20th Century Speedway – Community Connections 

20th Century Speedway is the event space created by Debbie Young and Mark ‘Bones’ Stevens.  It opened on St Eanswythe Way in 2022 and the plan was always to host clubs and social events for all ages.  In that time Speedway has grown to be an important music and entertainment venue in Folkestone.  Sadly we lost Debbie to breast cancer in early 2024 and this made Bones and The Reds (their girls) take a step back to review what Speedway meant to them. After a few months the family have plans to entertain Folkestone once more.  Folkelife met Bones to talk about the future.

folkestone born

“I’m from Folkestone.  I have family connections all around the area and this is home to me.  Debbie went to University in Canterbury and we would spend weekends coming here to the Sunday Market and Rotunda.  We made the move to Folkestone in 2007 with our eldest and Debbie continued to work in TV producing shows with magicians such as Derren Brown. I’m a set designer, artist and have always had the challenge of listening to these magicians and seeing what tricks they want to show, and then creating the set so they can perform.  

“As with everyone, Covid changed our work plans and Debbie didn’t commute to London anymore.  We started running little hospitality gigs when we were allowed to mix and just really enjoyed being here with the girls and working with everyone in town.  There’s a lot of people here who we know and love and work alongside.  

“The beginning of 20th Century Speedway was born out of those gigs during Covid.  We found this space and opened up doing the things we wanted to do.  I feel it’s really important that we can have a space to love and enjoy music, that’s a safe space for everyone.  We’ve done Under 18 gigs where the bands might be playing their first gigs outside of school.  We’ve done Drag Bingo with Dita Garbo, and comedy nights, magic nights, knitting nights.  You name it, we’re here for everyone.”

Speedway full family
Speedway Under 18s gig
Speedway Bones

re-evaluating life

“Soon after we opened Speedway Debbie got her diagnosis of breast cancer and we’ve been working alongside that since then.  We lost her in January of 2024 and I have been walking around like a zombie for months.  I had to get my head around what had happened, and The Reds, our girls, have to as well.  We discussed what we should do with Speedway and I said that we need to make it something that makes us happy.  This is our business, and our space to play and give people entertainment.  

“It’s taken a while but I am genuinely excited about what we’re going to do.  I have to write everything down or else I will forget and things won’t get done.  But I have a list of bands that I want to book, that I want to see play here.  Some are bands I’ve taken the girls to, and we’ve had the best evenings, and I want to bring that here.  We have been praised for how good bands sound here, and we’re working on making it even better, but this is absolutely one of the things I want to do.”

community space

We were running loads of different evenings – from fancy dress events to private parties – and I want to do that again.  We had a great Halloween session in 2023 but this year I want to run a Guy Fawkes night too.  Honestly, he’s the one person who’s walked into Parliament with decent intentions, and we should celebrate that!  I’m not getting into politics, but we want this space to be somewhere that welcomes everyone, where you can discover new ideas and music and be part of our community.  

I really liked the knitting evenings we did.  That was a great example of what this place can offer.  I’d stand at the top of the stairs and the little ladies would hold onto my shoulders and walk down the stairs safely behind me.  They loved it!  The Reds were involved in that and learned how to knit and crochet and they love it too.”

under 18s gigs

“We’ve got a few Under 18s gigs booked in the diary over the next few months.  It’s important to offer a space where the next generation of musicians can perform in a professional setting.  We get them in for sound checks, we show them how gigs work from behind the scenes and they get to perform in front of a decent-sized audience.  

“I’m great friends with Chris Smith from The Chambers and it’s important we work together as music venues in the same town.  I know what days he’s busy and booked and I can book things in for other nights in the week.  It’s about helping each other build a network of live music venues that support local and national musicians.  Our opening event is on 31st May 2024 which means we get in on the last day of the Music In May Festival – I wanted to support that venture too.”

making changes

“Sometimes the universe seems to work in your favour.  I wanted to make some changes to the downstairs so that there was more room for people.  I took my bike down to The Pilot Bar at the beach and asked them if they were interested in our Ghost Train.  They admitted they’d just been talking about me the day before.  That’s now moved down there, which is great for both of us.  It gives me more space for people, but I’ve also discovered a really cool thing to put in its place.  You’ll have to come and have a look at what I’ve found.  

“I’ve moved the bar, made the loos better, simplified the pricing of drinks and snacks and have plans to do much more.  It’s a case of taking the time every so often to assess how the events have gone, and how we can make them even better.  But for now, I’m looking forward to getting people back in here to have some fun.  The Reds and I are excited about what’s to come.”

discover more about folkestone below

Create, work and live – The Creative Quarter
Connecting the Creative Community – East Cliff Creatives
Regenerating A Town Through Art – Creative Folkestone
Digital Office Space – The Glassworks

Sign up to our Newsletter