Interview by Gary Radice
: Added November 2002, updated December 2003, July 2006, July 2009
14th April 2009:

'That'll be the day' themagiceye and Ridemad’s very own Paul Beesley (ridemad.com) were invited to a secret Northwest location and were privileged to meet up with Paul Grimshaw and his fantastic Ark Speedway for the first time. We were treated to some rides and spoke with the man who set out to chase a dream... and who has succeeded at every level!

Spanning several years, themagiceye  at Joyland is now proud to present the final part of Speedway: The Paul Grimshaw Interviews...

themagiceye: Paul, what are your thoughts on the project in 2009?

The project was based on my fairground memories as being a kid in the early 70s. It's a mix of everything really, the music, the lights, the atmosphere, etc. The film That'll be the Day reinforced all this when I saw it at the pictures.

Picture the scene, it's October 1974, you've just got the latest edition of Look-in magazine, Slade are at number one with 'My Friend Stan' and you've got 50 pence burning a hole in your shorts pocket.

You've been in school all day, the school overlooks a field where twice a year Silcock's travelling fair park all their trucks and caravans before taking the trucks over to the local market-place to build up the fair after the market traders have gone home.

At 3.30pm the school bell goes, you and your mates walk down to the market-place on the way home and watch the fair being built up. Later after bolting your tea down in front of Marine Boy and Hector's House on telly you get your racer (or Chopper) out of the shed and ride back down to the market-place to watch the rest of the rides go up. Rumours are around that if you wait until the rides are built up they give free rides while testing.

Once the rides are up the activity dies down and the rides are sheeted up with tarpaulins and the 'closed' signs go up. The free rides never did materialise but you had to wait, just in case.

The next day once again you spend an eternity at school waiting for the bell to go. When it does you race home for tea with another helping of children's TV before making your way down with what seems like the rest of the town to the market-place. Dusk is already beginning to fall and before you get there you can hear the bass of the music blasting out and the steady hum of the generators.

The market place which is by day either a car park or rows of market stalls is transformed into a magical place of mixed-up noises, smells and lights.

The first bars of The Rubettes 'Sugar Baby Love' are blasting out from the huge bass bin speakers attached to the framework surrounding the Cyclone Twist, while Sparks are telling us that 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us' on the Waltzer.

You make your way through the side stalls and other rides and climb the steps of your favourite ride, the Speedway. As the ride goes round at a crawl The Three Degrees are singing 'Year Of Decision', the ride operator is enticing the punters to jump on. You fumble in your jeans pocket for your 10 pence fare and find an outside bike to sit on.

Your 10 pence gets taken from you by a greasy tattooed hand and you tighten your grip on the handlebars as the ride picks up speed. The Three Degrees record speed drops slightly as power is sapped from the record player. As you pass the paybox window you glance another record dropping down on the single record player autochanger and a second later Dave Bartram shouts, 'All you kids get on your feet now, Now move your bodies, Let's rock 'n' roll - Showaddywaddy!'

The last night of the fair always found you scratching round for money, down the back of the sofa, in your bedroom skipping lunch at school trying to get at least 10 pence together for a last ride on the Speedway and maybe a go on the side stalls to win that bow and arrow.

Rumours at school were again rife saying that all the rides went faster on the last night of the fair as the showmen had to use up the remainder of the diesel in the generators. Did we believe it? 'course we did. Well I was only 12 years old.

In the morning on the way to school the market had returned to its old self. The magic had gone until next April and all that was left was the pellets from the air rifles, most of which had been squashed under the wheels of the lorries.

I'm sure everyone has their own memories of the fair in the 1970s and indeed all the other decades before and after. The thing that 'made it' all come together for me was the music. Without the music the fair would have been a very different place.

I think riding Silcock's Speedway with Showaddywaddy's 'Hey Rock And Roll' playing at a 100 times the volume I'd heard it before is my all time favourite memory of the fair.

From idea to now how long has it taken you?

It's taken since 3rd of April 2002 so just over 7 years. There were times when nothing got done of course due to time and financial restrictions.

Would you do it again?

No I wouldn't do it again. I've thought about it time and time again. It was a much too big project to do on my own. I let my heart rule my head. You need the space under cover to do something like this and I had none.

What's left to do?

I've still to finish painting the motorbikes and some of the framework as well as all those 'small' jobs.

Where will people be able to ride it?

I'm hoping to open the ride at 3 or 4 of the NW vintage fairs this year and a few more next year.

Who is responsible for the brilliant artwork?

Showman's artist Gary Bignall did the decor. He understands what it's all about; the music, lights and of course the artwork. More of his work can be seen on his website www.itsthestyle.co.uk

You must have an understanding wife?

My wife Sandie has been the rock of this project and has supported me all the way. Sandie and my son James have been dragged round fairs, showmen's yards and put up with parts being painted in the house, etc. for years. What can I say?

This from Paul Grimshaw posting on the forums at http://www.fun-fairs.co.uk/forum/

“...After my visitors had left I started pulling the ride down. Playtime is over and the bell will be ringing at the end of next week.

I pulled all the rounding and front boards off this afternoon as well as doing some panelling in work inside the lorry. Tomorrow I'll do some painting (handrails, uprights, and take the inside row of bikes off for painting).

Once the ride is packed away I can get the lorry painting finished off and do some work on the centre truck ready for the road.

On a lighter note I fixed my new 'end of ride' siren up to a button in the paybox, sounds great! Just like 'That'll be the Day'...”

themagiceye would like to thank Paul Grimshaw for taking time out to talk and will keep in touch with the project as it progresses. Thanks to Paul Grimshaw, Stephen Smith and Nick Laister for permission to reproduce the photographs.

Photograph: themagiceye

Photograph: themagiceye

Photograph: themagiceye

Photograph: themagiceye

Photograph: themagiceye

Photograph: themagiceye

Photograph: themagiceye

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More on Arks/Speedways

Orton and Spooner Arks in the Joyland Books Exhibition Hall
Noahs Arks and Speedways: DVD
Noah's Arks and Speedways on Fair Art
National Fairground Archive - History of Arks

About Paul Grimshaw

Coming from a very practical background his interest in the Speedway Ark project was always rooted in the actual restoration work but admits that he has always been interested in the travelling fair since a child.

"The Waltzer and Speedway were always my favourite rides. Had life been different I would have loved to have worked on the fair - maybe it's the start of a mid life crisis!"

Paul Grimshaw (16/10/02)

Message from Paul Grimshaw, June 2009: I can't list everyone, but I'd like to thank in particular Wes Berry, Malcolm Taylor, Micheal Smith, Kevin Scrivens, Ralph Richardson, Gary Bignall, Gizmo, Chunkie, Stewart Thom, Pete Myers, Keith Hamilton, Mark & Shell Bryan, Eddie Kelly, Steve Nutter, Ian Hunt, Bill Edwards and David Littleboy. Apologies to anyone I've missed out.

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