The Wall of Death has been fascinating crowds since just after the turn of the last century and arrived onto the English shores in the 1920’s. Little has changed over the years.
The riders today still challenge death with every performance and the Ken Fox troupe are no exception. Their showmanship and discipline can clearly be seen from the gallery.
The performance of Ken and this team is electrifying, the speed and agility of the riders must be seen with your own eyes to be believed. You walk up the sixteen steps, sliding your hand up the highly chromed handrail, into the viewing area. You can almost feel the excitement and anticipation of the crowd that surrounds the wooden cylinder. A young boy on tip toes trying to peer over the safety wire into the arena below to catch a glimpse of one of the riders. The smell of the previous show lingers in the canopy, a rider walks into the performance area and starts up one of the motorcycles, it roars into life and makes the boy jump back into the safety of the viewing crowd. Ken’s son Alex is merely warming up one of the motorcycles before the show starts. The spieler (a person who address the crowd) on the bally (front of house stage) can be clearly heard announcing the last few places left for the next show.
“Step right up and watch the riders perform tricks and stunts on the vertical wall, a wall as straight up and down as the walls in your very own home!” A death defying spectacle, “step right up’. A last couple pay their fee and race to the top of the stairs not to miss the start of the show. The heavy door slams shut with a deafening thud, the spieler is silent, the air is electric with excitement and the history that has been played out in the past seems present within the wall.
The crowd waits an announcement from below, the riders look up into the gallery with a calm confidence. A moment’s silence, the speakers come to life as Ken’s voice addresses the audience.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WELCOME TO THE WALL OF DEATH “
I first encountered the Ken Fox troupe in early 2009. I was astonished by the wonderful spectacle that is the wall of death. The vintage bright Red Indian motorcycles and smartly turned out riders seem to perform a slice of the past before the eyes of a modern world. I wanted to capture this astonishing life with photography and set out to document the lives of Ken and his wonderful family.
A brief glimpse of the 21 century hell riders over a typical season as they travel the length of the British Isles. Incorporating the environment and characters of each show. Using only the available light present, and with minimal post editing consisting of a simple black and white conversion for my images, keeps this publication edgy and genuine.
For some people watching a rider risk their life for a good performance can become a very emotional experience. For others an exciting, consuming thrill. Either way the memories absorbed during a performance from the Ken Fox troupe will remain vibrant in you mind. There is always a healthy thread of humour that runs though this family making this daring, dangerous and demanding profession almost relaxed.
The wall of death is a way of life. The showmanship and tradition of this unique
Culture is kept alive by Ken and his dedicated professional team. They are constantly improving and maintaining all aspects of this travelling spectacle. If the previous pages have aroused your curiosity then go and see the wall of death for yourself you will be amazed and………..
YOU WILL FEEL GUILTY FOR WATCHING !
Freelance snapper Gary margerum, first picked up a camera while surfing/travelling
And would document the landscape and people of his surrounding while the surf was dormant. This lead Gary exhibiting his work to help fund his travelling with one of his images being displayed in the national portrait gallery, fast forward a few years and Gary’s still very much passionate about photography, as well as digital, film is a favourite media still for some projects.
Other passions (disease) are motorcycles, being around bikes from a young age, has giving him a good understanding of them. This helps when documenting the machines he photographs and maintaining his own machines. Gary hooked up with dick smith a few years ago now when Gary's 1947 bobber was being used more than his board! Gary helps out around the baron’s shop and started to record some of the bikes to come out of the barons work shop, at that time Dick rebuilt Gary’s Triumph and runs like a Swiss watch now! Gary followed the team to Bonneville in 2013 and shot the attempt to break the speed record for there class which they did!” Dick smith is a very talented engineer and a very good friend of mine and I considered it a pleasure to photograph and document his amazing work”.
Contributing to popular life style magazines and events lends to his reportage style of photography.
Have a look at …….
Hellriders a journey with the wall of death a biographical sketch published in 2012.
Garys 1947 bobber is up for sale! please contact him if your interested!