PICTURES: Belle Vue comes of age in 1981

Managing director Eric Bisson, who had worked at Belle Vue since it opened as a karting track in 1960, pictured in April 1981 as the park celebrated its 21st anniversary (37824579)

BELLE Vue Pleasure Park reached a milestone on 14 April 1981. The leisure facility at Les Quennevais turned 21 – and to celebrate its anniversary year, the admission fee was reduced to 20p.

A view of the track, which staged 30 meetings a year in 1981 (37824549)

The park began life as the Jersey Karting Club, officially opening at Easter in 1960, when karting was still a new sport. And in 1981 karting was still the most successful part of the operation, but over the years it had been joined by a boating lake, crazy golf, dodgems, hovercraft and, for a short time, a skateboard park.

A young karter (37824563)

The hovercraft – which featured in an episode of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World in 1970 – had come to the end of their life in the late 70s and their space had been converted into a games room. The emphasis was on family entertainment and there were even battery-operated karts for toddlers.

On 9 March 1970, the world’s first self-fly hoverdrome was opened at Belle Vue. The machines travelled six inches above the ground on a cushion of air. They had been designed and built by Eric Bisson, manager of the Speed Stadium, and WDW “Bill” Knight, a skilled mechanical engineer, who helped to design and build the Cooper Norton Streamliner racing car which became the first 250cc car to break the 100mph barrier at Monza in Italy in 1957 (37825291)

The kart track was the first of its kind to be built specifically for this purpose in the British Isles. Someone who had been there since the beginning was Eric Bisson, who had begun as a mechanic and eventually became Belle Vue’s managing director. From the outset, the park used machines designed and built on site and by 1981 was employing a full-time staff of mechanics throughout the year.

Some of the junior gokarts used by seven- to 12-year-olds (37824547)

Belle Vue was the home of the Jersey Kart and Motor Club, which organised 30 race meetings a year, the JEP reported in 1981. The club remained there until the site was sold off for housing, holding its last race at the venue on 5 November 1994. It now meets at Sorel.

Back in its 21st anniversary year, the JEP suggested that the success of Belle Vue Pleasure Park was down to the fact that, as Mr Bisson put it: “We’re all kids at heart.”

  • For great temps passé pictures and stories see this weekend’s JEP

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