" The name George Barris is synonymous with car customising. It was George and his brother Sam that revolutionised the art of custom cars in America back in the forties and fifties by reworking the likes of Ford and Chevrolet "
Photography John Isaac/Magneto
The long, lonely stretch of road that is Camber Sands is the sort of place you’d usually hurry through to more pleasant pastures such as nearby Rye. Unless, that is, you’re holidaying at the massive Pontins holiday camp there or remotely interested in 50’s car culture.
If you are then you’ll know that Pontins is kept in business by hosting some of the biggest Rocking events this side of the Thames. Now in its 15th year the ‘Rhythm Riot ‘ is as its promoters promise ‘3 days and nights of 50’s music and mayhem!’
The Rhythmn Riot sells out months in advance and the holiday camp has never been so packed. Thousands of rockers from all over Europe and further afield descend on this damp stretch of Kent Coastline. With three different venues catering to the Lindy hopping, jiving crowd right through to late night Burlesque acts by the lovely Missy Malone, Cherry Shakewell, the music (and the mayhem) goes on every night until 5am; often continuing as impromptu Chalet parties until lunchtime!
The Rocking scene has always gone hand in hand with a real love for classic American cars. This year’s Riot was no exception. The faded stucco of Pontins’ once grand frontage was an acreage of rusted out old jalopys, ridiculously overfinned Cadillac land yachts; Tri Chevies, Hillbilly trucks and everything in between. Even the odd British classic found its way into the melee.
This year’s highlight was of course a visit from the legendary customiser George Barris, who’d flown over especially for the Riot. A UK based collection of Barris show cars was on display too, thanks to Gary Hillman. His taste for the weird and wonderful has curated an amazing collection, including one of the very few official Batmobile replicas complete with Batphone and flames out of the afterburner exhausts.
The Vintage Hot Rod association and Jack Hammer Speed Shop had again helped out in bringing the Hot Rod/Custom element to the event. As well as curating the Barris cars the brought artists displaying pinstriping, great artwork from Jacqueline Davies, and a stunning ghoulish Model A hearse in black with so many one-off details you could have spent all day checking them out.
On Sunday Rye’s local police had their hands full as they directed the traffic for the traditional cruise, ensuring the ‘normal’ cars didn’t interrupt the show for the Rye locals. The fully restored 1956 Bedford coach followed a mile long line of Americana, led by a smiling George Barris in his Batmobile.
The Riot is a grand tradition, bringing together people with an endlessly appealing passion. Long may it continue.
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