Vespa World Days, Belfast, June 14-17
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.