DVD Review: Memories of Ipswich Speedway
The stories of John Berry and Ipswich Speedway are inextricably linked. The Suffolk club had endured a fragmented and unremarkable existence until two 29 years old walked through the door in 1969. John Berry was one, the other was his partner Joe Thurley. This new DVD tells the story of how Berry and Thurley re-opened the track, took the club into the top division and ultimately won three British League titles.
Berry's death in 2012 robs us of the chance to hear his first-hand take on events, though captions are shown with quotes from his extensive speedway writing. These help contextualise the footage and interviews we are seeing.
In Berry's absence, the role of principal contributor falls to his close friend James Easter. Easter was closely involved in the club during the Berry era and later became a promoter and international manager in his own right. There's not much Easter doesn't know about Ipswich Speedway and his informed commentary brings a huge amount to this DVD boxset.
Ron Bagley was one of Berry's original Witches and later became team manager during their success in the seventies. He's interviewed about the part he played in that success and about the history of the club generally.
A key plank in the success of the club was an aggressive youth development strategy. The club famously relied heavily on home-grown talent - riders like John Louis and Tony Davey in particular. Davey was often in Louis' shadow but never sought a move elsewhere, despite strong interest from King's Lynn in particular. He hints here that his pay packet would have been rather fuller if he'd switched allegiances.
Louis is the greatest Witch of all time. Despite being a late starter in the sport, he went on to ride in World Finals as both an individual and for his country. In many ways his success mirrored that of the club, starting off as newcomers in the second division together and quickly reaching the top. His contribution to this DVD is in audio only, though we do see him in track action courtesy of footage from big international and domestic meetings.
Jeremy Doncaster came along later and was another home-grown hero. After a successful career on the grasstracks he eventually succumbed to Berry's increasingly generous offers to switch to speedway. Even now he seems surprised about quite how successful his "playing hard to get" strategy proved.
Other famous Witches that are discussed at length include Dennis Sigalos, John Cook and (of course) Billy Sanders. Sanders tale will be familiar to long term speedway fans, a natural talent who simply couldn't deal with his demons. His tragic suicide affected Berry greatly and kick started the chain of events that led to Berry selling up.
The last section of the DVD is a tribute to Berry himself. Making use of footage from his reunion meeting in 2005 along with interviews from his friends, employees and rivals. It's a fitting tribute to one of the sport's greatest promoters.
The running time is around four hours and this is a double-DVD affair.
How To Order
By Phone : 01708 734 502
By Post : Send a cheque for £16 (payable to Retro Speedway) (add £2.50 if outside UK) to:
9 Nursery Close
Online : At Retro-Speedway.com
This article was first published on 7th December 2014
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