Few would disagree with the view of a Harpenden town councillor that Harpenden Common is ‘the jewel in the town’s crown.’ The vast tract of common grassland sweeping you into the town centre from the south is home to a golf club, two cricket clubs, a football club and the occasional fair and circus. Yet this Green Flag Award-Winning space still provides acres of recreational space for residents and visitors.
But since 1994, for one day a year, this idyllic scene is interrupted for a few hours for what has become one of the biggest mid-week classic car shows in Britain. Classics on the Common was the brain-child of classic car enthusiasts John Tibble, then landlord of the Carpenters Arms and Peter Madden, a Harpenden resident and Metropolitan Police officer. The first year’s show attracted 125 cars and this year will be our 25th Anniversary and more than 1200 classic vehicles, motorcycles and scooters will arrive on Harpenden Common from all over the UK.
And there’s never any shortage of admirers. Over 10,000 spectators spend hours admiring the mouth-watering collection.
A classic vehicle should be at least 26 years old but we usually have one or two from around a century ago, such as a 1913 model T Ford, and a 1916 Stanley Steamer. Every decade following is well represented, too, from Rolls Royces and Maseratis to Austin A40s and Morris Minors. We’ve even had a Sinclair C5. We also like to encourage diversity and invite some “exotics” to the event. Last year, for example, there was a great buzz of interest round the Tesla all-electric car.
In 2009, Harpenden Village Rotary Club took over responsibility for organising and running the show and in 2016, Rotary in Harpenden took over. Rotarians are no strangers to running events and, together with our 40+ members, we are very lucky to have the support of another 50 volunteers.
We are very grateful to have our numbers boosted by members of our associated club, Harpenden Village Inner Wheel, and St Albans & Harpenden Police Cadets. Other helpers include members of Harpenden Lions Club and Carpenters Arms Classic Car Club and volunteers from the principal charities supported by the show. Also we could not put on the event without the active and welcome support of friends and family.
At heart, Classics on the Common remains a community event. Its charity fundraising is significant, too: over the show’s 24-year life more than £200,000 has been distributed to local, children’s, national and international charities.
Classic vehicle owners make a donation to enter and, although there is no entry charge to the public, spectators have always responded generously when approached with collecting buckets. Local businesses support, too, by taking banner advertising.
In 2017 we raised almost £33,000 for charity which was a remarkable result considering the weather and we are immensely grateful to all who contributed. The main recipients were Prostate Cancer UK, Hope and Homes for Children, Luton and Harpenden Samaritans and Herts Young Homeless. For 2018 we will be collecting for Essex & Herts Air Ambulance, Macmillan Cancer Support, Keech Hospice Care and Shelterbox Trust.
We encourage all entrants who are UK taxpayers to tick the Gift Aid box on the Ticket Application Form. This allows us to claim from the tax man an extra 25% of the value of their entry fee donation, without any extra cost to them, and increases the amount we are able to donate to charity.