Fearless Motobirds reunite after 40 years apart

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Media captionFearless Motobirds reunited after 40 years apart

The UK's first all-female stunt display group has reunited for the first time after 40 years apart.

Motobirds formed in Leicester in the 1970s, performing death-defying stunts often with no safety equipment.

Image caption The fearless group wore little or no protective clothing

Many of the young women answered an advert in the Leicester Mercury for girls to ride motorbikes.

Now in their 60s, six of the original troupe were reunited for the BBC's The One Show after an appeal by group member Mary Weston-Webb.

Image copyright Mary Weston-Webb
Image caption At the height of their fame, the Motobirds attracted tens of thousands of fans to shows across Europe

The Motobirds formed after one woman joined an all-male motorcycle stunt group and so impressed the manager he advertised for riders.

Mrs Weston-Webb, then Miss Connors, had never ridden a motorbike when she saw the advert in 1972 asking for girls to ride motorbikes, "no experience necessary".

Image copyright Mary Weston-Webb
Image caption Most of the women's stunts would horrify modern health and safety experts

"I had a very steady, boring job when I saw the advert. I truly believed it would be delivering pizzas.

"I went to this little place in Syston with a sign on the door that said 'Stunt school for girls. Karate chop twice and enter' and I thought 'Wow, this is amazing'."

Image copyright Mary Weston-Webb
Image caption Although the women suffered cuts, bruises and broken bones, they miraculously escaped more serious injury

The group was given rudimentary motorbike training and within weeks was performing at shows around the country.

Often wearing little more than a bikini and a short skirt, the motorcycle stuntwomen would leap over fireballs or smash through glass panes.

Image copyright Mary Weston-Webb
Image caption The riders were the focus of a BBC documentary in the 1970s

Throughout the 1970s their reputation grew as they appeared on primetime TV and attracted tens of thousands of spectators to shows across Europe.

They began to broaden the stunts they performed, using cars and a human cannon and one annual attraction was an attempt to leap a river.

Hosted in either Tewkesbury or Leicester, they tried - and failed - to fire someone across the Avon or Soar using a variety of different techniques.

Image copyright Mary Weston-Webb
Image caption Mary Weston-Webb said she went on to have a solo stunt career after the Motobirds

During one attempt, knowing the car would not make it across, the doors were removed - meaning it sank straight to the bottom and became trapped in the mud.

On the final attempt, Mrs Weston-Webb's arm was in a cast and, knowing she needed to keep it dry, they "souped up the catapult".

She reached the net on the opposite riverbank, only to bounce back into the water.

Over the years, the Motobirds went their separate ways and, after a solo stunt career, Mrs Weston-Webb retired in the mid 1980s.

Image caption The Royal Signals Motorcycle Display team said it would not consider a stunt such as this one today

She teamed up with the BBC to track down her former team-mates, many of whom had married or remarried and changed names, and six of the original troupe, among them Susan Ralph, met up on Friday's The One Show.

Watching a documentary filmed at the time, Ms Ralph said: "Looking back, the dress is a bit cringey.

"We really believed nothing was going to happen when we did [the stunts]. We didn't think of the consequences."

Watch the six women reunite on Friday's episode of The One Show.

Image caption The One Show managed to track down Susanne Ralph, Carol Fisher, Heidi Green, Teresa King and Karen Beinder after Mary Weston-Webb appeared on Radio Leicester

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