Ace Cafe | Legends, Mods & Rockers | Mark Wilsmore

Image: Mark Wilsmore | Ace Cafe London

Image: Mark Wilsmore | Ace Cafe London

Mark Wilsmore at the Ace Cafe in London

The Ace Cafe in London, England has a history going back as far as 1938. Beginning as a roadside diner catering to hungry truckers, it evolved in to a popular motorcycle hang out. Setbacks led to the shut down of the iconic motorbike meeting place when it was bombed in the Second World War and again with the evolution of the Austin Mini. Although it had been resurrected a couple of times, the Ace Cafe didn’t realize it’s full potential until Mark Wilsmore’s plan and determination to reopen the it came in to fruition. From the Ace Cafe in London was born an international following which lead to the opening of Ace Cafes in other locations, including Beijing and the United States.

The modern Ace Cafe is a place for petrolheads, people who love the smell of gasoline and oil, motorcycles and cars, to hang out and talk to each other, to swap ideas, to show their vehicles, to enjoy themselves, sit down and have a meal, and a cup of coffee with like minded people.

Mark Wilsmore is the owner of the Ace Cafe. You can read more about the Ace Cafe and check for upcoming events at

Image: Mark Wilsmore | Ace Cafe London

Image: Mark Wilsmore | Ace Cafe London

Image: Sam Manicom at the Ace Cafe London

Image: Sam Manicom at the Ace Cafe London

Sam Manicom | What’s it Like to be in the Ace Cafe?

Sam Manicom, motorcycle adventure travel author and presenter, and co-host on ARR RAW, shares his experiences of the Ace Cafe, what it’s like to go through the doors and experience this legendary petrolhead hang-out.

Image: Sam Manicom | Inside the Ace Cafe London

Image: Sam Manicom | Inside the Ace Cafe London


Interviewer: Jim Martin | Guests: Mark Wilsmore & Sam Manicom | Photos: Mark Wilsmore & Sam Manicom

This transcript has been created from the original audio episode released March 15, 2018. This transcript may have been modified to make reading easier. As Adventure Rider Radio shows are meant to be listened to and not read, the following script may contain some grammatical and other errors. You can also listen to this interview by downloading the episode.


Jim (Narrate): It was the beginning of the legendary Ace Cafe. 1938. Just before the second World War, on the outskirts of London, England. A roadside diner catering to hungry truckers, travellers, and eventually- motorcyclists. Where 24 hours a day you could stop in for a plate of good food, and take a break from the road. It caught on quickly. The business grew. But just two years into it, the second World War had begun, when an air raid bomb (meant for the nearby rail yards) struck the cafe. Killing no one; but completely destroying the diner. The dust had hardly settled before they had a temporary building up, and the Ace Cafe operating again. Later they would rebuild it. It would become an iconic gathering place for rebel teenagers looking for thrills after World War II. It grew into a crazy scene like something out of the Wild West. They would drop a coin in a jukebox, run outside, jump on their motorcycles, race to a predetermined turning point, and try to return before the song ended. It was the beginning of what was called the Ton Up Boys; A name for a seemingly endless stream of daring, even reckless, riders that would push their bikes over 100 miles per hour, racing down public streets. Many of those riders were killed in horrible crashes while they tried to outdo one another. The Ton Up Boys, and rock & roll, earned The Ace Cafe a reputation as a rough and tumble hangout for bikers. Even with the bad reputation and the crashes, they kept coming. Motorcycles jammed the parking lot as they socialized, fought, and raced- as well as ate at the cafe. That was, until motorcycle sales peaked at the end of the fifties. Then, all that excitement fizzled away with the introduction of the Mini. A tiny car that was cheaper to buy than a Triumph Bonneville, and kept you warm & dry in the cold weather. It was a shift in society, the thinking and ideals. More people began driving cars. By 1969, the Ace cafe became a memory- turning off the coffee makers and grill, and locking the door. It was the end of an era. The building remained, and it would eventually be turned into a tire shop, servicing all those cars that were now on the road. The Ace cafe would return, though. But not for another twenty five years- when a mounted policeman & motorcycle enthusiast named Mark Wilsmore, organized a twenty five year reunion of the closing of the Ace Cafe. What happened at that event would drive Mark to reopen the Ace Cafe, and fuel Ace Cafe locations in Barcelona, Beijing, Finland, Switzerland, and Orlando. This resurrection firmly established the Ace Cafe in motorcycle history. My name’s Jim Martin, this is Adventure Rider Radio. Stay with us, we’ve got a good one for you.


Jim (Narrate): The Ace Cafe is an icon for motorcycling in it’s hey-day. And it still is today, for many riders around the world. The original location was in London, England. And very likely, it would still be a place to get your car tires changed if it weren’t for Mark Wilsmore. A mounted policeman & petrol-head- who saw an opportunity, when others just saw tires.


Mark Wilsmore: The place gets described by different people of different age groups in all sorts of different ways. Really, the place is today just as it was when it first opened, in 1938. A transport cafe. In North America, it would be a diner. On a fast, and usually very, very busy stretch of carriage way. A pull-in for trucks and drivers. Through the ages, back-in-the-day as it’s termed, that post-war period of a baby-boom generation, became very popular with the youngsters with their motorbikes. That sort of part and parcels a place of heritage today. That is a direct consequence of that baby-boom. Having a bit of money, and going out and buying the fastest vehicles that they could afford. Which, unlike in America, that same time in the 50’s and into the 60’s, kids in the States were buying cars, here the kids couldn’t quite afford those- so they bought motorbikes. The combination of a huge swath of youngsters buying bikes together with there then being no speed limits on this particular stretch of carriage way, and no training requirement, kids would be racing each other and dying in very considerable numbers. Therefore, coming to some notoriety for those dangerous antics they were doing. Racing on a public carriage way. The term Ton Up Boy came to be coined, and of course, from ’56 onward- there was a soundtrack for them. Rock & rock had arrived from the states. In those early days of rock & roll here in the UK, there was only one radio station, and that was the BBC. They didn’t play it. So the only place you could hear this then new music, was on jukeboxes in transport cafes. And of course, the Ace had a juke box that would be playing this then new music which was coming into the country through all the GI’s stationed here. There are thousands of GI’s stationed very close to here, and that was the soundtrack of a generation. Between the two World Wars, there was a huge redevelopment if you like, and expansion of London. The railway companies were seeing their incomes disappearing, and they hatched this idea to buy up then empty farm land alongside the railways as they stretched out of London, and build homes on them. There was a huge building program after the first World War, and it gave us what we have today. A great suburban sprawl. The idea in part of railway companies, was to shift people in and out of London, and that would give them traffic and income. As part of that huge expansion, a chap who’s name is losing me for the moment, borders this part of land where the cafe is, and at this same time, the government of the day developed quite a radical program of road building and road improvement. The tale is, as I understand it; an entrepreneur and cafe owner called Vick Edinburough, had for some reason this bright idea to open a cafe on that parcel of land. The upshot was the Ace Cafe, the Ace services, the Ace filling station, the Ace motor showrooms…huge, really likely have been the biggest motor centre. Almost like a truck stop on the highways in the states, or now motorway network that we have here in the UK today. Huge site. And that all opened in 1938. Very few people owned private motorcars. But as the war came about in 1939, in November 1940, which is just as the what’s come to be known as the Blitz was getting underway, enemy raiders came over. See, the cafe wasn’t the object of the target, but it’s all the railway bridges immediately adjacent to the cafe. But they missed, and they flattened everything that was Ace. Fortunately no one was killed in that raid, but it entirely destroyed all that was here. Temporary buildings went up very quickly, and then the place continued to operate for 24 hours a day, and to be open throughout war years. This new building finally opened in 1948. So it’s a post-war building. Not the one that was here pre-war.

Jim: So what happened between 1948 and 1969, when it ended up closing it’s doors for a while?

Mark: Well, there’s this baby-boom that both sides of the Atlantic experienced, and certainly here in the UK, it was the biggest baby-boom ever in history. Those kids drove the economies of the 50’s and into the 60’s. They were all about tomorrow, and what’s the best, the latest, the fastest. The place thrived with that then new generation taking to motorcycling. Bike styles went up and up and up each year through to 1959, where they reached their peak. I can’t remember the numbers, but they’re astronomical numbers of motorcycles being sold. But in ’59, a couple of things occurred. The passage of wartime had a very considerable effect. One was, in 1959, transport out there, they knew Bonneville, but a new car came out here in the UK called the Mini. That car was cheaper than a Triumph Bonneville.

Audio Clip: “The British Motor Corporations Mini minor. The 850cc engine is mounted across the car in both versions of this newcomer. Simplicity of design and instrumentation has been used to keep down cost. Round-about $500 as mentioned, is the price. Performance is said to include a top speed of 70 miles per hour, and the Mini should cruise at 50 miles to the gallon. Altogether, these little cars are expected to play a prominent part in the battle for supremacy with the rival continental babies.”

Mark (Con’t): So, 17 year olds very quickly would be buying cars rather than motorbikes. Not just because they were cheaper, but because of our weather. It’s much easier to get a girl get into a car to go out with you, rather than on the back of a motorbike. So car styles, from ’59 onwards, started to sky rocket. Motorcycle sales, as they have done to this date, have gone off a cliff. The other big change in 1959 is the advent of todays motorway network. The primary North South route from London is about a mile from these premises. So truck traffic started to reduce, as well as trucks. The HGV’s, half-ton’s or semi’s in the states. A tank full of gas on a modern truck, they don’t have to stop as often as they did. So it changes the equation. It totally changed the equation. So the whole tapestry’s changing. That has knock-on effects to the businesses such as here. Which, by the time you get to 1969, and financial problems for the nation being experienced for the latter part of the 60’s, where Britain was already paying war debts to the US. They were suspended for a couple of years (I think in the 60’s). They have now been paid off, I assure your listeners. They’ve been paid off a couple of years ago, finally. Oddly enough, I think it was just as the economies all fell over in 2008, was the last payment to the US. The government found itself short on cash, and they brought in- what I can only think they are called- punitive taxation. So the punitive taxation hit businesses big time. No profits. All profits being consumed by the state. Without profits, the building and the service here all rapidly went downhill. Broken and flooding toilets, lights not being replaced, peeling paintwork, kitchen equipment failing- all that sort of of catalogue of problems that go with lack of cash put into a business. Eventually, in ’69, the chap that started it all (Vick Edinburough) had turned 70. So he decided to sell each of those elements that constituted the Ace. The cafe, the filling station, the motor work…each piece he sold off separately and retired. But his son, who I know really rather well, tells me that his dad was horrified to see two weeks later that the old cafe had been closed and stripped out, and turned into a tire fitting depot. But that brings up around nicely to this change in motoring. Because by 1969, something like 1/3 of households in the UK, had a car. The changes brought on by the Mini, and then Ford subsequently with their Escort, meant that car ownership was the norm. And of course, all these new cars on the road needed tires. So it was a commercial reason why the new owners thought, we’ll make more money out of selling tires when there’s millions of cars now using the road. That is really what insured that the cafe wasn’t flattened entirely, and totally rebuilt as something else. The economics of the day helped insure it stayed here (it sounds so conceited) until I came along with this bright idea to re-open it.

Jim: But, before it closed, before 1969, you’d spotted it as a kid. [It] sort of captured your eye back then.

Mark: Well, yeah. It’s the Ace for sure. But it’s more a case of wow, that’s the place that [has] all the bikes. I wanted a motorbike, and I wanted to be able to go there one day. It’s some of the age group where here in UK and probably the same your side of the Atlantic, that you were all at school- primary school here, up to 11 years old. The schooling system here, for my generation, is you went to one school up to 11 years of age. From 11 you then went to a different school, where you left at 15. But up to 11 years of age, that time of my childhood, you were either a cowboy or an indian, a mod or a rocker, they were your playground choices.

Jim: A mod or a rocker? What are those two things? I mean, I know what a rocker is, but.

Mark: A mod? Mod’s came along in the very early 60’s, the laws change, speed limits come in, and there’s a limit on the size of two-wheeler that you can ride. 250cc limit. Frothy coffee machines, Italian styling, Italian suits, and kids leaving school and getting a job and buying a new suit every week. Cloths come off of rationing, fashion is burgeoning. The scooter company Lambretta and Vespa, realize that their machine’s under 250cc, they pitch their machines at this new audience- the kids described as being modernists, hence mod’s. And what comes to a head, what comes to notoriety is that which unfolds in 1964. On the public holidays with half decent weather, you’ve got for the first time ever, masses of kids that have got their own means of transport. They don’t have to catch trains, they don’t have to catch buses. They have their own means of transport. You’ve got the slightly older lot, perhaps in their 20’s, with motorbikes (the Ton Up Boys), and you’ve got these youngsters (the Mod’s) with their scooters, and if you sat where I am here in North London, glorious summer evenings on a Friday, you finish work, meet up with your mates at the cafe. “Ah, it’s lovely weather isn’t it?” Etc., etc. “What should we do? What should we do?” Someone will suggest, well let’s just go to Brighton, or probably {?}. They’re the two seaside destinations from where I sit right now. About an hour away. Masses of kids got the same sort of idea. Go to the coast- it’s only an hour away. With your own vehicle. And of course, the seaside towns were overwhelmed with kids. Kids start fighting, and the press have nothing else to write about in those summer months. And of course only a few years earlier, their aunts and their uncles were trying to keep the enemy off those beaches. And yet, a few years on, there are kids running amok all over those same beaches. Which not that long ago Churchill was saying we were going to be fighting to defend them. National outcry, and the press come up with the term ‘Rockers’. Listening to rock & roll. And [with] all these youth cults- the kids don’t come up with the name- it’s the press that label them. They say ‘Ton Up’, ‘Mod’, ‘Rocker’, ‘Punk’, ‘Skinhead’…they’re all terms coined by the press as a term of contempt. The kids see that and go, “Oh yeah, how do I be one of them? What have I got to listen to? What have I got to wear? How have I got to have my hair cut?”

Jim: So coming up into ’94 was a 25 year reunion, or at least that’s what you’d discovered. Can you talk about that?

Mark: For sure. The first reunion was in 1994. 25 years after the place had closed. How it came about is, I was a member and still am today, of Triumph Owner’s Motorcycle Club. One of the guys at the club used to take the mick somewhat very effectively, and he was saying to me one evening in 1993, asking me, did I know when the Ace shut? Which I didn’t. I knew it had been open, of course. Vaguely remember it in my childhood. I didn’t know when it had been shut. And he took the mickey to no end. And that was because being a cop and all the rest of it. Into my bikes, I was organizing, pre-internet/pre-mobile phone, I was organizing bikes trips to all sorts of race tracks and race meetings and Isle of Man TT, the Dutch TT, the Bol d’Or down in South of France. These bikes trips grew and grew over the years, and there would be about 30 bikes on some of them. So I was something of a bit of a mister organizer. The friend at Triumph Owner’s full well knew this, and eventually he told me that the cafe shut in September 1969. My first thought was, “So what?”. He kept on me to say, “think about it”. Of course, after thinking about it, I suddenly realize (counting my fingers), that the following year ’94, it would be 25 years since it had closed. That was the lightbulb moment- reunion. Something like 12,000 bikes gathered.

Jim: 12,000. Did you expect those sorts of numbers?

Mark: In reality, yes. We had to plan for that. We had to get temporary toilets in, crowd barriers, all sorts of stuff. It might sound barking but, if you’re my age group, if you’re from London and you ride motorbikes and you’re rock & roll, you’d immediately know what this place meant. So you kind of knew that it would resonate with people, and that they’d want to come. That proved to be right in the end. Of course, what also then unfolds is [that] we’d love to see the place reopen. Don’t know how. But all of a sudden, you’ve got the evidence that the place should be reopened- all these people. Take plenty of pictures and video, and mate/other friends filmed it and whatnot. So we then had the evidence to show that the place should be reopened. So the path thereafter was apply for the city authority for permission/consent to reopen the cafe, then try and persuade the owners to sell it, then there’s the horror of trying to find the money to buy it. That’s where you set out to go and rob your family, yeah? Your mum, your gran, your brother, your sister. To get the deposit. That all came together, with the benefit of hindsight, with relative ease. Because, there was an occupier in the building- the tire company. Still fitting tires to cars. Their rent, in essence, paid the mortgage. We secured the building. And of course, that tire company didn’t operate on a Sunday. So when the consent came through from the city, that it could be reopened as a cafe- we started opening up on a Sunday with what we call a burger van over here (I think you call it a roach wagon over there). On a Sunday, again, the place was mobbed with thousands of bikes. Then we started getting calls and letters and (subsequently with the advent of internet) emails from a diverse array of car clubs (open up for them, open up for them). Then it became a case of trying to find…realizing that I’d drawn a parallel with the bikes. I can ride any bike you give me, or for that matter any horse that you give me. But I’m neither a mechanic nor a vet. So it became very clear, I know why people come here, I know what they want, but I have no idea how to deliver all that. So it was then a case of finding people who did. That’s where the Ace Cafe London Limited came about. And finding partners who could come into the business with knowledge about how to cook eggs and how to make sure staff know how to stack toast.

Jim: For someone pulling in today, can you just describe what it looks like as you come in the parking lot, and go in the building?

Mark: Well, as you come into the parking lot, you’re looking at a building that is in essence an elevation of glass that is directly South facing. The shape of the parking lot is a triangle. Which means as soon as you pull in, you’re looking at this…I would suggest rather impressive building of a style that I think is known as streamlined modern. Sort of an art echo type style. It has a presence (is the only way I can think to describe it). So as you look across the parking lot at the glass of the building, you can see directly into the building. And those in the building can see directly out into that parking lot and onto the carriage way beyond. It’s that relationship between the building and that space it overlooks that seems to me has been quite crucial in generating that popularity; with youngsters in particular, back in the 50’s and 60’s, when it was largely a motorcycle crowd. Those youngsters were in addition to back then being a truck stop. Whereas today with the trucks, or as they’re known over here HGV’s (Heavy Goods Vehicles), most of those, just like I think perhaps called in America’s semis- you could get one in our parking lot, but you couldn’t get many more than that. So the vehicles have grown a lot bigger over the years. So the footfall here, Monday to Friday, we can have a very busy lunch time with the white collar guys coming in with reps and whatnot, meeting up for lunch and the place can be absolutely jammed for an hour or so- lunchtime- and the carpark filled. Then it goes very quiet until we get to the evening, when we host whatever the vehicle meets are that particular night. Whether it’s Hot Rod night, or Harley night, whether it’s Volkswagon night etc. Each of those groups that we host have typically a very distinct demographic in terms of age and whatnot. Different…I’lll say characteristics…go with that. I’ll over egg it a little here with- guys my age, I’m 60- tend not to be the fast and the furious generation. So we will come in for a meal, something to eat, and go home quite safely. Whereas a younger crowd typically will come in, it’s noise- engine revving, sounds systems going- will buy perhaps a bowl of chips or a bowl of fries to share between four. So there’s different dynamics with the different age groups we meet. Hopefully you’ve got some sort of idea there with the sort of place that we have here and operate here in North London. Starting many, many moons ago- what the Ace represents is a home for those of us who love these things called motors. Certainly here in North London, the Ace has become a home for those that share that passion. Similarly, that’s what’s unfolded in the last few years with Ace- fantastic huge premises in Orlando- similarly Bejing in China. Basically where there’s motors, and people want to get together and kick tires, and talk tactile (who’s fastest, who’s got the best paint job)…it’s the same talk, just lots of different languages.

Jim (Narrate): That was Mark Wilsmore from the Ace Cafe in London. Stick with us, because we’re going to take a short break and we’re going to be right back with Sam Manicom, who has also has experience with the Ace Cafe.



Jim: Sam, welcome back to Adventure Rider Radio.

Sam: Jim, it’s absolutely brilliant to be on the show again.

Jim: Well, we’re talking about something that’s in…well, I guess it’s sort of in your back yard, isn’t it? (The Ace Cafe.) How close are you to the Ace Cafe?

Sam: Well, it’s about 200 miles, so it’s more or less 4 hours depending on the traffic. Because hey, England’s pretty messed up traffic wise sometimes.

Jim: So, what is it like? For someone who hasn’t been there, describe it as you pull in the parking lot, and go in the door.

Sam: Okay. Well, the parking lot is an interesting place in itself because, in a way it’s not a parking lot, it’s an area that’s usually filled with passion. I’m talking about classic cars, and hot rods, and classic bikes, and custom bikes, and the touring bikes, adventure bikes and scooters, and so on. There’s always something interesting going on immediately outside the Ace Cafe. So it’s actually kind of like a wheeled extension to the inside of the cafe.

Jim: So when you walk up and go inside, what are you greeted by?

Sam: It’s a little bit like you’re entering a time warp, but it’s incredibly unpretentious. I mean, this is the real deal. It’s not something new that’s been made to look old. The first time that I went in there, the sensation that I had was that history was literally oozing from the walls. Walking around and looking at the memorabilia that’s on the walls, you can see that this stuff is genuine. As you walk in there, you also have the sensation that the atmosphere is a combination of steamy and amiable. As in- it’s really friendly, but you’ve got this wonderful collection of smells that float through the air. And of course, if it’s a rainy day, then you’ve got steaming bike leathers and gortex to come into the mix, too. The cafe itself is actually set up with a long bar. I guess it runs about 2/3rds of the length of the building. And it’s here that those orders for the steaming mugs of tea and coffee, and the famous-for-good-reason full English breakfast are taken. They do burgers and things and poached eggs on toast and all of that sort of thing , too. But the quality of the food is excellent. And that’s where it’s not forgotten it’s roots because of course, the Ace Cafe originally was set up as a transport cafe. Truck drivers won’t patronize the place if the food isn’t cheap and very good value. Most of the tables in the cafe are wooden bench tables. So you just sit where there’s a space. That’s one of the things that’s really special about it. Because new friendships are struck up fast. Just because you’re sitting new door to a like minded stranger, and then the conversation starts to flow. At the far end of the cafe there’s another little section which has a stage at the far end of it, and on the stage there’s normally a collection of classic motorcycles from the mods & rockers era. Or, if you’re there in the evening, then they’re never to believe there’s going to be a band of some sort up on the stage. It’s not a huge area, so the band might have a maximum of four people, but you certainly don’t need any more than that. They get a very wide range of bands from very well known to local people who are just up and coming. They’re a very encouraging sort of environment.

Jim: How do you feel the Ace Cafe  fits into society? As far as from a bikers perspective?

Sam: Well, actually it’s a really important part of society. Particularly London society. The world of motorcycling in London just wouldn’t be the same without the Ace Cafe. For want of using a bit of a cliche, it’s one of the beating hearts of motorcycling in the South of England. I can say that without any tongue and cheek at all. It’s genuinely like that. I think it started to be that way, way back just after the second world war. It had been popular before that, but the real popularity came with the time of the Ton Up Boys. These guys…well, a lot of them were survivors of the military from one form or another. After the second world war, these guys fell out of place. But they found their place in motorcycling. Rock & roll was very much the music, the uniform that they took on board with the black leather, and the blue jeans. Their lives were just wild and full of danger. Which is just a natural follow on from the second world war. But music was the rhythm to their life, and I always like to think that their drug of choice was speed. It still remains that way, but in a much more subtle fashion. To get to the Ace Cafe, you go on a road that’s called the North Circular, and this road is a challenge. For sure you’re not going to daydream when your’e heading for the Ace Cafe. I think of it as a little bit like [how] being in the gold rush must have been. But with unpredictable speed limits and speed cameras. Oh and plenty of idiots talking on their cell phones or texting. That drives me nuts. But it just means that, when you’re heading to the Ace Cafe, you’re firing on all mental cylinders as you scoot around on a bike. And of course, you can split lanes, which makes getting there when all the cars are snarled up, a real joy. But it was that period I think that really started the whole Ace Cafe thing off with such a huge influence. Mark Wilsmore and his wife Linda have done such a phenomenal job with bringing  it back to life. He just saw something that was very special that has been allowed to die for various reasons, and he’s brought it back to life. Yeah, it’s an absolutely wonderful place.

Jim: What was it like your first time going there?

Sam: Ha. I remember walking in there feeling incredibly self conscious. I’m not a rocker, and I’m far from being a motorcycling expert. But I didn’t need to feel self conscious at all. Within minutes of me walking in, people clad in all sorts of motorcycling gear were nodding to me. And yeah, sometimes there’s a little bit of snobbery between different types of motorcycle riders, and so on…but I didn’t detect any of that at all there. It was just a very welcoming environment. Very, very special.

Jim: So what does the Ace Cafe mean to you?

Sam: It’s actually had a massive effect to my life in many ways. Not only did it make me feel important as a person, as a motorcyclist, but my two books Distant Suns and Tortillas to Totems were launched there. This is something that’s very special about how Mark and Linda do things. Because here I am, I’ve got two books out, they’re not particularly well known, yet they were prepared to give over the whole of the Ace Cafe to me to launch those two books. Just the atmosphere that was created, and the subsequent success of the books happened because they gave me that opportunity. The next time it effected my life in particular, was as far as my audio books. I had spent two years hunting for a studio that would let me narrate my books. All the studios were telling me that it was a job for a trained actor, or for a professionally trained narrator. Well, I was neither of those, but I wanted to read the books myself. But I was beginning to get to the end of the recording studios that had a reputation for audio books, and beginning to feel that maybe this just isn’t supposed to happen. One day I went into the Ace Cafe, and I was sitting on the bench tables, and got talking to the guy next door to be me, and he looked at me and said, “You’re Sam, aren’t you?” I said, “Well, yeah.” He said, “Well I read Info Africa, and I liked it a lot, have you ever thought about making it into an audiobook?” So little pause from me then, and I explain the situation that I’m into. It turned out that he was the managing director of a recording studio in Cambridge. He said, “Let’s have a go. It may be that you’re completely rubbish at it, but at least then you’ll know.” And so, all four audio books were recorded just because of that chance meeting in the Ace Cafe when I as about to be at the stage where I was beginning to think, right, what’s next? So, yeah. The Ace Cafe’s very important to me, and to so many more people. People look for…”Well, where should we go for a ride today?” “Well, why don’t we go to the Ace Cafe?” “Anybody fancy breakfast?” And you see these going around on the forums, and Facebook, and so often the Ace Cafe pops up, and with very good reason.


Jim (Narrate): Sam Manicom from his home in London, near the Ace Cafe. Before that, it was Mark Wilsmore from the Ace Cafe in London, England. You can drop by their website at to find about all their locations, and their history. They’ve got a great website there- check it out.


Interviewer/Host/Audio Editor: Jim Martin
Research/Producer: Elizabeth Martin
Transcriptionist: Natasha Martin
*Special thanks to our guests: Mark Wilsmore & Sam Manicom


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