Commenting On A Commentary!

A pal of mine recently bought off e-bay a DVD copy of a film made at the 1982 British round of the World Trials Championship which was held at Raydale Farm, Bainbridge in the beginning of March that year.

He was eager that I viewed it as I had provided the commentary, yet when he told me all about the disc, I could remember absolutely nothing about it. Initially, I couldn’t even recall that I had put the commentary to it, but then it all came flooding back. The film was produced by Keith Wilson of Photac Video and he brought the master tape over to the TMX office where I recorded my commentary a few days after the event, having carried out the rider interviews at the trial.

I thought it would be highly embarrassing to watch it again after 26 years – and it was! But on reflection, 1982 was in the very early days of video and production techniques were very different then. However, I’m very glad that the film was made and very glad that I was able to put a commentary to it. It even sounded informed!

Viewing the sections brought it all back, indeed some of the hazards are still used in the Wainwright Shield (held in June), but over the past 26 years, whilst the sections have remained the same, the approaches to some of them have been changed considerably by the passage of water – something only noticed when viewing such films.

Putting a commentary to the tape didn’t come naturally, nor did the interviewing, but viewing it again 26 years on, I did ask the right questions. Of particular interest were my questions to Bernie Schreiber (who won the trial that year) about tyres. It was the time when Michelin had first introduced their soft and sticky tyres. Nowadays we are all used to these tyres, but back then they were only available to top quality riders and were then available in three different compounds.

I also asked Bernie who he thought were the best riders to look for in the future (1983 onwards) and he replied Steve Saunders and Thierry Michaud – and he was dead right on both counts.

What was also of some interest was to see how many riders who rode in that event are still riding now. There’s Thierry Michaud, Steve Moore, Brett Haley, Chris Myers, Nigel Birkett and Norman Shepherd, but a load more who have only recently given up or who are still around the trials scene were featured. It was also interesting to see that Margaret Myers was the secretary back then, and she was the secretary of the Wetherby trial last weekend. Margaret has certainly earned her place in history.

And so too has Eric Kitchen, for he also featured briefly on film, crouched in a beck, cameras round his neck, concentrating on the job in hand to get the best pictures he could for the weekly press and to build up his portfolio of trials pictures which now number hundreds of thousands.

In fact, as I’m sure you now know, there is to be an exhibition of 150 of Eric’s best pictures from photographing the Scottish every year for the past 37 years (oops – 36 as the 2001 event was not held!), in the Lime Tree Hotel exhibition room which is across the road from the West End car park, Fort William. Admission is a mere £2 and it’s going to charity.

Having known Eric for the past 30 years, and having spent many hours travelling with him, I do know that photography is Eric’s forte. Over the years I’ve seen him use two-and-a-quarter square Hassleblads, 35mm Leicas, Nikons and of course digital Nikons and a Leica which is his current kit. He has literally hundreds of thousands of photos, of which only a tiny majority get to see the light of day. Those you see are of course in the specialist press, so this is a rare opportunity to see his personal selection from the past 37 years in Scotland.

And I would like to think that this is the first of many such exhibitions at suitable trials, for Eric’s selection is not just from the Scottish of course, he has been to virtually every world round for the past ten years or so and many hundreds prior to that, not to mention most of the British Championship rounds, plus most of the northern nationals, plus many of his local Northern Centre trials. In fact he has a veritable mine of photos that deserve to see the light of day.

My next column is due next Sunday of course which will be after the Pre 65 Scottish and the SSDT weigh-in, though quite when I shall find time to write it what with riding the trial and enjoying the weigh-in activities, is another matter. However, I shall do my best and get that offering to you as soon as possible. Meanwhile, here’s the current words. Generally speaking, these are the same words as last week – but in an entirely different order!