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Centenary Celebration: A Night to Remember

With 2024 marking 100 years of Kingston Wheelers, we wanted to celebrate the occasion with a party that paid homage to our dinner and dance events of yesteryear. On Saturday 23rd March, one hundred of our members gathered together for a special evening of entertainment, dining and dancing (of course).

Every year of the club’s existence from 1924 to 1999, the Wheelers celebrated the achievements of its racing members in a very formal and traditional way. From the very beginning the club organised an annual gala to award trophies for each race season, which were called the Dinner & Dance and Prize Presentation evenings. They would always include a speech, multiple formal toasts, and a classical band playing traditional ballroom dancing numbers.

Once the club reformed these nights also would typically include a guest of honour (most commonly a well known cyclist or sometimes the mayor of Kingston). Eileen Sheridan and Eileen Gray OBE were the most notable and most frequent guests of honours, becoming friends of the Club. Other guests were local cycling champions including Eddie Atkins, Peter Cook and Derek Cottington, or cycling officials like Brian Elliott and David Stalker. The club’s full range of prizes would be presented during the evening, mainly to the racing fraternity, usually by the club president. During the latter decades a number of less formal toasts would be proposed for various goings-on, some comical, within the club during the past year.

Our Centenary Celebration took place at Malden Wanderers Cricket Club, a fabulous venue that was decked out with lights, decorations and, of course, number 100 helium balloons. MWCC laid on volunteers for the bar, who also turned out to be members of VCL and did an amazing job running a busy bar all night.

We sold out the tickets well in advance and with 100 members in attendance, it’s fair to say it took a wedding-level organisation to pull together a seating plan for 10 tables named after our favourite routes and rides in Surrey (Seale, Tanhouse, Chobham Lanes etc).

We were joined by special guests Denny Gray and Jo Rowsell MBE who did a wonderful job hosting the evening with an intro speech, cycling quiz and fireside chat that delved into Jo’s career on the track, how she got selected for the British Cycling talent programme and her formative years at local clubs including VCL and Sutton. 

We had gathered questions from the membership for Jo and some of the topics covered included, what goes through your head during a Team Pursuit Olympic final (lap counting!), the funniest member of the squad (Katie Archibald with her “would you rather?” questions in the track circle) and her time working with the NHS during the pandemic. 

Following the sit-down dinner, with excellent pan-Asian tapas laid on by OneGuy&O, we had live music from North-London based band The Landline. They quickly got the party in full swing with covers of Pixies, The Cure, Blur and plenty of 90’s classics. The dance floor swelled as the evening went on, and our very own resident DJ Neil Grunshaw wrapped up the evening with a (mostly) crowd-pleasing DJ set.

It was a truly special evening and a fitting way to mark the Centenary. After the event, Club Chairman Tim Lawn said “If I remember correctly, when we first spoke about trying to put on a party, the brief was something like ‘to evoke the spirit of past KWCC dinners but reflect the club as it is now.’ Last night totally nailed that. An absolute credit to you all.”

A massive shout to Jo Reynolds who pulled together the whole event from start to finish, assisted by a team of volunteers including Alex, Caroline and Patricia. As well as Jo’s family who were roped in to help, including son Oran who did a superb job manning the door.

A big thanks to everyone who came along to make it such a special evening. Here’s to the next 100 years of Kingston Wheelers Cycling Club!