Tattooed bike gangs hanging onto their tall ‘ape hanger’ bars always excited me as a child, as they rode past in formation down the motorway. You would hear them before you could see them and as they passed, the roar of rolling thunder would echo through the car as each biker, all dressed in black would bolt past.
My intrigue led me onto the classic yet controversial novel titled ‘Hells Angels’ by Hunter S. Thompson. To this day an early line would reflect my childhood memory of these rumbling riders. “like Genghis Khan on an iron horse, a monster steed with a fiery anus, flat out through the eye of a beer can and up your daughter's leg with no quarter asked and none given”. Later on I would get my own bike to ride, however I wasn’t part of a club.
The Bulldog Bash is an annual motorcycle rally which takes place on Long Marston Airfield in Stratford upon Avon. It started with a small group of Hells Angels back in 87’ and now has grown into one of the largest motorcycle festivals in Europe. It’s organised and policed by the Hells Angels, and draws chapters from around the country to run the event. Every year it attracts around 40,000 people across the four-day event including bikers, motorcycle clubs and spectators.
For two years I visited the Bulldog Bash to document the event and culture; a rally that is as much about the motorbikes as it is the bash, after all, the slogan boasts ‘Fight for your right to Party’.
The rally is focused around a quarter mile drag strip, an impressive dual race lane daubed in burnt rubber, where anyone with a motorbike can race as fast as their machine will take them. Depending on the machine, the sound can be deafening. Bikers tensely wait as the next pair move forward to do a burnout. Warming the tyres is crucial for maximum grip and optimum acceleration on the strip. A custom bike show showcases all the best looking bike builds from chromed out choppers to beautifully restored BSA’s, it’s a true spectacle of engineering. For £3 you can view the famous ‘Wall Of Death’ show where four stuntmen and women ride the circular wall as they defy gravity. The cramp viewing tent reeks of engine fumes and as they ride by the whole structure vibrates and rattles. Amongst the leather waistcoat and belt buckle stalls are ‘HA only’ tattoo tents and live music bellows from the main arena. A fun fair illuminates the evening skies and a 24hr drinking bar keeps the punters hydrated. In the evening when the racing stops, the Adult Zone opens for business and intoxicated bikers attempt hits from Thin Lizzy to Alice Cooper on the Karaoke stage.
This project focuses on the people, characters and faces that attend the Bulldog Bash; all of which attribute to my childhood memory of the modern day Genghis Khan.