Nigel ‘Noddy’ Fordham RIP

Speedway attracts many different types of obsessives. We all bring our own particular flavour. There are many theories about why this is a rich tradition in speedway circles or, indeed, what drives this behaviour. Whether it is the numbers (team/individual scores, averages, race times), the form filling (scorecard), gender (usually male) or collectables (programmes, memorabilia, equipment, race jackets) – we all mark, retain and store our individual speedway experiences in our own distinctive ways.

Few speedway fans went to as many meetings or recorded them so distinctively or unassumingly as Nigel ‘Noddy’ Fordham who has just sadly passed away (December 2107) from a stroke. Like many completists, Noddy had all the programmes from every meeting he had ever attended. Also like many speedway fans, he was affable, knowledgeable, well-travelled and keen to chat. In addition to his length of speedway service, what really set him apart were the wide-ranging but meticulous records of everything to do with every trip to every speedway meeting that he kept so studiously too! Hopefully, his family, friends or the speedway community can – somehow – preserve this unique record for posterity? It is, of course, only one man’s life in speedway but, at the same time, is emblematic of the selfless dedication of so many who love speedway enough to contribute their energy and time without reward or payment beyond the pleasure it brings and the preservation of its make-do-and-mend, hail-fellow-speedwayer-well-met culture.

Many are just fascinated with speedway per se – its people, places, dramas and communities – Noddy was one such speedway fan whom it was a pleasure to meet and briefly know. As Peter Oakes writes in the Xmas 2017 edition of the Speedway Star, “Anyone who has been involved in speedway will have known Noddy”. Quite an accolade. Nigel ‘Noddy’ Fordham RIP.

From Quantum of Shale

Though I’m absolutely positive that compared to some people, Nigel ‘Noddy’ Fordham’s attendance record is merely a footnote in history, I’m extremely impressed by his dedication and fastidious record keeping. “This is my 41st year in going to speedway; I’ve been to 4,747 meetings in this is my 94th meeting of the season. I’ve been to 1,135 meetings at Ipswich and I have all the programmes from every meeting I’ve been to! I used to be an official but it was too much trouble and I gave up two or three years ago. You get treated like a piece of shit by the promoters who don’t respect you and take everything for granted! You get promoters like Len Silver and Buster Chapman, they’re genuine speedway people ’cause they put money back into the sport. Rye House, King’s Lynn and Lakeside all do Juniors. None of us [unpaid helpers] get paid ’cause we don’t want to be paid but respect would be nice. It’s a word: RESPECT. Anyway, it means I can travel round more. I’ve been to most places in the world that stage speedway and this includes places like Russia, the Czech Republic and Italy. This year will be my 25th year going to the Czech Republic. It’s basic speedway in the raw over there! The Golden Helmet is the star meeting. There’s 32 heats and there’s six riders in each race. It starts at 12 and there’s tons and tons of passing. They even do moped speedway out there! Oh, you want to see it, it was funny! I haven’t got a favourite rider although I used to follow Zdenek Tesar around everywhere. I went to see him one winter and stayed in a hotel nearby so I could see him play ice hockey. He told me, ‘I’m a good goal minder!’ After the first quarter he’d let none in and after the second quarter he’d let five in! Ha! Ha! I like all speedway riders ’cause they’re supplying me with my sport that I enjoy. Plus, people don’t realise how dangerous it is and that they put their lives on the line. I used to follow John Louis everywhere. In 1975 I had my hair dyed with tiger stripes when he went to Wembley. He came third. It once took me 61 hours to hitch to Lvov – which was Russia but is now the Ukraine – to see Chris Louis ride in the World Under-21 Final the year that he won it. The golden rule of hitching is never walk! Always stand in the same place under the lights or by a roundabout. It’s rarer here but easy in Europe. This is a bad year, this year, as I’ve only been to 94 meetings. My best year was 1983, I think, I did 210 meetings that year. I’ve got a 632 page record book at home. I can tell you every mile I’ve done! Every track, every rider, every ref and, today, is my 948,000th mile. In the winter I rewrite it all again! There’s train miles, tram miles, hitch-hiking miles, flight miles – I always try to think of new things to record. It’s been my life and I love it! I know too many promoters just take the money but, it’s all about the riders and the racing really, so I’ll always keep going.” We’re interrupted by news that Tom Brown has exited the Healthcare Vehicle and, after consultation with the track doctor, has withdrawn from the meeting. I’m not exactly sure why the doctor’s note subsequently makes its way into Craig Saul’s possession (rather than the Incident Recorder’s) but it allows him to tell us, “The doctor’s note here says it’s a weight-bearing injury!” According to Noddy some of the more-experienced riders should by now have won the CLRC, “Benji Compton should be up the top there. He’s been riding too many years – he’s been up and down. He ain’t gonna make it! Tom [Brown] has tried too hard tonight and then you get out of control, don’t you? That Darcy Ward does look good but I can’t believe he’s Australian – that’s the worst thing!”

From Bouquet of Shale

Nigel ‘Noddy’ Fordham reveals that tonight is his 108th meeting of the season. This takes him to a grand total to 4,963 meetings. “I’ve now travelled over a million miles. I achieved that at the beginning of October when I went to the Czech Golden Helmet. They promoted the meeting, for once, with posters and that so we got a big crowd there!”

From Shale Trek

Though the stadium might not be quite as packed as the organisers would hope, various speedway personalities are here including Nigel ‘Noddy’ Fordham whose speedway meetings attendance record never fails to impress. I wonder where he’ll be when he sees his 5,000th meeting? “I’m not gonna have it at Ipswich! We might not have a club, John Louis is retiring and there’s no one taking it over. He wants £100 grand for them! I’m gonna have it at Coventry where I’ve saw my first ever British league meeting. I’ve been to 16 Pardubice Czech golden helmets on the trot.”

From 26 Shades of Shale

The great and the good head down to the [Poole] pits including Neil Middleditch, Gordon Day, Peterborough promoter Rick Frost and wife Julie, Craig Cook as well as Shane Parker (in an Australian top) deep in mobile conversation stood in the grandstand area that serves as the post-meeting dance floor. Also drinking in the atmosphere is the extremely well-travelled Nigel ‘Noddy’ Fordham. He has notched up 5,022 speedway meetings! “Look at the management shirt Zielona Gόra management team gave me! It’s a management shirt! I’m the mate of the bloke who runs it.”

“Was the five thousandth meeting there?”

“I forget! Nah, it was at Ipswich. I shall see three of these [Under-21s] finals. I shall miss the second one. You can’t miss world finals can you? I don’t reckon there’ll be many here.”

The riders file back and forth from the pits to the track to inspect it. Noddy’s in his element. “Alright, Marek!” “There’s Martin – Martin!” It’s Martin Vaculik, “He’s a good rider – I know him from going to Chechnya three or four times a year. He rides in the big league in Poland for Tarnow. There’s Chris [Durno], we’ve been to so many meetings together.” Shane Parker passes in animated conversation with Darcy Ward, while Chris Holder ambles along behind in his trademark surfer dude clothing. It’s a style he favours on race night and days off. “Alright Shane!? Awright Darcy!? You did well at Lakeside!” Darcy walks on without answer. “Look, they’re blowing more of those adverts up on the centre green. They’re a pain. They really get in the ****in’ way! Is Auty riding?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Or Vadim Tarasenko, he hasn’t got a visa.”

Though Noddy’s disposition is as warm as the sun, he’s frustrated that the complexities of speedway remain unappreciated by the general public. “That’s the worst part; people think you just put 3-2-1 down. I do it properly afterwards [waves programme]. It’s a typical BSPA thing, not leaving any room for anything! I think there’ll be a lot of dust coming up here this afternoon.”

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Photo credit: Ipswich Star

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