So about two weeks ago there was a jam held in Birmingham city, here in England. It was a pretty fun day catching up with old friends and making new one’s and also traveling to somewhere other than London was a nice change of scenery. Thankfully the doom and gloom we in Britain call whether held back long enough for some relax and amazing riding to take place. I decided to have a little chat with Andy Wood, the organizer of the flatland event, and find out a little more the day and his plans for the future.
What made you want to hold a flatland Jam? Was that your first one?
This was the first flatland event I’ve put on, I’ve been wanting do one for a long time now. There is a strong scene in the UK, and its easy to forget how many riders there are out there. Over the last few years the number of events has got lower and lower. Riders still ride together, and The Green Mile in London has become a hub for the scene but what I wanted to do was put on something that was more than just a session; an event which brings riders together and showcases the sport to a wider audience.
It was low key affair, but you had a good turn out. So are you pleased with the amount of riders that showed up and showed support?
I’ve traveled to flatland events all over the country and world and so I’ve seen how good they can be when done properly. Wheelnuts Jam was never going to be a slick, high-profile event. Until the last minute we had no sponsors and so anything which we needed had to come from our own pockets. So we made the best of what we had available and begged and borrowed the rest. I found some DJs who were willing to play for free and borrowed the sound system from a mate, which was great because I think music is key if you want to create the atmosphere of a big event. The dubstep probably split people, some loved it some hated it, but what was important to me was that it’s an exciting, new type of music which is emerging almost entirely in the UK underground, which fits in well with the uk flatland scene.
Considering that it was peeing with rain on the day before and the weather forecast was touch and go, I was surprised and totally stoked by the number of riders who came. Most of the who’s who of the scene came including a few of my flatland heroes! I think there were about 26 riders who came. My only regret was not getting many local riders or kids coming to have a go, and since the level of riding on the rink was insanely high, a lot of beginner riders would have been intimidated. Next time (if there is a next time) I will try and stretch the promotion to get some local youth groups or similar organizations involved to try and inspire a new generation of riders.
The location Wheelnuts was kind of weird, tucked away somewhere in Birmingham city. What is that place and why there?
Birmingham Wheels Park is a unique place and its history goes back to the late seventies. It was originally conceived as a ‘danger park’ for young people to let off steam and it was run by the local probation service. The park has grown and evolved since then. It has a stock car oval, go-kart track, off road buggy track, trials motorbikes, mountain bike trails and more. It was host to the 1983 European BMX Champs and used to pull in over a thousand riders for its bigger events. They even produced bmx race frames there for a while (photo below). The site also has one of the only speed skating ovals in the country and the roller hockey rink on the inside of that is where the flatland was. The park is now run as a charitable company and controlled by the City Council.
One of the main things that motivated me to host a jam there was to try and carry on the legacy of BMX at Birmingham Wheels for a bit longer, though it looks like soon the developers will move in to clear the whole site to make way for a new ‘sports village’.
The location is hardly glamorous – but the industrial setting is part of Birmingham’s history. The city has always been an industrial city which grew up around car manufacturing, and I’m glad to see that there is still some of that left, even if it doesn’t look all that nice. Plus its great because we can play music as loud as we want and no-one’s going to complain (except maybe Foaksy)!
The name Wheelnuts Jam is from the original bike club in the eighties, which was known as the Wheelnuts Bike Club.
The jam came about when I met Mark who works full time at Wheels and was rebuilding the dirt jumps. He said he wanted to put on a jam and we came up with the idea of a combined jam. The dirt jumps were good, but hopefully in the future they’ll get a few more riders turning up. Promoting an event is hard on a limited budget.
Any plans to hold another jam for this year or next?
Definitely, but I don’t know when, or even where. I’ve got some ideas which I need to give some thought to. Birmingham is ideal for this since people can get there from most parts of the country. Right now though I’m going to try and focus a bit more on my own riding!