Riding

“Council said ‘no’. Village said ‘yes’.”

Last night was the last Monday in June.  To anyone on two wheels that means one thing – Cassington.  If you have any motorcycling soul, you’ll be there to inhale deep of two-stroke oil, 20w50, petrol and the aromatic scent of warm, well-ridden old bikes.

If you have any charitable soul, you’ll drop a few quid into one of the collecting buckets too.  That’s because Cassington’s primary school and a few local charities always organise a serious BBQ, a couple of bike parks and somewhere to dump your helmet and leathers as you stroll around.

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This year’s event was even sweeter than usual.  It wasn’t the sun, or the old friends, or the remarkable machines that rolled in from across the country.  It was the sheer damn triumph (see – a pun) of common sense and community.

You see, the local Council wanted to smother the event with pages of dull grey forms, regulations, guidelines and ‘what if?’  An example of the sort of thing:

“…responsibilities included a provision of the risk assessment, proof of relevant insurance cover, proposed traffic management for the event and payment for the costs associated with all safety aspects of the event.”

Apparently the Council had looked at some photos of last year’s event, reasonably anticipated a few thousand bikes and decided, rather like milk monitors, that “something must be done”.

Sadly, rather than letting the event go on unhindered as it has for years without problems, it meant trying to strangle the whole thing with the sticky, tangly red-tape of the bureaucrat.  This tape is insidious stuff.  It clings and wraps and multiplies and chokes and the only things that hold it (temporarily) at bay are hard Council-Approved facts of the Right Sort.  “It’s always been OK in the past.”  That’s no good.  “Common sense.”  Not a chance.  “We’re not children, you know!”  Nope.  Where’s your Risk Assessment form?

Rather than recognising an event like Cassington as a benign opportunity for people to get together, raise money for charity and enjoy themselves, it’s treated with grim-eyed seriousness.  “Ah, but of course,” the bureaucrat will cry, “WHAT IF?!?!”  And with those two words, he binds up and denies the rest of us the pleasures we’ve enjoyed – without incident – for years.

And ‘What If?” is a powerful thing. There is always the potential for a small child to put a hand on a hot exhaust or for someone to step in front of a bike.  Shit happens, chaps.  But your regulations, rules and restricting our experience of life doesn’t stop it.  Despite your best efforts, shit still happens and always will.  But part of life is simply accepting that any experience worth the candle (fire hazard) carries risk.  Dealing with it is part of having a life worth living and not an infantilised, ersatz existence starved of pleasure, learning or enjoyment.

As one of the marshalls said to me, “Council said ‘no’.  Community said ‘yes’.”  I think this both explains and illustrates something important.  Councils, by extending their remits way beyond what is reasonable, needed or justifiable, are now at odds with the communities they serve – but in reality, rule.

It’s not because they’re stupid, nasty or horrible.  Most of the council officials I’ve met are decent people who give a damn, care about what they do and want to do a fine job.  It’s simply because we’ve decided, as a society, that we’re too scared of “What If?” to face up to it, give it the bird and just get on with living.

So I’m delighted to say that shit didn’t happen last night and that “What If?” got the bird.  Instead, good people enjoyed bikes, drank beer and ate fatty food on Cassington green and, most importantly of all, raised their faces to the sunshine of friends, shared experience and life.

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6 thoughts on ““Council said ‘no’. Village said ‘yes’.”

  1. Lord Snooty says:

    Fantastic Mark, well done for all involved for ignoring the idiot bureacrats and demonstrating and exercising their freedom to ride the public highway and to gather, eat, drink and converse at a place of their own choosing.

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  2. Nigel says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments here. Like you, and many others, I just said ‘bugger it’ and went anyway. With so many restrictions on our freedoms these days it was great to see that many local bikers had decided the same. Enough is enough. As always, it was a great evening catching up with friends, looking at bikes and just generally hanging out with fellow bikers. We had a couple of visits from the local Police but they took a common sense approach (as they always do) and just carried on their way. This is based on the fact that the event has been running for years with absolutely no issues at all. Well done to them. I will be there next year to enjoy the event, support biking and generally stick two fingers up to those who want to restrict our freedom of movement and general enjoyment of life!!

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  3. James Walton says:

    and did anyone from the Council turn up and try to stop you?
    I did a parallel universe event at the weekend, I raced in the Round the Island Race along with 1900 other yachts in what is still a largely unregulated ‘free’ pastime – yacht racing. It remains free because we have taken pains to regulate ourselves, especially since 15 of us were killed in the Fastnet Race in 1979, when it blew a bit hard [over 80 kn]. It blew quite hard on Saturday, the waves were pretty big down by the Needles, the Coastguard received 75 emergency calls, people were swept overboard, all sorts of things, although no-one was lost or badly injured [we did lose one a month ago – not properly clipped on at night]. Self-regulation tells me, the benevolent dictator by nature, that we should set tougher limits on this particular race before a tragedy occurs and/or someone tries to impose limits upon us, in which case the ultimate weapon can be wielded ‘you are not insured to go racing’. So I’m very glad your event went ahead, my advice if you need it is to get your controls in place, such as you need them, before anyone else can.

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  4. Adrian says:

    Hi Mark – friend passed this on to me, had no idea you were so prolific and so active on the bike – excellent! Hope to see more of this and catch up one day. Adrian (RoSPA – remember…..?!)

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  5. Aidan says:

    And long may such events prosper. Thankfully, over on this side of the water such silliness does not prevail. I pray it never does.

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