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DVD Review: History of Canterbury Speedway

League speedway returns to 'The Garden of England' this summer with the new 'Kent Kings' team operating out of Sittingbourne Greyhound Stadium. Those wishing to brush up on the history of speedway in the county should check out 'The History of Canterbury Speedway', a DVD from the Retro-Speedway company.

The four-hour film tells the complete story of the Canterbury Crusaders (now there's a better name for a speedway team!) from their birth in 1968 right through to their demise in 1987. The story is told through interviews, archive footage and a great selection of colour and monochrome pictures. A well produced package that maintains the high standards we've come to expect from Retro.

Canterbury played a significant part in the sport's history, competing in the first ever British League Division II match at Belle Vue Colts on 18th May 1968. They lost to the eventual champions, but both league and club were up and running.

The club was formed by Johnnie Hoskins, the man oft-credited with inventing the sport more than forty years earlier. By the time he introduced the sport to the Cathedral city he was a remarkably vibrant 76 year old. Despite his advanced years, he continued to play a part in the running of the club for many years, passing away during the 1986-87 close season. There is video footage on this DVD of the minute's silence that was held for him before the first meeting of that final campaign.

As is normal for these club based DVDs, there are so many great tales related by those who were involved over the years. One of the early highlights is the interview with Graeme Smith. He speaks passionately about the allegations of race throwing that were made against him. His denial is very convincing. He's also keen to stress just how damaging those allegations proved to be.

No history of Canterbury would seem complete without hearing the thoughts of club legend Barney Kennett. Thankfully Barney is present and correct - talking us through his lengthy service in the cross-sworded body colour. Other big club favourites are also interviewed - Dave Mullett, Les Rumsey, Ted Hubbard and Denzil Kent amongst them.

Les admits that he retired far too early, mainly due to a pay dispute with Wally Mawdsley. Denzil Kent recalls the time he took out Steve Lawson at Blantyre and the years he spent living with the Loram family. Ted (with pet parrot Oscar chatting away in the background) reflects on the great sadness he felt when Graham Banks was killed in a grasstrack crash in 1979. Mullett's contribution is equally moving, talking candidly about the post-retirement depression that led to some desperate times.

You can see that this DVD is more than just a report of what happened on the track, the personal tales are equally important.

The Crusaders' biggest moment was their National League title win in 1978. We're able to see that team in action thanks to some black and white cine footage of their meeting against Scunthorpe. Unfortunately there were few Crusaders' meetings filmed until the home video revolution of the 80s.

The DVD really comes into its own when it reaches the last few years of the club's existence. Many of the meetings were covered by the video companies of the time and excellent use is made of that footage. Not only do we get to see the Crusaders of the 80s in action, there's also a chance to see other National League legends once more - the likes of Steve McDermott, David Gagen, Billy Burton and Steve Wilcock are on here, battling with the home men around the tight Kingsmead circuit.

The undoubted highlight of the VHS footage is Robert Henry's amazing reaction to being excluded from a heat in the 1984 Crusaders v Fen Tigers match. It really has to be seen to be believed, particular the sight of spectators having to physically restrain him in order to protect the referee.

There is also footage from the last meeting ever staged at the track - on the very last day of the 1987 season when the Crusaders took on the Rye House Rockets. Appropriately David Mullett was to the fore, posting a 12 point maximum around a track he had ridden thousands of laps around previously.

The DVD concludes with some of the old favourites bringing us up to date with their lives post-speedway. We also get a glimpse into Ted Hubbard's garage where racejackets and old bikes are permanent reminders of his life on the shale.

An entertaining, information and uplifting DVD and a fitting tribute to all those who were ever associated with The Canterbury Crusaders.

How To Order

By Phone : 01708 734 502

By Post : Send a cheque for £16 (payable to Retro Speedway) to:

Retro Speedway
9 Nursery Close
SK13 8PQ

Online : At Retro-Speedway.com


This article was first published on 17th February 2013

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