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Radio Northampton`s Martin Heath live from the starting line

In 2001 the small Northamptonshire village of Welton decided to celebrate the new millennium by organising a soap box derby as part of their festivities. It was such a huge success that thirteen years later several of the communities six hundred villagers decided it would be a great boost to the villages annual village fete if it was to return and the second Derby took place.

Chair of the Soapbox Committee Chris Barlow remembers it well, ` I heard the first soapbox was in the early millennium but there was a long break until I picked up the mantle probably after a few too many real ales in The White Horse! Since 2014 we have now delivered four consecutive events!  I’m sat here thinking ‘I must have been mad to consider it! It has been a lot of work. We start planning the next one a few weeks after the last one finishes!

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An important push start for all competitors

In 2013 organisers recruited former Northampton Saints and 2003 England Rugby World Cup winner Ben Cohen along to open Welton`s third Soap Box Derby to ever increasing crowds. Last year`s event, the fourth saw attendance records broken as huge numbers of spectators lined the course route down throughout the village.

It has been estimated that between 2,000 – 2,500 people attended the Soapbox in 2016. The organisation of the event is superb and villagers support the event in many different ways. Some local villagers put up with the inconvenience of having their drives blocked for most of the day but decide to sit out on their lawns watching the races.

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Now that`s what the sun roof is for!

A spectacular array of homemade soapbox carts race down the 500 metre course reaching speeds of up to 32mph, all from a push start! Both experienced and amateur racers had been designing and preparing their carts for the last twelve months and competition for the prizes was as great as ever. Racers started outside the White Horse pub with a push start for the whole length of the pub – from gable to gable then gravity takes over. The course runs downhill along the High Street then there is a tight right bend near the church. At the bottom of the hill there is another sharp left-hander before the finish line near The Paddock.

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Team Nissan

It is of course a downhill race where competitors race against the clock, not each other but there are also points awarded for creativity and originality in the design of the cart. The knowledgeable staff at Halfords Cycling Centre from Daventry helped ensure every one of the soap boxes met the stringent safety regulations before they were allowed to race.

The carts competing last year were both traditional and outrageous with a high level of ingenuity and creative expression. My particular favourite was Trumpton`s Finest a real treat for children both young and old alike. Other teams taking part included Karty McKartface, The Welton Cannonball, Team Nissan, and Mad Max. Each of the hand-made machines were powered by nothing else but courage, bravery and the force of gravity.

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Is there anybody in there?

With 42 soapbox carts competing and a record 101 soapbox runs completed throughout the day it really was a fantastic free day out for all of the family. The fastest descent recorded by Isle of Wight based Team Streamline was an incredible 32mph by category winner Take III. There were joint winners for creativity for Boaty McBoatface with a cool reference to the Braunston Narrowboat culture and Where`s the Ceiling Fan gone?

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Ready for the Horn start

There were also lots of additional entertainment provided including large bouncy castles, slide and face painting for the kids and classic summer fair activities for all ages. The Entertainment continued late into the night with live music at The White Horse pub with excellent local band `Got It Covered` providing the tunes to a large appreciative audience.

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Fastest descent – Take III?

Chris Barlow commented on the important role volunteers play in getting the Soapbox Derby to function, ` On race day we have forty six dedicated volunteers providing various essential roles and levels of support – the soapbox derby would not take place without them. Most of the volunteers live in the village but we get plenty of support from outside too. We have gained fantastic financial and supplier support for materials over the last three years. In 2014 we had 100 crowd barriers stretched along the road with miles of interconnecting barrier tape!  This year we had 450 barriers providing an all connected solid infrastructure to help keep racers and spectators safer!  Huge support from many, many people and organisations.

Chair Chris Barlow concludes with some comments about funds for charity from the remaining profits, `We are an independent non-profit event which has already distributed hundreds of pounds to local charitable organisations over the last three years. We are not a registered charity at this time. We have looked into this but there is still lot more work to be done. It isn’t a simple process! We have committed £1k to support the rebuild of a new car park for the Welton village hall and once we have sorted the income and expenditure streams for this years event we shall consider further charitable commitments.

The White Horse` pub also supports the event by covering certain costs to our charity fund. One of the other core obectives is to support our local pub. After reading the Travel Locker report about 30 rural pubs closing each week  it is essential that we do all we can to help support our village pub. This event will help our own community pub during these difficult times.

If you missed the Welton Soap Box Derby in previous years do not worry because the `organising committee` have set the date for this years event which has been confirmed as Saturday July 15th 2017.

Derby History: 2001/2014/2015/2016/2017

For an official application form for this year`s Welton Soap Box Derby Email Soapbox HQ at: welton_soapbox@outlook.com

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Thank you

James William Davis

Founder and blogger at:

Website: www.thetravellocker.com

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