Bike to The Future ’23 Tour – Part 3
Journeying from Frome to Bath, we only had to cover 16 miles but – courtesy of the aforementioned, untested mapping app – contrived to take in some serious climbs. our route vetoed a descent to the well-surfaced, flat and traffic-free disused railway, in favour of a lengthy climb along a busy main road. And it didn’t end there.
Quaint Little Villages
In actual fact, our reward for said climb was a stretch through some very picturesque villages, which – local as I am – I’d never encountered. The way here was hilly but manageable and brought us to the impressive remains of Farleigh Hungerford Castle. At which point, I uttered the immortal words “it’s really tough in the other direction but don’t think this way is so bad”. How wrong can you be?
With our bikes fully laden, what followed was unrideable. In fact, we’d have been hard-pushed to get up it without any baggage. And a hard push is what we faced. This gradient was the only one of the entire journey to defeat both Rob and I. To give an idea of just how steep it was, when I got off my bike, I actually started sliding backwards with both feet flat on the ground.
Having crested this small but vicious incline, we enjoyed the freewheel down to meet the canal towpath at Freshford. Uncharacteristically, neither of us felt the need for refreshment at the Cross Guns. Rather, we pushed on to Bathampton, where we could shower, change, wash clothes and prepare for the next leg of the tour.
A Big Day
The next day was my Fringe show at Burdall’s Yard in Bath. Local guitarist Stephen Dalley-Smith would be joining us for this. Our set would form the second half of a double-header. The first part was an improvised dance piece ‘2020 Vision‘. I originally created the soundscape for this for an art installation but had to abandon that due to Covid.
So, this was a big day for me. I’d spent months planning and marketing the event. I’d found dancers from various sectors of the local community. I’d rehearsed the band; made preparations with the venue and my dance coordinator, Kara Herbert; and I’d hired-in a sound specialist, Dominic Bailey-Clay, to help run the show.
Enjoyable & Rewarding
We spent the morning and afternoon workshopping the dancers. Which proved to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. I’d hoped they would ‘get’ the concept and be up for the challenge of improvising movement in among an audience. And so it proved. They were fantastic. And quickly gelled as a group as well.
During the dance itself, I was manning the lights, which provided cues for the dancers and sections of blackout to focus the audience’s attention on spoken elements of the soundtrack. So, the whole thing passed in something of a blur. But I knew the performers were committed and focused. They understood that whatever happened on the night was intended, as far as the audience was concerned. So, all could really immerse themselves in the moment, without fear of going ‘wrong’.
And the audience – apparently – loved it. Phew! Several people stopped to comment on their way out and many took the time to message after the event saying how much they had enjoyed this unique experience.
Now, Rob, Stephen and I had to follow that powerful and unusual opening act. And I’m happy to report we did so with energy, humour and great audience interaction. Having Stephen come on for the final three numbers meant we could up the energy. We invited the audience to put their chairs away so they could dance for these. Which they did!