An unofficial event on Southend seafront, dubbed Southend Shakedown, brought with it the “boy racers of the biker fraternity” and their dangerous behaviour, prompting a heavy police presence at the Essex resort. Local operator Martin Richardson explains.
Police used stingers and threatened pepper-spray to keep Southend-on-Sea safe over the weekend, cracking down on an unofficial seafront event to keep “boy racer” bikers under control.
Southend Shakedown, organised by the resort’s Ace Cafe, has been running for several years, inviting bikers from across the country to a day on the town’s esplanade.
In a video on Facebook, a minority of those bikers are shown to be engaging in dangerous behaviour, ignoring a policeman’s request to stop as children crossed the road in front on bicycles.
In response, the policeman threw a stinger in front of a moving biker, causing controversy about whether the police were too heavy handed in their attempts to restore order.
Operating on the seafront road, owner of the Happidrome FEC Martin Richardson believes that despite the strong approach by authorities, it became necessary to protect customers.
“There were instances where police were trying to stop motorbikes, and they were avoiding it by driving on the pavement in between customers, where they know the police car isn’t going to follow them,” Richardson explained.
“One police officer threw a stinger into the road to put a stop to it, so maybe a bit over the top, but I think it was necessary to do the hard thing and say: ‘We’re not going to be walked over, and we’re going to have slow it down a little’”.
Richardson explained that after several years of growth, the event got too big and needed more money to conform to health and safety regulations. The police and council asked if the event’s organisers, Ace Cafe, would chip in more, but they refused. At a meeting about the event in 2016, Richardson attempted to compromise.
“Two years ago I was at a meeting about the event, and Ace Cafe said they couldn’t afford to put any more money in. We gave them a lifeline and said how about moving it from a bank holiday Monday – when the police charge more – to a Sunday in April. They said no and were very stuck in their ways about when it’s going to be,” commented Richardson.
“They’ve created a monster, and we’ve now had to deal with all these quad bikes doing wheelies on pavements, and over the bank holiday it became very dangerous for the public.”
While Richardson is welcoming of the more traditional, respectful bikers that come to Southend Shakedown, the “boy racers” can scare customers away from his FEC and the whole resort.
“The boy racers of the bike fraternity are just arseholes. The bikers that respect the law are welcome, but we don’t welcome the idiots – and that’s why the council and police had to take a hard stance,” he said, before looking at solutions for the future.
“I’ve been invited to a debrief meeting regarding the weekend just gone, where we will put ideas around the table. Southend is not interested in shutting the town down, we’re interested in the safety of customers.
“We need to look at different ways to achieve this, with suggestions such as cutting the whole seafront off and making it pedestrian access only, and slowly filtering the bikes in like a car show. They would go in but not out until much later, with a hard stance on moving bikes so they would have to be pushed between certain times.”
Richardson concluded that the media’s reaction to the controversy has generally been over-the-top, believing that with enough changes and organisation, the event could be held again next year in a much more controlled manner.