Blokes, Birds and Bikes - TV Documentary
The Documentary was shown on Channel 5 in December 2000
This excellent documentary captured some of the key moments from the Workington Comets 2000 season. The programme centred around Ian Thomas, Carl Stonehewer, Mickey Powell and Sheffield's Sean Wilson. The producers combined 'fly-on-the-wall' footage with interviews and track action to provide a fascinating overview of life at Derwent Park.
The programme concentrated on three key events - The pairs, Mick's testimonial and the PLRC. Much of the early action revolved around the staging of the pairs championship at Workington. Promoter Ian Thomas was in top form as he persuaded the riders to compete despite the atrocious weather conditions. Some were more easily convinced than others and the meeting was completed, albeit to a truncated format. One wonders how many other promoters would have achieved the same result.
The weather played a big part in Mick's testimonial as well. The initial staging was cancelled because of the fuel crisis and the programme covered the attempted second staging. The weather turned bad during the day and Mick had to face up to the inevitable postponement. The programme captured his mood changing from optimistic to, eventually, distraught. It offered, both Mick and viewer, an insight into the frustrations involved in promoting a Speedway meeting.
The post-meeting disco went ahead as planned and Mick was treated to a '21 Bum' salute from his fellow riders. It was a good humoured moment that helped raised the spirits of the unhappy racer.
One meeting that did escape the worst of the weather was the Premier League Riders Championship. The Championship, staged at Sheffield, is the big one for lower league riders and Stonehewer and Wilson were both fired up to win. Wilson was happy to be interviewed and showed that his fierce determination is as strong as it ever was. Stonehewer declined to talk and it was left to his mechanic to tell us of his heartbreak after previous finals.
The coverage of the meeting ignored much of the action and concentrated simply on the battle between Wilson and Stoney. Stoney beat Wilson in the qualifying heats, albeit as a distant second to Paul Pickering, and both riders qualified for the final. The anticipated clash never really came off as Wilson was, unfairly, excluded early in the race. Stonehewer made no mistake in the re-run and lifted the title.
Sean Wilson came across very well in the post-meeting interview. He must have been hurting but he accepted the situation and congratulated the victor. The sport as a whole can be pleased with this documentary. It captured the atmosphere of the terraces and the relationship between riders and fans. The zany Workington fans, in fancy dress for the PLRC, were an excellent advertisement for the good-natured type of fan that the support attracts. Credit for this must go to the producers who could have emphasised the negative aspects of the sport and done some serious damage to our new found respectability. This programme, like our sport, deserved a bigger audience - sincere thanks to all involved.
Pictures from the Programme
Stonehewer and Powell - Pairs Winners
This article was first published prior to October 2002
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