The best Pride of Longbridge there NEVER was?! Read visitors’ experiences below!
The first Pride Of Longbridge was in April 2006, a year after more than 6,000 workers lost their jobs when the Phoenix Consortium put the MG Rover group into administration.
The event was originally created to mark the closure of MG Rover and to provide the chance for the community, enthusiasts and ex workers to come together and celebrate all the greatness that has come from Longbridge. Now in it’s 10th year, the POL has gone from strength to strength and is a much antissopated community event.
The occasion attracts people from all over the UK who want to expeirence and be a part of the event that is built on foundations of passion and pride. Attendees are not just exclusively from the UK, people make the trip from Germany, Ireland, Holland and many many more locations.
On the morning of the event and after many months of preparation and hard work, the unpredictable British weather dealt a bitter blow and the decision to cancel the POL on it’s milestone birthday, was made.
The rain, sleet and snow (yes snow!) unfortunately made the ground at Cofton Park become hazardous and completely unusable. Heartbreaking as it was, the team worked tirelessly to make people aware of the cancellation and to accommodate those who were on their way or who had already arrived.
Without the familiar and much practised POL in Cofton Park which accommodates thousands, we saw a plethora of mini POLs in various locations. Dudley Zoo, Black Country Museum, Milton Keynes, Longbridge itself and many other places. There is genuine affection and an impeccable devotion to what was, what is and what will be for the Longbridge born manufacturing icon.
Robert Clarke said “Word of Lowhill Lane spread and as I arrived there was a carpet of Longbridge built beauties flooding the old roadside parking.” (read more from Robert below)
Nathan Brown: “People that have never owned an MG will never understand what this means to be able to park your car in this place”
Self proclaimed enthusiast of all things Austin/MG & Rover Andy Stevens said: “Regarding POL I have never missed one of them & I feel such a passion/bond for all who worked at the “Firm” & all the history that is connected that I have no intention of missing one either.” (read more from Andy below)
Carlton Hardy said: “Gemma went above and beyond as per normal the day turned out great.”
Joe Withers said: “For me and my son Dylan, POL wasn’t cancelled, it was just held in several different places all at the same time.” (read more from Joe below)
Ex factory worker Andy Sillitoe said: “I enjoy talking to car enthusiasts about my time there as I can share the love and passion I have for the factory” (read more from Andy below)
Darren Baker said: “I must admit inside I found it quite emotional when I when walking up Lowhill Lane seeing all the MG’s Rover’s Austin’s Mini’s eat” (read more from Darren below)
Gerard Finnegan said: “Had a brilliant day at longbridge even knowing it was cancelled came over from n.ireland to see where my late brother Terence worked for rover plus i also own a mg zs were treated like lords by gemma and andy cartwright we were also taken out to the austin village and to the graveyard where baron austin is buried all in all had a brilliant day and the sun was shining as well so looking forward to next year”
John Ruffle said: “I am so filled with emotion and gratitude for all the ex-Longbridge workers who had their livelihoods stripped from them, right when Austin-Rover were making the most spectacularly great cars. Today’s trip was worth it, rain and snow included, just so the production workers know how much their work is still so cherished and loved.”
Sebastian Röhl said: “Though this years PoL was somewhat different I’d still say it was worth the 1.600 miles roundtrip”
Did the cruel timing of the weather which forced the hand of the POL team to cancel the 10th anniversary event, ironically result in a fitting tribute which showed true resolve, passion and commitment of people from all over the world who clearly showed that the love for this one time printing factory is very much alive?
Gemma Cartwright said: “Just wanted to say WOW I think I have just been to the biggest cancelled car meet. My heart was broken today when the weather decided to challenge us and broke the last glimpse of hope. The maps the plans the effort continuous changes has been a mission. I would like to thank Cov Musuem, gaydon, Black Country musuem, Dudley zoo and all the local businesses that over the past week agreed to be sudden hosts if needed. Thank you to all those that travelled and came to Longbridge it happened and workers still met up. Just to say thank you to everyone especially team pol” More below…….
“After making my way round the carpark and meeting some great people from Germany, Ireland and all parts of the uk, I made a general announcement.
“Then had to go before i was fined lol.
“Myself and David Holder went straight to Marks and Spencers multistory to find some cars that had already relocated. Unfortunately as I arrived so did a couple of boy racers that spiked security intrest and therefore had orders to block the carpark.
“After speaking with security and local police who were both very understanding might I add, the local pcso’s went upstairs to lower the revvs shall we say and make sure things were still safe and sensible.
“Some cars parked in the open carpark tonthe frontbof boots and had a mini show in what was now a sunny day.
“Word of Lowhill Lane spread and as I arrived there was a carpet of Longbridge built beauties flooding the old roadside parking. Reminiscent of a day shift when Rover was still operating the sun continue to shine as more people did drive bys and got out to walk around the cars that have made the journey.
“Regardless of the weather and cancellation the mg sales centre opened its doors and very kindly allowed us to use their facilities as the day went on regardless of the cancellation everybody did their best to make the best of the situation and everybody I spoke to was extremely happy to be there and remember the true reason the Pride of Longbridge was started to remember that all these cars and all these people have been touched by Longbridge history. Both West Mercia and West Midlands police including the local PCSO wete absolutely great making passes to keep everybody safe but at the same time understanding and appreciating why we were there. a great win for the police service in my opinion and must be recognised.”
Darren Baker said: “My first POL visit. Yesterday was the first time I have taken a vehicle to Pride of Longbridge although I have owned Rover’s and MG’s on and off since 1992, and have owned ZTs since 2012. It did not matter to me the great British weather had stopped us parking in Cofton Park, my MG ZT was parked proudly outside Gate W, she along with hundreds of other cars had made the annual pilgrimage home.
“I must admit inside I found it quite emotional when I went walking up Lowhill Lane seeing all the MG’s Rover’s Austin’s Mini’s ect and all those like minded people whom have great pride in driving a cars which is now all sadly part of British motoring history, I know it’s still an MG plant and sorry to drivers of these vehicles but to me they sit along side the Kia’s and Hyundai’s in today’s motoring world as cheap made foreign budget cars.
“But I missed one very important point at first yesterday, whist walking up and down Lowhill Lane I was wondering why I was walking passed a few newish Toyota’s Citreon’s Ford’s, why had some people bought these cars to Pride of Longbridge, a gathering of British build cars bought back to they spiritual home by enthusiastic owners of all ages and back grounds. Then it hit me as I could hear what two blokes were saying as they got out of a Citreon, they were the reason every single one of us was there yesterday, not because of the cars but the workforce, these two blokes are part of the British car history at Longbridge. I stopped and thought for a minute or two, did these to build my ZT or one of her sister’s or cousins, one of my many Rover’s Maestro’s Montego’s… I now get it, Pride of Longbridge is as much about the people as well as the cars.
“I spoke to the woman Police Officer who was stopping cars going in to M&S car park, she has a story too, she did not like the fact that her superiors had ordered her to stop the gathering and send us all backup Lowhill Lane. She was one of the first officer’s sent to the Longbridge factory when the news broke the MG Rover was no more, a day she will never forget. A bloke in Costa said about how everyone on his Street (including his Father) had someone in their household whom worked at the plant.
“Pride of Longbridge… It’s about cars, about people, about a community, Pride of Longbridge I now get it.”
Ex factory worker Andy Sillitoe said: “Pride of Longbridge means to me is simple it keeps the once mighty factory and it’s x workers and community and car enthusiasts together it is one great big family that will never die.”
“I live 2 miles from the plant but Longbridge will be in my heart forever best days of my working life I enjoy talking to car enthusiasts about my time there as I can share the love and passion I have for the factory.” Clock no 123188 – Time served – 27.2.1995 to 8.4.2005
In his own words, the story of a self proclaimed enthusiast of all things Austin/MG & Rover Andy Stevens: “Why Did/Do I Travel To Pride Of Longbridge/POL? I am not an ex worker but I am an enthusiast of all things Austin/MG & Rover etc, & have been since I was 10 years of age (now 51).
“I worked in an Austin Rover Dealership in the 80’s buying my first Rover at 19 years of age & that was a brand new one!!
“My first Factory visit/tour was at the end of 2003 IIRC & I then went there 4 times in total the last being the very day I collected my brand new (one off) MG ZR-Express Van in total spec from Coventry having to drive fairly quickly to arrive at Longbridge in time for the 12PM tour. This was on 18th March 2005 just 3 weeks before the end. A year prior I was one of the very first MG Rover customers to buy the new MG ZT260 – V8.
“When MGR were in their final days I came up to the factory 3 times in one week from Gillingham in Kent sometimes on my own or with friends & once I contacted the local TV to run a small news item. These trips were for the Save MG Rover campaign. There were other times I came up as well. I then went to the MG Sport & Racing auction in 2006.
“In July 2005 there was the Longbridge Centeneray Celebration though rather sombre given what had happened just 3 months prior but that was one hell of an event.
“Regarding POL I have never missed one of them & I feel such a passion/bond for all who worked at the “Firm” & all the history that is connected that I have no intention of missing one either.
“This weekend we left Gillingham at 14.45 on Friday afternoon & the traffic was horrendous, took 3 hours just to get to Heathrow on the M25, stopped at Oxford Services for a break & finally arrived at The Old Rose & Crown in Lickey at 20.45.
“I had spent a fair bit of time preparing my Rover 25GSi for POL for it to get plastered all the way there due to the weather but I took buckets etc & grabbed hot water from the shower in the room & cleaned all the car until 22.30 only to look out of the window in the morning to see the snow (pictures added). I felt an emotion inside as this event makes you feel that way if you care about what POL is about & I felt very sorry for Gemma & all who had wanted to attend / did attend & more so for our friends who had driven from the likes of Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland etc. I still drove to Lowhill Lane, parked in MG UK’s car park & walked around for a few hours looking & chatting. I just hope we can have a POL 2016 – Revisited later in the year.”