CAR SCENE LOCKDOWN
We explore how the COVID19 Pandemic has had an impact on the Car Scene. From Car owners, Club managers, Small business owners and Enthusiasts, we try to delve a bit deeper into both the personal effect the Lockdown has had on the UK Car scene, plus the economic effects to Business owners and Sole traders who rely heavily on the industry. We speak (online) exclusively to Sonia Davies who runs the biggest Car Club in the UK ‘Extreme BHP’ and we ask questions on how She feels it has affected the organised events, the businesses and of course the personal element of this unprecedented time in our history.
Lets go back to December 2019….
The year end was fast approaching and, like me, most were unimpressed with how the weather that year had hampered many organised events. From smaller social meets to the larger organised events, it was all a bit ‘hit and miss’. The summer that year wasn’t worth writing home about and before long it was all coming to an end in preparation for the winter months.
However, one event held in the Northwest hailed a triumphant end to the year… “Extreme BHP’s end of year shut down”. It was held in Blackburn in the Northwest and attracted thousands of car enthusiasts from all over the UK.
Held on a retail park in the centre of the town with official organised planning from both Extreme BHP and the local authorities it was a success which brought the year to a spectacular ending.
There were cars and owners of all ages and genres present. From classics to new models, modified poppers and bangers to the more serene models. However, it was nothing new to this prestigious club which holds similar types of organised events throughout the year.
People were left feeling elated and looking forward to a superb 2020 with the hopes of better weather and of course, bigger and better events.
News started to emerge in early 2020 of a viral outbreak in the province of Wuhan China which, to most UK residents didn’t really mean a lot. It was just another news story which (for some) “will never happen to us”… How wrong we/they were.
With increasing countries around the world now contracting the disease, it was only a matter of time before it hit UK shores.
But still, even with the threat of imminent outbreak in the UK we weren’t ready for it. Nor were we ready for what would soon become a frustrating time to all UK citizens…And the car scene.
The ‘lockdown’ in the UK started with small steps in mid March with the closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants, but went into full effect on March 23rd. Many weren’t prepared. Many saw it as a reason to panic and empty the shops of essential items. Neither was the UK ready for the sheer number of deaths as a result of the virus. In the first days the numbers were small but grew rapidly into the thousands in the following weeks.
This feeling of the unknown, the un-preparedness, the theory of “it wont happen to me” may have been the reason for some smaller ‘meets’ still taking place. After all, “Its only a few people who have died” and ”its only old people” were the voices of some. Again, how wrong we all were.
As the weeks passed, the lockdown enforced stricter rules and social media saw its biggest activity rise in history. However, with such a large spotlight on social media, it was inevitable that whilst most people, particularly in the car scene were complying with Government requirements (social distancing) there were still some doubters who flaunted the rules and astonishingly posted images and footage of car meets on Insta and Facebook. Much to the annoyance of the majority who have instead, used this precious time to carry out mods to their cherished cars. Meanwhile, others have enjoyed the time and made best use of it to learn new skills on line.
However, its not been an easy ride for a lot of people. An increase in national debt, rises in poor mental health, domestic abuse on the increase have all been as direct results of this pressurised period of our lives
We spoke exclusively (on line) to Sonia Davies who runs Extreme BHP, to gauge a birds eye view of how the lockdown has affected the community, not just here in the Northwest, but UK wide.
Hiya Andy I hope you’re keeping well.
"Thanks for taking the time to speak with us"
Not a problem, thank you for approaching me.
"How has this lock down been for you personally? For example how has it affected your day to day life?"
To be honest, I’ve worked full time since my daughter was a baby so it’s amazing spending 24/7 with her. That’s the only plus side. I miss my family, friends and normality. I miss driving and not organising events too. Just glad we had our last one at the end of February.
"Have you ever experienced anything which had an effect on so many people before? Particularly the car scene?"
Normally the only thing which effects the car scene across the board is the weather. I’ve been in many a mud bath at Santa Pod over the years haha
"Did you, like most people not expect the Pandemic to enforce such restrictions on us in the early stages?"
To be honest I’ve seen things from a few different angles. I was furloughed from work on March the 23rd. I work in a brewery, so it’s had a huge impact on the company as we own 276 pubs and 12 hotels and inns. We have a lot of tenants who have been put under a great deal of stress. People see pubs as a drinking source but this also affects peoples livelihoods. Additionally, we had to postpone a lot of the events we had planned. I was more gutted about the Alder Hey Easter Meet we had organised more than any other, like I’ve said to everyone; our events aren’t cancelled, they are merely postponed. I think the restrictions have been needed and maybe more things should be in place to enforce them.
"How do you think the lockdown has had an impact on small businesses who rely on the Car industry, especially the modified/street scene?"
I also run a transport business with my partner and we do a lot of transport for garages and import companies, moving race cars to and from events/testing days and between having various upgrades and modifications. Obviously this has stopped for now, but we are lucky enough to have a contract with a recycling company which has kept our company afloat.
"The NHS are literally proving how resilient they are in a time of crisis, the likes of which none of our generation have seen and I for one think they are doing an incredible job. Do you have any close contacts in the service? And how are they coping?"
We have numerous members of Extreme who are doing an amazing job within the NHS. We sold a batch of stickers my friends designed which helped towards a £1064 donation to the NHS. I am also an NHS volunteer and have dealt with many alerts. To be honest all key workers need to be given credit as they are literally keeping our country going at the minute.
"I mentioned earlier that there are a small number of individuals who still, after weeks of lockdown, gather in groups to create ‘mini meets’. I totally understand that meeting up with friends who share the same passion is socially addictive and its really difficult to be deprived of that. But still, what are your thoughts on this and do you have any messages for those who are either thinking of it, or who are still doing it?"
Well I’m sure you saw my status yesterday when I expressed my feelings about stupid individuals not only having these meet ups but also posting it all over social media. I’m not sure the seriousness of this situation has sunk in with some. They are an embarrassment to the car scene and sorry excuses of human beings. When the stickers on their cars show which clubs they are members of as well it brings that club into disrepute. My friends have lost family members. It’s such an awful time and some people can’t even follow orders to stay at home.
"We are all hoping for announcements on the easing of the lockdown in the coming weeks, but social distancing will still play a large part of how we interact for probably a large proportion of the year. When large events such as Extreme BHPs meets finally get going again, how do you think the social distancing measures could be adapted or encouraged?"
I’ll be honest, it will be really difficult to adhere to social distancing measures at our big events due to the sheer number of people who attend. I’d definitely encourage smaller meet ups though for example, when we do our photo shoot meets etc. There are less people to deal with so I feel measures could be followed.
"Are there any Extreme BHP events planned for later in the year?"
We have been going for 12 years now and even though we have 22,000 people alone on one of our pages we are still a close knit club with really close friendships. I have had a lot of people talking to me as people are struggling, they are lonely, a lot live on their own and we give them something to be involved in. This in mind we have our organised our Summer event for August and our annual illuminations convoy in October as always. This is our 9th year of doing this and its always one of the most talked about events of the year. We’ve had a huge response to both events as it gives people something to look forward to and keeps social media hyped up and interesting for members. Obviously these will only be going ahead if circumstances are different. Please feel free to join our page and group for all things car related ‘Extremebhp’ and our motorsport team ‘Extremebhp Motorsport’
Stay safe all and we will catch up with you soon :)
"How do you see the future of the Car scene now that we've been hit with a Pandemic and lockdown?"
I'd be really keen to explore new things, especially new ways of coming together to enjoy what we all love but maybe just a bit different. I'd love the idea of a drive in Cinema for example...who knows. Lets see what happens.
"Thanks Sonia, its been great speaking with you. Take care and Stay safe"
Thanks Andy, Stay safe
So what now? How does the future look for the street car/modified car industry?
It can be expected that Social distancing will now become a part of every day life for the immediate future. I guess you can also expect to see some wearing face masks at car meets. And undoubtedly it may even affect the number of attendees at first with some airing on the side of caution.
Whilst a large sector of this industry have seen a heavy impact, some have seen it as an opportunity.
There are posts daily on all car related Facebook pages about how we now have the time to modify our cars. Online shopping has never been easier. And a massive spike in YouTube videos, particularly modification tutorials.
As a photographer and graphic designer I’m pleased to see some people are now trying their hand at different editing techniques and then posting them too.
And although the situation paints a bleak picture for the UK car scene currently, there are some positive things to come from this. Not to mention how lucky we have been with the weather!!
Alas, there are some (including me) who think “Typical….Perfect weather for Car stuff and we’re not allowed out”…
Stay safe people
#stayhome #protectthenhs #savelives