Cafe Racer Origins – The 59 club
The 59 Club started was started by Curate John Oakes, who went on to become the Canon of St. Brides in Fleet Street. Leadership duties were later taken over by Father Graham Hullett and William Shergold. The club became well known and attracted luminaries such as Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon to its opening night, and later many motorcycling sportsmen and musicians. Its trustees included Bishop Trevor Huddleston, the famous anti-apartheid campaigner. For British motorcyclists, it was famous for being the first places in the UK to preview the previously banned biker movie The Wild One, in 1968
From 1962 to the early 1970s, the club enjoyed fame as the top hang-out spot for British rockers and motorcyclists, and overall it created a positive archetype for the young members to follow, in the bad boys made good vein. At the time, the rockers were considered folk devils, due to their clashes with scooter-riding mods (see Mods and Rockers). The club had to split in two to keep both sides apart; the mods staying in Hackney Wick, and the rockers moving to a church property in Paddington in the West End of London.
The 59 Club declined considerably from the early 1970s onwards, due to the decline in biking, and because of the management style brought in by later club leader Mike “Cowboy” Cook and a committee that wished to reduce the rocker element. The club still exists in London and has a large international following. Bill Shergold is the president and Father Scott Anderson is the chairman. The current committee openly accepts rockers.
The 59 Club profited greatly from the work being done by others in the Rocker Reunion Movement, which included a Classic Section, a sub-group of members dedicated to upholding the 1960s rockers subculture (fashion, music and motorcycles). During its 1960s heyday, the club may have been the largest motorcycle club in the world, with over 20,000 members, who had to sign up in person. Members came from all over the UK, and even Europe.
The 59 Club attracted both male and female members, and according to Father Graham, its success was based on its almost entire lack of rules. Besides motorcycles and rock and roll, the club involved activities such as football and sub-aqua diving — which gave the youths, mainly from underprivileged backgrounds, an outlet for their energy. Each year, The club organised ride-outs to famous winter motorcycle rallies such as The Dragon rally in Wales, The Elephant Rally at the Nürburgring in Germany, and to the Isle of Man TT races. The 59 BBQ event still occurs every year at TT in Laxey.
Towards the end of its heyday, the club saw the birth of a very different type of motorcycle club; American-style outlaw motorcycle clubs such as the London-based Road Rats and the California-originated Hells Angels. The rise of these groups, which tended to cater to an older, tougher, and sometimes criminal crowd, pretty much marked the death of the 1960s rockers culture.
The 59 Club is now based in Plaistow, London and meets twice weekly. It remains a registered charity as established in 1965, and has evolved into a place where families and individuals are welcome. The difficulties and expense of getting a motorcycle license have pushed the membership age upwards, but members aged 18 to 65 still attend. The management committee has four members who have been helping the club since the 1960s. The club has been staffed purely by unpaid volunteers since the early 1990s.
As of 2006, The 59 Club has become recognized worldwide as a genuine motorcycle club with a rich history and members all over the globe. Unique to the 59 Club — and one that sets it apart from other motorcycle clubs like The Vagos, The Pagans, The Mongols, The Outlaws or Hells Angels — is the fact that members do not consider themselves one-percenters. Their loyalty is to the English motorcycles they ride, and the music/fashion subculture associated with rockabilly, rockers, and cafe racers. The main patrons of this organization are enthusiasts of classic or vintage British and Italian motorcycles such as Norton, Triumph, Ariel, Matchless, AJS, BSA, Royal Enfield, Moto Guzzi and Ducati. The 59 club currently maintains links with both the Ace Cafe and the Rockers Reunion. As of 2006, the club had over 29,500 members, of which around 600 renewed their subscription each year. Also worthy of mentioning is the fact that the club is not a ‘Christian motorcycle club’ and has no church agenda, it merely started out as a church-sponsored youth group.
Original source Wikipedia / Special thanks to Hector
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