Strictly Shale

A handsomely produced sub-A5 volume. Buy a copy, slip it in your pocket on the way to a speedway match and take time out perusing it between heats to comprehend a little better what sport and community is all about.

By Jeff Scott: Circling British Speedway

Strictly Shale CoverA most unusual photography book, Strictly Shale portrays the working-class sport of Speedway, tender warts and all, in tucked-away pockets of British hinterlands, countryside and urban fringes.

It’s a unique record of the drive and passion of ordinary people pursuing an extraordinary sport. At its simplest, speedway is nothing more than the thrill of four riders racing each other on high powered bikes round a shale covered track. Of course, though, it is much more than that. The bikes have no brakes. The shale kicks up a dust that gets into the eyes and nostrils of all those hardy enough to skirt the track. Accidents are common, injuries severe, yet whole families – whole communities – are compelled to chase the thrilling dream of air-punching success. Riders tour the country, supporters turn up – rain or shine – to their local track: spectating, selling raffle tickets, frying bacon and pouring tea…
Strictly Shale: Jeff Scott

Scott’s pictures bear little relation to the images of sport photographers, his are more a social document, a record of a period of time, a journey to hidden pockets of the urban fringes, the non-places between motorways and retail parks, the gaps between. The rather matter of fact archival quality of his images lend his photographs an authentic appeal – more of the family photo album than the sports media’s managed icons.

Through Scott’s work, which inhabits the area of documentary, we can start to examine the working-class culture of this local community sport. From riders and start-line girls to mechanics and fans, he captures the personality and character of the tracks, as well as portraying the fans’ relationships with their teams, in the context of the relentless decline of British regional identity. Speedway tracks and their surrounds may lack the sort of crowds that the corporate media values, but they are nonetheless densely peopled with the ghosts of a proud history. With these images, Scott reveals with tender melancholy a community as it struggles to recapture the glories of its past.

With his books Showered in ShaleWhen Eagles Dared and Shifting Shale, Jeff Scott’s appreciation and wonder of this dangerous sport and his ability to describe and narrate the minutiae and entirety of the Speedway experience deservedly won him plaudits far beyond the specialist media. This is his second book of photographs.

Rachael Adams is a designer and fine artist. She is the creator of the Film Map for Scrutineers.

Photographer: Jeff Scott

Photo Editor: Rachael Adams
184pp (178 full-page photographs)
ISBN: 978-0-9568618-3-2
Price: £15 plus £4.50 P&P