Keeping the wheels turning

The Cork Cycling Festival showcases art celebrating the bicycle, writes Colette Sheridan

ONE of the artistic highlights of the Cork Cycling Festival, which begins tomorrow and runs until July 29, is Gallery-on-the-Go. In previous years, the festival hosted exhibitions in galleries, but this year, it is organising Cork’s first ever shop-front cycle art exhibition.

As spokesperson for the festival, Nicki ffrench Davis, says: “This year, we have decided to bring the arts to more people. Instead of hiding the art inside, we’re using a string of shop-fronts around the city where artists will put their work in the windows. As people walk around the city, they’ll suddenly see pictures of bicycles or sculptures made from bicycle parts.” People can cast their vote for their favourite artists and the winning artist will win a €300 voucher for Kilgrew’s Cycle Shop.

While there is less overall emphasis on the arts at this year’s cycling festival, it acknowledges the strong bicycle art genre. “People are really into sculpting old bicycle pieces that are past their usable date,” says ffrench Davis. There is lots of art celebrating cycling and the bicycle. Our theme title this year is ‘the beautiful machine’.”

There is a competition for young film-makers called Bike Shorts. The films will be on show at Cork City Library. Prizes will be given by the Lord Mayor, Cllr John Buttimer, at the festival’s headquarters, the glass kiosk on the Grand Parade Boardwalk. A ‘Kids luv Bikes’ exhibition will be on show at the library.

Now in its fifth year, the free nine-day festival encourages people to explore Cork city and surrounding areas. Themed cycles around the city include ‘An Abhainn sa Chathair,’ a tour, as Gaeilge, guided by Pádraig Ó Duinnín of TG4’s Muintir na Mara. There will be a tour of Cork’s street signage led by author, Tom Spalding. Local historian and Cork City Councillor, Kieran McCarthy will lead an event called ‘Histories and Memories of the Lee Valley.’ There will be a mystery tour of ‘Hidden Cork’ by architect, Adam D’Arcy. There will be a community gardens’ cycle, visiting a number of gardens and sampling their produce. A cycle to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind Centre will also take place.

For those up to the challenge of exploring some of Cork’s beautiful countryside, there are a number of cycling tours. Participants will see castles, harbours, riversides and hidden waterfalls. While some cycling experience is required as well as moderate fitness, the stewards will make sure the experience is pleasant and unhurried. The cycling tours will take in Dungourney, Barryscourt Castle, Blarney and Crosshaven.

As ffrench Davis points out, old photographs of Cork regularly feature bicycles. “You see donkeys and carts as well, but rarely any cars. We’re harking back to that era, encouraging people to bring out their bikes, particularly their vintage bikes such as High Nellies.” A vintage bicycle parade, the ‘Vintage Velo Run’ will take place around the city, with swing music by DJ Gary Baus.

“The vintage parade is as much about the craic as anything else. If people want to, they can get dressed up in old-style gear.”

Two other bicycle parades will enliven the city. The ‘Cycle of Lights’ is an evening parade and an opportunity to decorate bikes for night-time. It will take in Blackrock Castle Observatory. The ‘Grand Bicycle Parade’ is an ‘anything goes’ evening parade through the city centre with music and costumes.

This year’s Cork World Naked Bike Ride has been planned to coincide with the festival, once again. It takes place on July 28 and includes a world record attempt for the most body-painted people ever. The current record was set in New York in 2007 at 264 people.

“It will be quite an achievement to beat that record. The naked bike ride has proved to be very popular. The first year it was held was just a trial run in the early dawn along the Marina. Since then, there have been two official naked bike rides attended by between 70 and 100 people. The main idea behind it is to show the vulnerability of cyclists on the road. People in cars are protected by casing. While cyclists may seem to be well sorted with their reflective jackets, underneath, we’re just flesh and bones. The body painting for the naked bike ride can be quite elaborate. Artists come from all over the country and from abroad. It’s quite a sight.” The location won’t be released until the day so as to avoid photographers.

The final event is a ‘bike fair’ on the Grand Parade on July 29. It will include stalls with bicycles and accessories, a cargo bike show, an interactive science demonstration and safety training workshops. Photographer Marcin Lewandowski will be making complimentary bike portraits of visitors and their bikes at a pop-up photography studio. There really is no excuse for not getting on your bike.

* www.corkcyclingfestival.com

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