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George Dodds's picture

Two weeks on it’s still the talk of the town.
The film … or more specifically THAT shower scene.
In truth it may have been more Elf than It or Psycho but it would be fair to say that the closing sequences of Margaret Salmon’s artful homage to the Bandits’ 50th season Mm: No Brakes, No Gears, No Fear have been the cause of much discussion among the towns twittering classes in the tearooms and wine bars of this fair Borders’ town.
It was standing room only as over 300 packed into The Maltings (Phill Jupitus managed less than half that number four nights later) for the premiere of the documentary.
Interestingly enough a poll of those present showed that over half knew very little about speedway or the Bandits. Less than an hour later they were more initimately associated with two Bandits than they could ever have imagined.
Writer/producer/director/editor Margaret, an American now based in Scotland, admitted that her first glimpse of the sport was on a recipe to Shielfield after being commissioned by Peter Taylor, director of the excellent Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival to produce a piece of film to celebrate the Bandits and our golden season.
There have been a few good speedway documentaries over the years – normally made by those who either love the sport or make a living from filming it – but it was always going to be interesting to see what an outsider; someone looking at it purely from an aesthetic point of view, such as Margaret would make of it.
As it turns out what caught her cinematic eye was largely what fans would choose if they were asked to sell their sport to an un-knowing public.
Pre-meeting tension in the pits, on the terraces and in the posh seats; the march of the gladiators and Bertie the Bear and then the explosion of action as the racing took centre stage. All of this took place against the backdrop of a narrator rattling out, machine gun-like, words beginning with M (hence the film’s title). There turns out to be a lot more words beginning with M than I ever imagined – a couple of them seemed quite rude and had to be explained to me by Mrs D (she’s from Manchester so much more used to that kind of thing) on the way home.
Highlights for me included a highly agitated former Salmon Queen and current startline sponsorship maximum exposure facilitator roaring the Bandits to victory against Peterborough from her centre green seat and a tremendous action montage over a specially written rock track. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one Googleing Sacred Paws when I got home.
Of course we won that night – sparking a run of six successive home victories to the end of the season – but it was Margaret’s decision to take her camera crew into the dressing rooms after the final race was run that led to an already excellent film becoming such a hot topic.
For caught in the camera’s spotlight in all their glory were Jye Etheridge, Dany Gapmaier and King Kev – albeit he was having a little zipper difficulty and, unlike the other two, managed to maintain his dignity and clothing for most of the scene.
Fans of the classics may have declared that it was much ado about nothing but I had to answer a surprising number of queries over the following week about what goes on inside a victorious Bandits’ shower room and whether young master Etheridge in particular will be giving Jaxson Wild or Ryan James a run for their money should he wish to switch careers.
With the film due to be entered in a number of other film festivals around the country and into Europe – Belfast is, I believe, its next outing – their fame is sure to spread far and wide.
I’m sure that our on the ball management will be negotiating with Margaret to ensure that those who missed out will be able to see the film at some point in the near future.
Incidentally I note that the end of season bash and presentation night on October 21 (tickets £15 from Castlegate Interiors) advertises live music, presentations, interviews and drinks.
There’s surely still time to add The Full Monty (The Bare A**sed Bandits perhaps?) to the running order.
● Congratulations to Swindon Robins on their clinching the Premiership title in nail-biting fashion last night.
Obviously Nick Morris and former Bandit David Bellegro played a big part in Swindon’s glory but it was good to see Liam Carr collecting a medal to end a season of ups and downs on a high, his four points in the first leg proving decisive.
Added to third place in the National League Riders’ Championship, it’s been an excellent end to the season for the Tweedmouth superstar.
Still not sure about the beard though!