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The 2004 Jampot Rally at Brentwood. The East London and Essex Section’s first own Jampot Rally event

Although there was enthusiasm within the section for running a Jampot Rally event there was also a measure of trepidation as to whether we would be able to cope with the amount of work involved in running such a large event in an area where there did not seem to be an option of too many suitable sites available. In the end the most suitable site on offer was the “Old Brentwoodians” Rugby Club ground in Ashwells Road, which proved very convenient for me it being only a mile or so away from my home.

This was the first year that the Jampot Rally was affected by the new health and safety regulations affecting organised events. Primarily originally intended to control events such as music festivals and the like it nevertheless covered all such temporary functions, including our rallies and landed us with a whole set of compulsory regulations and paperwork which we now had to comply with. The local authorities and police were less than helpful, bordering on hostile and obstructive, with only the fire service willing to provide advice and help. Fortunately for us one of our members, Keith Gray, was involved with Health and Safety regulations as part of his job and with his expertise we were able to counter every obstacle that the local authorities put in our way and produce a framework for running our rally which has been used, with any necessary local modifications, for every Jampot Rally held since, with the organisers of each rally handing over to those running the following year’s event.

On the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before the start of the rally section members prepared and marked out the site. Resplendent in our new polo shirts, especially chosen to be visible that we were local section members and there to help rallygoers, their bright yellow colour attracted just about every insect in the vicinity in the hot sunny weather. Other section members checked out the route of the various runs to see if we had been affected by any road closures etc and then put up markers to indicate where the rally site was.

Friday morning brought a complete change in the weather with heavy rain from the outset and looking like it was there to stay. The entrance to the site quickly became a quagmire which the use of numerous bales of straw could only partially hope to improve as cars with caravans and especially front wheel drive motorhomes struggled and slipped their wheelspinning way down to the camping area with much help from by this time very muddy helpers, while those in the “booking in” tent coped manfully (or more accurately womanfully) with the dripping wet and muddy arrivals.

Fortunately the weather improved on the Saturday and we had fine weather for both that day and the Sunday and the site had time to dry out a bit, although the entrance and exit area remained a slippery problem. We had some rather bad luck when an accident on the M25 motorway, which many rallygoers used to get to the site, caused such a traffic delay that some of our visitors never even managed to reach the rally, the usual bank holiday traffic increase only serving to exacerbate the problem. However for those who did attend they were entertained in the evening by the early 1960’s pop singer Joe Brown’s backing group, “The Bruvvers” and an excellent job they made of it too with everyone seeming to enjoy themselves greatly. The Bruvvers were only meant to provide the Saturday entertainment, however the group who were meant to perform on the Sunday were prevented by illness and so they entertained us for the second night as well, which was much appreciated.

The organised runs were fortunately held in good weather throughout and although we had a bit of a panic over a lack of marshals on the Sunday which fortunately got sorted out in time they both went off OK and I think that most people enjoyed them. Faced with the previously mentioned attitude of the local police, who seemed to think that we shouldn’t be running such events in any case, it was heartening to record that a police officer in the Maldon district attended on his “off” day to help us marshal the arrivals on the day the run went to Maldon, showing a markedly more public spirited attitude than his management.

With the ending of the rally on Monday the rain returned, once again turning the entrance/exit routes into a sea of mud which required once more much pushing and shoving of stuck vehicles in order to get everyone on their way home. Looking at the state of the rugby fields after everyone had left we rather despaired of being able to clear up the loads of straw that we had to put down to get the vehicles out and of repairing the deep ruts left by spinning wheels. However with the help of the groundsman and our army of, by now, very tired section volunteers we managed it remarkably well and it was very pleasing to find that when we walked the site to look for any left behind rubbish or tent pegs that over the whole site all that we collected fitted into just one carrier bag, so our thanks goes out to all who attended for being so conscientious.

It was our section’s first attempt at organising a Jampot rally, we battled with the new legislation, probably made one or two mistakes in the eyes of some and finished with us all completely exhausted. It was also great fun though and left everyone who helped out with a distinct “buzz” of satisfaction and the feeling that it was all worth the effort.

Colin Atkinson