Ace Cafe history remembered in new book

On its tenth anniversary since reopening a new hardback remembers the cafe and the scene it supported

When it dawned on a young bobby it was almost 25 years since the legendary Ace Caf� closed he set about organising a reunion putting the word out through bike clubs and magazines.

Little did he know that the memories for the North Circular Road caf�, in Stonebridge, were so alive and well that more than 12,000 people would come from across the globe to pay their respects.

After that day in September 1994, Mark Wilsmore, embarked on a mission to bring the bikers’ caf� back to life.

Mark said: “I was a beat officer at Wembley station before I joined the mounted branch but I was into motorbikes and rock n roll. So after the reunion it was always the aim to reopen the cafe.”


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And in 2001 it did and now in its tenth anniversary a hardback book will be published charting its coloured history.

Ace Times - Speed thrills and tea spills, a cafe and a culture, has been written by bike enthusiast and historian Mike Duckworth who first met Mark at the reunions in the mid-nineties offering advice on getting the caf� off the ground again.

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Since being commissioned for the book, Mick turned detective tracing those who could still remember the dizzy days of the 50s and 60s.

In doing so he found people who had refused to move on from those times, others had turned their back on them while others he found were the ones who had perished on the North Circular race track.

Biker gangs such as the Ton-up boys, rock n roll rebels, and a few years later the 59ers, the rockers, would meet at the caf�, listening to the jukebox, and racing along the North Circular gaining notoriety among the press, police and locals alike.

However, they lost numerous members to serious injury and death while racing around the ‘circuit’ – this was before the law required helmets to be worn.

The attention led to a television series based around the caf� and before long a police raid led to regular confrontations with the police.

Despite the bad press there was no denying the pivotal role the Ace played in a period of change acting as a focal point for the rock n roll scene at the time.

As a 24 hour caf� the youths would head back there after being kicked out of the clubs in Soho often accompanied by the bands who had been playing.

Gene Vincent, Johnny Kid and the Pirates, who lived nearby, and Screaming Lord Sutch, who came for the reopening in 2001, all dropped in at the Ace.

“Then it all changed. The British motorbike industry disappeared and people stopped wearing black leather and started wearing modern suits and helmets”, Mick said.

By 1969 the Ace was little more than a greasy spoon and closed its doors for the last time. It opened 32 years later in a completely different world.

Mick said: “At one time it was quite an intimidating place to go but now they welcome cars. But they have managed to preserve the heritage while being a proper modern caf�.”

* Ace Times is out in March at �29.95. Preorders can be made at www.ace-cafe-london.com

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