The Ace Café Bike Festival will continue until April 30. It has very humble origins. As the name suggests, there was a café named The Ace Café and it opened doors in 1938. The target market was hauliers driving along the North Circular Road. Since it was near to the arterial road network, and to the undeniable advantage of being open all hours of the day, it soon attracted motorcyclists.
Second World War
Business soon expanded, with the owner adding a service station to the café. It had 10 pumps, showroom, repair shop and a generously sized washing bay. The good times was not about to last. The Second World War intervened, the buildings bombed by the Luftwaffe. The bombers had actually targeted the railway marshalling yards next door. The Ace Café reopened its doors in 1948. It was housed in a temporary accommodation back then. The restaurant soon became operational, with delicious home quality food cooked fresh on the premises.
Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll
The post war years saw business booming, thanks to a jump in road traffic. The number of motorcycles on the road picked up. The UK motorcycle industry was then at its prime. It was also the age of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Bikers can enjoy the songs at the jukeboxes located inside the café. No wonder the place became a rage among bikers. Some came only for the music and became well known musicians themselves.
This fusion of Rock ‘n’ Roll and motorbikes gave birth to record racing, nicknamed “drop coin into slot” and then race towards a prefixed point and come back prior to the record being on its last spool. It was natural that Ace Café, thanks to its blend of Rock ‘n’ Roll, speed, and motorbikes was the starting point of a number of racers. It was also a birthplace of a number of bands.
Changes in social order, growth of car market and its subsequent chipping away of the bike industry forced the Ace café to shut down shutters in 1969. The building since then has been utilized as a café, bookmakers office, filling station and even a tyre depot. The structure, however, remains unchanged. The café came into pop culture notice when it played an important background role in “The Leather Boys” film. The 1963 flick starred Rita Tushingham, Dudley Sutton and Colin Campbell. The Ace Café reopened its doors in September 2001. The legend was reborn.
Mark Wilsmore is the creator of The Ace Café Reunion. He proposed in 1993 an annual event which will mark closure of the actual original Ace Café. He wanted to document the Ace café history and pushed hard to make sure the place reopened. The 25th anniversary of The Ace Café closure was recorded by Marl, along with his friends to form an organising team for Reunion. He also arranged for the motorcycle runs to converge at the Ace Café site on September 4, 1994.
The idea was a popular one, and about 12000 people arrived at the site of the old café. The event soon spread from Axce site, along the North Circular Road, all the way to Abbey Public Hose. It is now among the biggest motorcycle gatherings inside the UK.