pe­ri­enced a VWD din­ner should make the ef­fort at least once. As Steve Mercer, a VWD ‘vir­gin’ dis­cov­ered, it’s one of scooter­ing’s more ec­cen­tric oc­ca­sions. “If some­one had told me I’d be eat­ing a for­mal din­ner while lis­ten­ing to a French­man play La Mar­seil­laise on a trum­pet, fol­lowed by an ac­cor­dion play­ing Ital­ian who lead a conga of scooter­ists from Stras­bourg dressed as swans I’d never have be­lieved them.”

You can please some of the peo­ple….

Or­gan­is­ers of the two big in­ter­na­tional ral­lies took very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches this year and both should feel proud of their achieve­ments. Un­for­tu­nately due to the

dis­tances in­volved they both suf­fered from a lack of trade sup­port and there’s no doubt this af­fected the at­mos­phere at both venues. While hardy types like Billy Hardie trav­elled solo from In­ver­ness to Aber­jar, and VWDs had over­lan­ders from Cyprus and Prague, for many time, dis­tance and lo­gis­tics meant that vans were com­mon at both ral­lies. In Spain the venue was quite iso­lated and in the­ory this should have cor­ralled peo­ple, but a lack of ac­tiv­ity and dis­persed ac­com­mo­da­tion meant that many stayed away from the site for long pe­ri­ods. Con­versely in Belfast few made the most of the en­ter­tain­ment pro­vided be­cause the site was too close to the at­trac­tions of a ma­jor city.

What does all that mean?

Prob­a­bly that or­gan­is­ing a rally is an un­en­vi­able task but a rally is about more than the des­ti­na­tion, it’s about the ad­ven­ture and peo­ple met along the way. Next year both ral­lies move to Eastern Europe, and once again I hope to ‘do the dou­ble’. Why? Be­cause as a spec­ta­cle the ‘Big Eu­ros’ are un­beat­able and If you want to be part of them the only way is to join one of the na­tional own­ers’ clubs. Next year is one of the last op­por­tu­ni­ties for a while that the dou­ble will be fairly straight­for­ward so why not give it a go? In­evitably your ride will be out of place at one of them but trust me, you’ll be wel­comed. Words: Stan Pho­tos: Stan, Caro­line, Craig and Alan

Au­tos are now fully em­bed­ded in scooter cul­ture... Vespa Club Brus­sel­sBruss were hunt­ing down acrank. Ca aro­line and Neil had com­pleted a Vespa tour of f Al ba­nia only days be­fore set­ting off for Belfast. Odd one out, but still made wel­come. Vespa trav­eller and whisky en­thu­si­ast Ben Bird­sall was busy con­duct­ing ‘re­search’ into Ir­ish malts. Ride outs were mem­o­rable.

David and the Go Full Throt­tle team were show­ing Celtic sol­i­dar­ity. Also ‘do­ing the dou­ble’ was Seanie from Por­tar­ling­ton. Gala din­ner was, as al­ways, ahigh­light. Ben­jamin was part of the ad­vance guard for VWDs 2020 in Bali.

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