Strictly Shale – Circling British Speedway
By Jeff Scott
Methanol Press – £15.00
These colour images convey a robust working-class authenticity, that amid this increasingly clinical day’n’age of computerized emotion, is altogether revivifying to say the least.
Strictly Shale (cool title), unlike the utterly naff television programme with which it partly shares its name, digs deep into a high-velocity recreation of speed and grit, whereby no bones or apologies are made for that which it commemorates and celebrates.
As the book’s author, Jeff Scott, makes clear in the Introduction: ”At it’s simplest, speedway is nothing more that the thrill of four riders racing each other on high powered bikes without brakes round a shale covered track. Of course, though, it is much more than that.”
Of course it is.
Anything that touches the heart/actually means something/equates with that, that allows the individual to be transported unto another place, always, always means so much more than that which endeavours to define it. And if nothing else, these 179 photographs do just that; and they do so by way of bequeathing the book with a certain innocence. A certain bonhomie, and dare I say it, pride.
For instance, the tenderness of the couple holding hands through a fence on page thirty-five. The laughing cavalier on page fifty, who is about to saturate his hot-dog with ketchup. The elderly gentleman who has made his way to the starting line on page sixty-six. Or the three smiling urchins in baseball caps on page one hundred and thirty-one.
They all tell stories which resonate and to a certain degree, sparkle, with the playful innocence of a questionably bygone era.
That’s not to say Speedway no longer exists. That’s to say people, by and large, no longer behave in such a way that has been so poignantly captured throughout this charming collection of photographs.