BACKYARD JAM 2019: Looking Forward, Looking Back | Ride UK BMX

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BACKYARD JAM 2019: Looking Forward, Looking Back

UK BMX history has a lot to thank Backyard Jam for.  Or rather, the organisers of Backyard Jam, AKA Seventies Distribution.  We felt the time was right to ask the boss Stu Dawkins all about the return of Backyard Jam.  Looking back at the iconic Backyards of the early 2000s and looking forward to the 2019 series.  Read on…

– It’s been a while since the last event.  What made you want to organise another jam series?

Instinctively it felt like the right time! There’s definitely a lot of jams/contests at different parks around the UK but nothing ties them together so we decided to do a series of Amateur events leading to a final at Adrenaline Alley. It’s also influenced by BMX Park going into the Olympics, although this will be good for BMX on many levels it has the potential to sterilise BMX to the point that riders daren’t risk trying a new trick for fear of crashing or putting a foot down and sacrificing their entire score. As well as encouraging progression and skilled riding we also want to embrace the passion and enthusiasm that comes with a rider going all out for one trick. Even though that rider might not win the contest they could be the person that everyone is talking about on the drive home. We want to protect and embrace this and I’m hoping the jams will go some way to encouraging and rewarding riders that send it!

– What are your main goals for Backyard 2019?

First and foremost we’re trying to create a series of events that encourages riders to compete and progress in BMX and hopefully enable new riders to enter their first competition or existing riders to stick with BMX for longer. We’re also hoping to create an environment that gets riders and spectators psyched on BMX!

“We want to embrace the passion and enthusiasm that comes with a rider going all out for one trick”

– Backyard Jam has a very long and rich history.  For many people it defines ‘the golden days’ of BMX.  How does it feel to have created such a reputation?

It’s a little bit daunting because there is so much history from past events, the old Backyard Jam events are definitely an important part in the history of BMX and hopefully these new events will live up to people’s expectations. Our aim is to ensure these events retain the atmosphere and level of riding that made the jams so popular in the past.

– Backyard definitely evolved from the early local jams up to the touring ramps in big halls… How do you see the 2019 series fitting in with the history?  Has it evolved this way because indoor parks are better now?

The jams have gone through different formats over the years from thousands of riders in a field watching people jump a chasm to custom built courses in large commercial venues and I see these events as the next evolution of the Backyard Jam legacy. There are so many good indoor parks around the country that it makes a lot of sense to work closely with those venues. Indoor parks are essential for the sustainability and growth of BMX as a whole and if we can help support them through these events then it’s going to have a positive effect on BMX. We’re already getting feedback of riders attending indoor parks to practice for the upcoming Backyard Jam qualifiers.

Deep from the archives… Ride issue 12.

– Can you explain a bit about the format of the event for Amateurs?

The top 4 riders in Over 15’s Street and Park and the top two over 11’s Women will qualify from each of the Backyard Jam events. The way we used to select riders for the final was by which riders registered first which meant that many good riders missed out. This format means that if a rider doesn’t qualify at one event then they can enter subsequent events in a further attempt to qualify for the final. This way every rider in the Amateur final has earned their place in the final and the event is more exciting for this.

– Do Amateur riders have to enter every event?

No, they only have to qualify at one Backyard event to have a place reserved in the final. Qualified riders can enter subsequent events for additional practice but they cannot qualify twice, so we will always take a new group of riders from each event regardless of where previously qualified riders place in the competition. We will also have a handful of Wild Card places for riders that didn’t qualify for the finals but that the judges feel deserve a place in the final.

– How has the format of the events changed since the last Backyard Jam?

The last time we did the events it was just one course which was a mix of Street and Park but more heavily weighted towards Park riding. BMX has progressed so much since 2006 that Street and Park definitely need to have their own separate competitions. We’ve also created additional groups for younger riders as well as a women’s specific group.

– What prizes can Amateur riders win?

Previously we used to give away BMX parts as prizes but the feeling is that the riding level is going to be so high that many of the winners will already be sponsored by a BMX company, so it would be strange to win a bunch of components from a different BMX brand. For this reason we’ve had custom trophies made for each event.

Ride issue 18.

– How are you distinguishing between who is an Amateur rider and who is a Pro rider?

This is a contentious question and one that we don’t have a definitive answer for. It’s very difficult to define what determines whether a rider is a professional or not and hopefully in the future as BMX grows and more riders get paid this will become clearer. For the purpose of the Backyard Jam events we are going to class a rider as being ‘Pro’ if he is either getting paid to ride or has a signature component or colourway on a BMX brand. Also the ‘Pro’ final will be an invite only event based on riders chosen by the judges and event organisers.

“The response has reassured me that there is still a huge demand for a series like this in the UK”

– How did you choose the locations? 

Firstly we wanted to choose indoor parks that were spread around the UK to appeal to as many different riders as possible. Secondly we wanted venues that had both good Street and Park courses along with adequate viewing for spectators. This year’s venues are Rush, Unit 23, Ramp 1, Asylum and Adrenaline Alley for the final. Our plan is to do these events again next year and many years to come so hopefully these venues will change from year to year.

– Will the Backyard Jam be a UCI sanctioned event?

I’ve seen a lot of comments on Instagram about this and no, it won’t. Although we’re not against anything the UCI or Olympics are doing we don’t want to compromise the way our event is run to fit in with someone else’s set of rules.

– Tell us about the sponsors involved.  A lot of people have been asking whether it’ll be ‘Etnies Backyard’ again.

Although Etnies aren’t a title sponsor they have come on board as a core sponsor for the final at Adrenaline Alley and we’re psyched to have an association with them again after all these years. We’ve also had a huge response from not only Seventies’ brands but from many other brands and distributors around the UK.

The list of sponsors are Ride UK, GT, Radio, BSD, Cult, Shadow, United, Subrosa, Federal, Etnies, Tall Order, Primo, Fit, Mongoose, Stranger. There are different levels of sponsorship and some brands are sponsoring every event whereas others might be sponsoring one or two qualifier events.

“I’m hoping that we’re going to see some of the Amateur winners go on to become the Professional riders of tomorrow”

– What are you most excited about?

Initially I was unsure about doing the events again but the response on social media and the number of riders that have registered to enter the contest has reassured me that there is still a huge demand for a series like this in the UK. It’s going to be amazing seeing new riders at each event and witnessing so many people that are psyched on riding BMX and competing with their friends.

– Are there any particular names you’re watching out for?  Or are you hoping to be blown away by new riders who are under the radar?

There is a whole new crop of riders coming through and these events will give these riders much more exposure and coverage than they might have previously got just riding at their local park. We’ll be creating YouTube videos from all the events to highlight all the good riding that goes down and I’m hoping that we’re going to see some of the Amateur winners go on to become the Professional riders of tomorrow.

Ride issue 61. Dave Osato, whip to fuf at the outdoor Hastings event. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

– Tell us about the over 30s class.  Was that in response to certain individuals commenting on Instagram?

We’re going to be working with Neil Waddington from Ride On BMX to create a sub event at Adrenaline Alley for the over 30’s age group. This was something that we’d always discussed but the additional interest on Instagram reinforced the need for us to make this happen. We may even see parents in the over 30’s group who’ve entered their children in younger age categories.

– Teaming up with Simple Session is a great idea.  Can you explain what the deal is there?  Some riders who become part of the legacy of Backyard will also go on to ride at SS?

The top 2 riders from the Amateur Over 15’s final in Street and Park as well as the top rider in the Women’s over 11’s will be invited to the Simple Session contest in Estonia in February 2020. We’re keen to establish a clear ‘Path to Pro’ so Amateur riders can see how they can progress through the sport. This is a great way of introducing up and up and coming riders to what is typically an invite only Pro event. As a partnership with Simple Session and Ride UK we’ll be documenting these riders all the way from the Amateur qualifier to the Backyard Jam final and then on to enter Simple Session and we’ll be releasing a video of this journey. As part of the winning prizes we’ll be covering hotel and travel expenses.

– There are 5 rounds and then a final. How nuts do you think the final is going to be?

There is already a lot of hype for the first event in Rush so by the time the final comes around it’s going to be crazy. Also the Saturday of the Adrenaline Alley event (7/8th December) will be the last chance to qualify for the Amateur final on Sunday so I’m expecting this to be really exciting. The following day will be the Amateur finals so this will be insane and then you’ve also got the Pro Street and Park event. It’s exciting just thinking about how much it’s going to go off!

​For more info on the 2019 series and rider registration details, check the Backyard Jam website.

Look below for a gallery of great moments from the early years (1991-1997)



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