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History of Poole Dream Machines

Dream Machines Poole Tourism 2014Motorbikes have been visiting Poole Quay regularly on a Tuesday night for over 30 years and Dream Machines was the result of the Council’s proactive approach to deal with issues raised by residents at the time to manage the situation by making it an organised event. 

Organised by the Borough of Poole as part of the Poole Quay Management Plan since 1998, Dream Machines in its current form is organised by Poole Tourism and has been running as part of Poole’s summer events programme since 2002.  

Charging for Dream Machines was introduced in 2002 following alterations to Poole Quay, the removal of car parking along the quay edge and the building of the sea wall.  Up until this time these car parking spaces had been used to accommodate the motorcycles attending each Tuesday evening, but when the sea wall was built this space was no longer available.  As a result of this loss, the future of the event was threatened as there was no way that motorcycles could park on the road safely whilst other vehicles used the same area as a thoroughfare.  

At the time consultation took place to determine whether the event should end, or to explore ways in which it could continue safely.  It was felt that the only way to keep the event going would be to apply for a series of formal road closures which would result in associated costs.   Because of the costs a business plan was put together for the event so it could become a self-funding event through an entry charge.  Discussions took place with the Marshals and a number of motorcyclists at the time and a fee of £1 per night or £5 per season was agreed.  It was understood that any  income achieved once event costs were paid, would then be donated to charities or local community groups. 

Charges for bikes attending are not voluntary.  With the road closure in place the site is treated as a “premises” which is managed by Poole Tourism.  On this basis if bikes choose not to pay, they are excluded from the event.  The road closure itself is a legal process that could not be undertaken without the self funding of the event and without it, the event would cease.      

Costs for the 26 weeks of the event include:

This is managed by a small team.  This process begins at 2pm – and has to be this early in order to provide the time necessary to clear the site in time for the event and give notice to those using disabled parking bays.  This is followed by the reversal of the process at the end of the evening. Depending on how busy the night is, it can be 10.30-11pm by the time the events team have finished. 

Since 2002 an essential part of the event has been the support of the Volunteer Marshals who are keen local enthusiasts that have given up their time for free in order to help park motorcycles in  an orderly fashion and support the general well being of the event.  They have been a key part of its success.  However because they are volunteers who attend after work and other commitments, a 2pm set up and 10pm finish is not something that could be achieved or expected of volunteers for 26 weeks, but has to be planned for. 

The event has relied upon the goodwill of a core group of Volunteer Marshals for 15 years with many of them being involved every year. As people’s circumstances change, the numbers have slowly fallen over the past few years and finding replacements has been extremely difficult.  Over this time the attitude of a small minority of riders, particularly last year, has meant that the team has decided to call it a day.

Unfortunately for 2017 new Volunteer Marshals have not come forward, so alternative ways to ensure the event runs smoothly have to be considered. 

To continue the event safely, it now means that there is a need to employ and pay for Marshals on the evening.  This will result in a significant cost increase that will have to be met.  To keep costs to a minimum paid for Marshals support the event from May-the end of August, with Poole Quay businessess including the Fish & Chip Kiosk, The Lord Nelson and Quayside Emporium providing volunteer Marshals in April and September.  Without their support riders would not be able to enjoy the full 26 week season.

Since charging was introduced in 2002 any surplus achieved from the entry fees (once the event costs were taken out) has been donated to local charities of the Marshals choice, since it is the local area upon which the event impacts most greatly.  A financial report for the event - money raised, costs and charity donations are updated at the close of each financial year and posted on the Poole Tourism website. In addition the weekly numbers attending, split into armbands and tickets sold are published each week with the details of the Bike of the Night winner.  This is updated after each event.   Information on the weekly winners is also included on the Poole Tourism Facebook page and those interested can sign up to receive up to date information about the event direct via our newsletters.  Unfortunately in 2017 there will be no Bike of the Year competition.

Levels of charity donation can vary year on year, partly due to the weather which has the biggest impact on the event.  On some occasions when less funding has been raised, the Marshals have decided to add together two years of donations to make a bigger sum for the charities receiving them.  Since 2002 over £40,000 has been donated to local charities from Poole Dream Machines to a range of local charities including Dorset Air Ambulance, the Youth Cancer Trust and Shine Cancer Support.  At the close of the 2016 season £1500 was donated to DocBike and £150 to Old Town Community Group.  

Over the last 15 years, the cost of holding the event for 26 weeks together with changes in legislation for formal road closures, have increased.  The weekly fee has remained the same at £1 with only small increases in the season armband from £5 to the current £8 fee.  This has gradually reduced the level of charity donation.  This together with the need to employ Marshals means that it is likely that no donation will be possible in 2017.    

The importance of the event remaining self funding at a time when the Council is facing a significant financial challenge to protect frontline services due to funding cuts, is vital.     

Anyone interested in volunteering at the event can email: tourism@pooletourism.com or visit Cultural Volunteers Poole for more information.