Sports Pink review by Martin Neal
SPEEDWAY. It’s all about four blokes on motorbikes turning left, right?
Not in Jeff Scott’s world, anyway – and it’s a world I’m quite happy to inhabit myself.
Author, photographer and shalesport obsessive, Jeff has been a regular face at tracks up and down the country since embarking on his Showered in Shale project, a weighty tome chronicling his journey to every speedway venue in the country during the 2005 season.
Now he’s at it again, with two new books on the shelves – Shale Britannia and Shifting Shale.
And what makes them so fascinating is that for Jeff, speedway goes far deeper than the act of four riders out on the track racing.
Those yet to fall under the spell of this wonderful sport will view us as a bunch of anorak-clad saddoes waving our programme boards in desolate stadiums watching a sport that’s decided by whoever gets to the first bend first.
But, as Jeff recognises, it’s the characters and the character of our speedway arenas that make the sport what it is.
In Shale Britannia, Jeff brings together an intriguing selection of offbeat photographs taken during his latest trek round the country.
From the shabby sheds of Stoke to plush stands of Poole, Jeff has captured it all on film.
And if that really is Miss Arena Essex, I’m glad I don’t live in Southend any more!
Shifting Shale is the follow-up to Showered in Shale and sees Jeff use words to create his pictures – in his usual meticulous style, of course.
But where its predecessor was more a chronicle of his quest for endless speedway action, Shifting Shale sees Jeff in a more inquisitive and observational mood.
Eager to find out what makes the people who make speedway tick tick, nothing gets past him.
He even manages to note that I was absent from his visit to last season’s Redcar Bears v Glasgow Tigers match due to illness!
He has his share of run-ins (with the track shop man who seemed to think he was the health and safety officer too) and laughs (like when King’s Lynn team-mates Chris Mills and John Oliver end up talking tactics while sharing the bottom bunk of the hospitality cabin at Saddlebow Road) – and he uses perception, humour, irony and
straight talking in equal measure in the process.
Martin Neal, Sports Pink (Evening Gazette), Middlesbrough