Interview: Mel Perkins MBE
Posted: 5th July 2010 | Interview: Andy Whitehouse
There are many recognitions awarded every year to sportsmen/women, celebrities, MPs and people who serve their local communities week in week out, generally unpaid and usually without too many thanks for their time and effort they give. One such 'unsung hero' who was awarded recently with an MBE in the Queen's birthday honours for services to cycle speedway and football was Hethersett's Mel Perkins.
Mel started his racing in 1964 with Mushfold Aces aged fourteen, moving on to Eaton Tudors the following season before founding Hethersett Hawks CSC in 1966 with the idea of keeping the local kids off the streets and turning their attention to racing bikes. Forty four years later Mel is still an integeral part of the Hethersett club and is still turns a wheel in anger on the shale.
The British Youth and Junior League plays a large part in Mel's life and its success is owed to the effort he has put into the competition, giving youngsters the chance to compete in their own season and helping to secure the future of cycle speedway.
Mel was also recognized for the work he has put into local football clubs, starting an Under 12s team in 1991 - his effort and dedication have resulted in that one team growing into seventeen teams and over three hundred members.
I caught up with Mel recently at the Veterans Club Championships held at Horspath.
AW: Congratulations with your recent award, what does that mean to you personally and to the sport?
MP: I think its always good to see a minority sport recognized and cycle speedway is the minority string to cycling but we are still strong in many ways. For me personally its been forty odd years and it's nice to get recongized for the work you put in. I put a lot of work into the sport but you do it for the satisfaction and to see people enjoy themselves and from my point of view its great to keep bringing youngsters into the sport. To get recognition at this level is just...stunning, I was completely dumbstruck when I received the letter from the cabinet office, I actually thought I was in trouble!
AW: What's your view on the growth of cycle speedway, is the sport climbing back to be recognized as a viable part of cycling?
MP: I think so, it's developed a lot over the years, intially it wasn't really anything to do with cycling, more to do with motor speedway and motorbike racing, we were always independent but I think now we are very much part of cycling. I attend cycling forums, mainly in the east of England and it's great to feel very much part of it. We can learn from other cycle sports but we have a lot to teach those aswell, certainly from a team point of view. Cycle speedway is very much a team and family sport.
The sport declined very much during the sixties and seventies and kept declining but we worked at it and I think we are pretty much stabilised now. The British Youth and Junior League has certainly helped with the regrowth, we are bringing loads of younsters into the sport and finding some talented riders. With the addition of the women's league this year everyone in the sport can feel part of the future. I think the sport has a good future.
AW: Do you ever see cycle speedway being a path to other diciplines of cycle sport?
MP: Oh yes. Cycle speedway riders are a lot fitter then they used to be so, people want to try other types of racing when the speedway season isn't on so yeah, track racing is the natural progression from cycle speedway, I think we will see that progression happen during the next ten years or so...definitely.
AW: You're still riding?
MP: Ha-ha - yeah in the Vets events, I only make the numbers up these days. I ride for pleasure now. I'm not too competitive but I still get the buzz racing bikes, it keeps the weight down, keeps me fit and keeps me out the pub!