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Len Silver – This is Your Life

MY over-riding memory of Len Silver is of him standing among the victorious England riders on the parade truck, his arms outstretched inviting applause like a returning general having smote the enemy.

As team manager, he’d guided them to a third Test success over the Americans at Swindon in 1981, thus clinching the fivematch series, and exorcising the ghost of the previous year’s setback.

England held all the world championships when he took control from Eric Boocock and Ian Thomas; by the time the season was over, they’d lost them all. To hear how, you’ll have to purchase this production, but Silver’s conclusion gives you an idea when he said: “I told them to stick their job where a monkey keeps his nuts!”

His managerial career at international level is very impressive. Three consecutive World Team Cup championships tells you all you need to know and, as he says, if it had been any other sport, he’d have been knighted. That alone is significant, but there is more, much more to this man, and the DVD, than international and world triumphs.

Len Silver: This is Your Life, isn’t quite Eamonn Andrews and his famous red book, but with a mix of photos and footage, plus contributions from the likes of Luke Bowen, Karl Fiala, Scott Nicholls, Terry Russell, Pete Sampson, etc., you couldn’t really have a better moniker. Running at three hours, ReRun Productions gives you value for money, and covering a pair of discs, you can conveniently split it into two sittings if you’re worried about developing some sort of DVT. After all, this isn’t The Ipcress File, the narrative is conversational and obviously nostalgic – a sprinkling of Jerome Moross was a treat, although Carly Simon was a bit predictable.

It could have done with a stringent editor though; paradoxically, it would be interesting to see what did end up on the cutting room floor, especially from the man himself. ReRun Productions are very experienced, yet

• Len celebrates with Ray Wilson and Peter Collins there were some awkward moments when they couldn’t fill in the gaps in Len’s memory for dates and names – you need to tap into your Benjamin Franklin fellas!

His recollections of working on many track surfaces, in particular the classic 1981 World Final, are very interesting – footage from that meeting still makes the hairs on your arms stand to attention.

When he returned to Rye House in 2000, he had to put in a new track and remove it at the end of each meeting; when you consider the real problems the SGP experienced laying temporary surfaces in the following years, surely every track curator should have Len’s number on speed-dial.

It would have been interesting to hear a bit more about his early life in the 30s and being an evacuee from London’s East End during the war. You do learn of the drama of his cycle speedway career, his formative days sliding a motorcycle and his post-war

National Service in the RAF as a dispatch rider, which almost ended in a catastrophe.

Such is Len’s success as a promoter, it’s easily forgotten he was a racer himself and won the Provincial League Riders’ Championship in 1962 as an Exeter Falcon – his tale of the winner’s trophy will make you wonder about our sport’s integrity. The record shows he was a solid team man instead of a world beater, but his career came to an end following a serious crash at Waterden Road in 1964 when he was a rider/promoter. The dangers which come with racing still cast a shadow over his memories – Vic Harding’s death in particular.

Listening to Silver talk about the business of promoting, especially at Hackney, there is little doubt the bosses today have lost sight of the fact that club speedway is the bedrock of the sport. It’s hard to establish a bond like he enjoyed with the Hawks’ public when it’s as chaotic as it is now, with everyone riding for everyone else.

Now in his ninth decade and still skiing, Len is regarded as the last of the promoting showmen, from an era when the aim was entertainment as much as winning. It makes you wonder what we have created when his shenanigans, which encouraged people to return each week, would be deemed politically incorrect, if not offensive, and prevented from happening today. Obviously, being a straight-talker doesn’t please some, and he has his detractors, but you’d have to be pretty sour if you don’t come away from this production with respect for a man who has done it all.

Review: Brian Burford n Len Silver: This is Your life, is available from The DVD is priced at £12.00 plus £2 shipping, or the film can be downloaded from their site for £8. Postal orders are available by writing to ReRun Productions, 227 Shalmsford Street, Chartham, Kent, CT4 7PY.

June 11, 2022 speedway star 35

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