In April 2011 I invited juggler and unicyclist James Bentley to perform his “ring of fire” on the site of the Cyclopark
earth works. It is right next to the A2 motorway traffic roaring between France, Dover and London. We invited Magnificent Revolution
to enable us to pedal power the Herzog film “Lessons of Darkness” in a silver airstream caravan called the Cultural Baton
. It was hard work cycling just 4 bikes. Luckily we were joined by a slight gang of lads who helped. A bitter wind blew accross the motorway and I caught pneumonia.
We have run Bearpits Saturdays
(please also look at our facebook page
) in an empty shop in Gravesend’s St George’s Shopping Centre. This was organised by Chris Yates and Fiona Boundy, with Steven Hintches creating the bikes themselves… We declared an amnesty for unwanted old bikes, and gathered them up. The aim was to create an alternative fleet of bikes for Gravesend (a counterpoint to London’s Corporate bank bikes), to stage a mass cycle ride from the city centre into the cyclopark and to highlight the need for a proper cycle path between the two locations. Hundreds of people came into the project over a few weeks. I hope a bike workshop might exist one day as part of the park.
We had a petition and got more than 150 signatures for the traffic free path from the town centre to the new Cyclopark. Peter Henshaw of Sustrans helped to work out the best options away from traffic. You can sign the online petition
Later I worked on what I called the sub-plot, a series of unannounced events in various public places, roads and paths… I have explored the myth of Ulysses and the Cyclops, gigantic-ness, monstrosity, through conglomerate figures, half human half machine, underpinned by the presence in our lives of the internal combustion engine. I have been thinking about fire, about regeneration, development, and conversely about system collapse and destruction. There were riots in London and other cities in the UK this summer. I invited Jonny Hoskins, a stilt walker to walk the entire length of the park, and Lina Jungergard, a firebreather to blow flames beside the motorway.
We had a November the Fifth, high up on a hill in the park with the A2 sweeping its lights, fireworks cracking all around, the lights of gravesend, it felt epic. The yurts pitched up in the sea of what looked like volcanic mud all around, (weeds killed to make way for grass). We screened, by pedal power, The Moon and the Sledgehammer by Philip Trevelyan, had a bon fire in a wheel hub, followed the magnificent Puffs of Smoke punctuating the eerie cycle tracks and bmx circuit. The bearpit bikes came out again, circling aimlessly in the fog. I travelled to a real volcano to film the following day on Lanzarote.
I have had plans for a roadside pianola, protest songs, a woman from Holland called Leander in a bear costume setting up house in the park, a bushcraft fire lighting contest, a really long fusewire burning down the side of the motorway (we tried it but it was too damp), a line of Kelly kettles smoking offering tea, unfit parents cycling on fitness bikes set around the playground, as there’s no liberty in looking after kids… but it became clear that the difficulty of doing anything in public space was so great and bureaucratic that it might be relevant to retreat to the virtual world, soon to be more omnipresent than “offline activity” (life i guess) ? In a meeting, more like a fruitful conversation, in Whitstable, the notion of a computer game on a phone came up again. I am fascinated by how smartphones occupy and provide mini spaces of time in the daily whirl.
The game was made with the expertise and skills of Mudlark
. In it players become a bear riding a customised bicycle through the tarmac circuit of the Cyclopark, or perhaps just an imaginary landscape. Within this undulating, dystopian environment players speed through a number of pitfalls, obstacles and hazards, which they must negotiate in order to keep moving and maintain their energy levels. These challenges exist alongside random encounters with characters some of whom have already appeared on site, live. There are bearpits, with ranting bears and the sounds of parliament. Along the journey totems (water bottles, books, a peanut…) can be collected, which impart energy to the biker, and there are landmines where all can be lost.
There are the two yurts (something tent like became important after considering and rejecting the idea of a permanent structure- thanks to all the architects for your time), like the tents of an army or a circus, one white – a kind of foyer – and the black space of the Bearpit cinema yurt. Electric Pedals
screened “The Bear That Wasn’t”, a 1930′s film about capitalism and a bear after some of “The Bicycle Thieves” on a rainy saturday in the town centre. The game has been tested in the yurt in May 2012 at the Cyclopark’s Launch. Here cyclist/actors performed particular rants as they traversed the park amongst the crowd. The yurts will stay at the Cyclopark, under contract with KCC and Cyclopark agreeing to a certain amount of outings and uses per annum to be fulfilled.