As I walk past the back entrance of the Scotiabank Centre, on my way to a sneak preview of the 2017 Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo, I hear a distinct London accent.
“Right! Take two sips and pass it along!”
On the pavement outside the box office on Duke St. are about two dozen small children in red jumpsuits, confidently straddling a fleet of shiny, pint-sized motorcycles. Their leader is rationing a single cup of water, which the kids are passing around, each rider grabbing the large take-away cup with one gloved hand and obediently taking two sips from the straw, the other hand grabbing firmly on to a set of small handlebars.
I have to blink because, although there are some teenagers in the back, most of these kids look about 7 years old.
This is the Imps Motorcycle Display Team from London, England, and it’s the group’s first performance at the Nova Scotia Tattoo in 15 years. There are 34 riders in total, and the youngest, Star, is only 5 years old.
I meet 17 year-old Bobby Barber, and Sonny Burns, aged seven.
Sonny, who is in year 3 (grade 2), has been riding a motorcycle with the Imps for the past two-and-a-half years. He says his teacher, Ms. Kennedy, didn’t mind him taking time off school to travel to Halifax.
The Imps Motorcycle Display Team was born in the early 1970’s – the era of Evel Knievel. It originated with the Hackney Adventure Holiday Project – a charity that provided holidays in the country for under privileged young people from the East end of London. As the story goes, some of the children found a dysfunctional old motorbike. One thing led to another and the Imps motorcycle display team, made up of young people aged six to sixteen, emerged.
Their chief is Roy Pratt MBE, the founder of the project and their leader for 47 years. When you go to the Tattoo, he’s the one who you will see marching ahead of the team, calmly directing each rider with subtle nods and arm signals. It’s fascinating and somehow humbling to observe this man – a social worker by profession, leading his elite team of motorcycle performers. Since its inception, over 2,000 kids have passed through the Imps program.
And the performance itself? Some parents will find it nail-biting because these talented children are doing everything that you want your kids to avoid – riding side-saddle, riding backwards, three to a bike, human pyramids on the motorcycle. So, it goes without saying – don’t try this at home!
The Imps motorcycle team is only one of many inspirational performances from Canada and the rest of the world that you’ll find at this year’s Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, which runs from June 29th – July 6th at the Scotiabank Centre.
Although we do our best to provide you with accurate information, all event details are subject to change. Please contact the facility to avoid disappointment.