Rockers Reunion Exhibition

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Phil Polglaze

An exhibition of photographs documenting the Rockers Reunion

 

Things don't 'just happen' in life. Someone does them. Keeps doing them - usually on a gamble and with an element of risk. And then eventually, with a bit of persistence, they hit a critical mass and become a scene.

Lenny Paterson was the founder of the Rockers Reunion movement. An original "Chelsea Bridge Boy" who lived, whose life wrote, the heydays of the 1960s fighting, fucking and street racing scene; seeing it through its prime to its decline subject to later American bike club influences. He and his generation were there when 'The Wild One' was shown for the first time in the country, when Hunter S. Thompson's book arrived, when the 59 Club really was the best motorcycle club in the world ... spilling their blood on the beaches, their youthful seed on Knob Hill and, in many cases, ending their live's on the streets.

By the early 1980s, the British motorcycle industry had ground to its end. Cafe racers were embarrassing anachronisms, languishing at the back of sheds or hacked into awful chops. More than a few painted and badged leather jackets had been hung up for the last time. But the legacy status of old school rockers as bad boy pariahs to the biking world lived on. Hard to imagine given how they were to be so profitable reinvented later on.

It was at this time that a handful of old friends came together to start the Rocker Reunion Runs and Pissups. From 12 old school greasers on a miserable Bank Holiday reliving their misspent youth, by the 1990s it had grown to attract 1,000s ... 12 or 15,000 on pilgrimage runs to Brighton on Southend ... and was finally accepted and then corporately exploited by the mainstream.

If Paterson was a Sonny Barger within the British context, taking a disparate bunch of biking outcasts and beating and cajoling into a scene, then self taught photographer Phil Polglaze, himself a rider, was the British Bill Ray or Danny Lyon ... capturing an unselfconscious underworld in raw black and white at a time long before the ubiquitousness of phonecams, selfies created hyper realistic inventions of the past.

Polglaze is self taught photographer who started stealing motorcycles at 15 but riding them legal from 16 and documenting his friends and neighbours. In the 1970s, owning a 650 Triumph Tiger, a series of coincidences led him to becoming a forensic crime photographer with a specialism in gentlemen's toilets used for defend cottaging cases. This led to other work for New Society, New Stateman and others. Paterson currently operates the Cylinder Head Shop, a specialist cylinder head speed and restoration shop.

Come and see it and hear it how actually was 'back in the day', and how it was not as it has been resold later in a safer, more antiseptic form.

Andrew AlmondComment