VOX POP tête-à-tête
Steve Sydenham – Part 1
By Engin Dervişağa
I recently visited the lovely home of Steve Sydenham in Karşiyaka to record an interview with him for my Vox Pop programme for BRT2 and he told me something about his life and eventual involvement in motor racing which will be the subject of Part 2 of this interview.
I asked Steve about his early life and he told me he was born in Somerset in a small village on the edge of Exmoor in the UK. He had always wanted to travel and at the age of 18 decided to apply to join the Royal Navy, however, he was sidetracked by a recruitment Sergeant from the Royal Marines who persuaded Steve that this was the service he should join and so he became a Royal Marine and it was unfortunate that an accident which occurred resulted in him having to be discharged on medical grounds, Steve said – you have to be 100% fit to be a Marine.
Steve then applied for a job at a Butlins Holiday Camp which had opened in Somerset and he was given a position as a Security Officer. On being asked one evening to go and break up a noisy party in the Redcoats section of the camp, Steve actually joined in with them and the following day he was sacked but given a job as a Redcoat which Butlins thought he would be better suited for.
As the Butlins job was seasonal it was necessary to find work for the winter and Steve and some friends found themselves in Spain where they worked to earn their keep. They travelled over to Tangiers and managed to stay there for 3 months acting as guides for tourists to show them around. Eventually they were politely asked to leave as they were taking work from the locals. One friend moved on elsewhere and Steve and his friend started to make their way back to the UK via Gibraltar where they ran out of money but they eventually made their way back to the UK.
Back in the UK Steve got a job as a bouncer at a Mecca Ballroom in Bristol and at this time he was paired with Dave Prowse, a huge man of 6’7″ in height and weighing 18 stone, and I was interested to learn that Dave had appeared as the Green Cross Code man in UK TV advertisements and eventually went on to an acting career and had the part of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films. Steve said he was a great guy and he still thinks of him a lot.
I asked Steve about his married life and he told me he got married in 1968, they spent their honeymoon in Gibraltar and Steve took his wife to Tangiers to show her where some of his old haunts were.
At one point in his life Steve told me he had managed to bluff his way into a job as a steward with what was then BEA so he was able to fulfil his dream of travelling and in those days the cabin crew were able to spend time at their destinations, near and far, 2 or 3 days and even 6 days in some places which was great. Steve’s wife worked for BA on the ground so they both had concessions for travel and on 2 occasions they visited New Zealand for a very small air fare. They eventually went to live in New Zealand and stayed there for 2 years. Steve’s wife was pregnant with their first child and she was very homesick so they decided to return to the UK where their daughter was born on Christmas Day, the first of 5 children.
I then turned the conversation to Steve’s love of motor racing and he told me that he became interested in the sport in New Zealand where there was a Grand Prix circuit near to where he lived. When he returned to the UK Steve started to take an interest in the sport in the UK and realised that there was very little help for up and coming young racing drivers and so he started to form an idea of raising money to sponsor these young drivers and eventually he formed an organisation called Racing for Britain.
Steve will be talking about this part of his life when I continue my interview with him next week, so tune in to Vox Pop on BRT2 as there is a lot more to learn about this man of many talents.
Martin Brundle shaking hands with Steve Sydenham (right). Steve helped Martin in F3 in 1983 when he had a titanic battle all season with Ayrton Senna for the F3 Championship