Watching the BMX riders at the 2016 Rio Olympics riding at full speed and flying over those bumps made up my mind that I should give BMX cycling another go.
The last time I tried it was was four or five years ago. It was a wet, damp day and I remember skidding on a curved bend in the track. Covered in mud and with cuts on my hands and knees, I decided to never try BMX again…
BMX cycling began in the 1970s in the United States where kids in Southern California rode their bikes on dirt tracks. The inspiration came from motorcross stars. The sport is hugely popular in the UK where it was first introduced around about the 1980s.
Since then, BMX racing has become more popular than freestyle BMX, eventually becoming an Olympic event at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Mat Hoffman is one of the best freestyle BMX in the world. Nicknamed ‘The Condor’ he is known for nailing dangerous tricks such as a 900 in events.
This video shows Hoffman showcasing his tricks at BMX free-styling events.
So on a sunny, winter morning, I decided to take my bike out and go for a normal bike ride through Brixton and Tulse Hill. I rode through Brockwell Park, where the BMX circuit was free and waiting for me to do my stuff.
I began going around the track slowly, wary of skidding or falling again. It was fun but I felt I should speed up. Luckily the track was not damp and wet like the last time, so it was easier to go around the bends with ease.
I was not able to do fancy tricks or anything like that but being able to ride the track at full speed was an enjoyable experience – much better than the last time, that’s for sure…
Learning from the experts
A coaching session was just getting under way, with young riders doing some practice laps to get them warmed up.
“Seeing them flash past made my earlier efforts look like a Tata Nano compared to their Bugatti Veyron”
I spoke to one of the coaches, Andy, who has been training BMXers for six years. He told me: “BMX racing is really competitive and a lot more goes into the sport rather than just riding a bike around a lap.
“The training consists of strength drills, a lot of cardio such as star-jumps. Riders can get serious injuries if they do not train right, follow the right diet and other small factors. Essentially they are athletes.
“I have seen many riders have their careers ended early because they did not listen to their trainers, but sometimes those injuries can come from during the races itself. It’s can be dangerous but it’s a competitive and fun sport to watch as well as participating in.”
As we talked, the riders began doing some fancy tricks as well as trying to beat their personal bests in a race. Seeing them flash past made my earlier efforts look like a Tata Nano compared to their Bugatti Veyron.
Give it a go
Andy decided to organise one big race with all the riders, and asked me if I wanted to join in. Despite my nerves, I said yes.
The race began and the other riders went flying out of the blocks as I tried to keep up with them.
My main aim was not to fall off and totally embarrass myself in front of everyone. Luckily, I didn’t and crossed the line in fifth.
I would really recommend anyone to give it a go. It can be so much fun to try and be extreme and reckless with a bike. It is also always good to try a different sport now and then.
There are some places around London where you can try out BMX racing. Brockwell park in Tulse Hill, South London is one place where you can try it out. Burgess Park also has a track.
For more information about how to get into BMX, visit the British Cycling website. Feature image courtesy of Phil Connell via Flickr Creative Commons.
Few sensations are more soothing than the reassuring feel of a mild breeze on the back and the sound of tyres caressing a bicycle path as it meanders through the outskirts of beautiful Copenhagen.
Before this summer’s holiday to Denmark, the last time I had climbed aboard a bicycle coincided with the last time I fell off one. Despite this mishap, I was eager to explore Copenhagen on two wheels.
The Danish capital remains the benchmark for cities around the world as they try to figure out how to take the bicycle seriously as a mode of transport.
With the beautiful medieval city centre streets and the unlimited access for cyclists to ride on, Copenhagen continues to inspire, but where did the Danish cycling craze start?
Denmark is the epitome of a bike-friendly country. The opening of the city’s first bike lane in 1892 saw cycling become hugely popular, and in just 15 years the number of bikes on its streets rose from 2,500 to 80,000.
By 1960, however, using cars had become the norm, which brought with it pollution and traffic-related accidents.
The real problem, however, was the international energy crisis in the early 1970s. For a country which at the time depended on imported oil for 92% of its energy, this was a major issue.
This meant that much of the country went green and bikes now seemed more than just a cheap exercise.
Throughout the 1980s, Denmark saw a bicycle renaissance. Individuals lobbied for the introduction of bike lanes in cities and since Copenhagen began to observe its cycling rates to see how many individuals were using bicycles in 1995, the continuous rise has been spectacular.
In 2004, 41% of Copenhagen commuted by bike and by 2010, it had reached 50%. Today, the country sets a gold-standard for renewable energy and efficiency.
Cycling in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a cyclist’s dream. Throughout my week there, I biked to restaurants and famous sights such as the Little Mermaid statue, and through the city’s most elegant parks and attractions like Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park.
Biking around in Copenhagen is so relaxing, it almost felt like meditation. People in Denmark obey cycling’s etiquette, so an obvious factor in feeling assured and pedalling at a safe pace.
After hiring out my bicycle, what really struck me about cycling round Copenhagen was how seamlessly one could weave through the city without feeling vulnerable. Sometimes the ride to a new destination in the city was as enjoyable as reaching the destination itself.
Despite the highs of my cycling experience in Denmark, I did experience moments of frustration, mainly down to my general unfamiliarity with the city. Being someone who doesn’t speak Danish apart from the word ‘Hej’ – hello – remembering street names was a difficult task.
Parts of the city were a bit of a labyrinth, too. This is, of course, mainly a problem for visitors, and there were plenty of times when, seeing my confused looks at road signs, helpful locals asked if I needed help. There is a reason why Denmark is officially the happiest nation in the world.
Danish drivers were very patient with minor cycling indiscretions that would have caused road rage in London. Nothing in the city was hurried, and the main difference I observed from cycling in London is that in Denmark, cycling is an incredibly social way to get around.
I came across many friends and families cycling with one another and this is important for making a mode of transport more appealing.
The country’s wide cycle lanes mean people can ride side by side and despite the overcrowding at times, it is one of the most amazing things to witness.
Cycling and pollution
It is common knowledge that cycling in polluted air is harmful to people’s health, but does that mean you shouldn’t cycle because of pollution?
If there is a cleaner alternative the answer is yes, but if the alternative is to drive or use bus, cycling is not necessarily the worst alternative.
Cyclists are exposed to pollutants more than car drivers – however studies have shown that the concentration of pollutants at rush hours is substantially larger inside cars than outside.
The reason for this is that cars’ air intake is close to the exhaust of the car in front, so depending on the relative speed and volume of air taken in per minute, cyclists may not be exposed to a higher amount of pollutants over the same distance.
If the thought of experiencing a capital city on two wheels is daunting, Copenhagen will help you conquer your fears, and as the cycling craze intensifies, so do the health benefits.
Cycling may save money and help the environment, but its biggest benefit is for health, and as a low-impact form of exercise, it is easier on the joints than running.
My view of cycling across central Copenhagen
The capital region of Denmark estimates that the city’s high cycling levels save one million fewer sick days per year and regular bike riding contributes to increased cardiovascular health and decreases in stress and obesity.
If cycling is your thing, you would be hard-pressed to find a better-equipped destination than Denmark. With over 12,000km of signposted cycle routes, eye-catching scenery and short distances between amenities, the place is made for pedal-powered travel.
Copenhagen leads the way and the rest of Denmark follows. Cycling networks have allowed cities such as Odense to reinvent themselves as eco-friendly destinations, while Bornholm has made a huge transition from a simple beach escape once, to a place that boasts 150 miles of cycling routes.
Denmark has many cities to visit and cycle from and it is safe and great fun. So get on your bike and pedal away to take a cycling holiday in Denmark because it will be the most enticing thing you will ever try!
Click here to learn more about cycling in Denmark.
Award-winning journalist Anthony Clavane is right to have a chip on his shoulder over what he calls ‘a culture of neglect’. Having been raised in Leeds and worked in the capital, he is all too familiar with the increasingly glaring north-south divide in Britain.
In his new book A Yorkshire Tragedy, he illustrates in heartbreaking detail the extent to which a formerly industrial and sporting powerhouse has been rendered a national afterthought.
Moreover, the hollowing out of working classes, so integral to Yorkshire’s character and communities, has transformed once bustling areas into ghost towns.
“I’m most upset by the idea that the working classes are being cut off from leisure,” reveals Clavane.
The economic growth enjoyed alongside the industrial revolution during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Clavane argues, was driven by a local trinity of home, work and leisure.
In Hull, St Andrew’s Dock, the Boulevard and Hessle Road were pillars of communalism, binding players and workers together in the name of advancement by co-operation.
Expression of community
Workers felt that they played a significant role in local life, and that local teams embodied a spirit not quite seen in a “less communal and more atomised” London.
“If you look at sport, where was it invented? In the north,” explains Clavane. “And which communities did it emerge from?
“The very first modern football club was in Sheffield. Modern sport and cricket was played in Sheffield and Leeds and came out of the industrial working classes.
“What I’m arguing is that these industrial areas – which grew directly as a result of industry – sport was their expression of community.
“When Featherstone won the Rugby League Challenge Cup in 1983, most of their players were miners. They had just lifted the trophy in Wembley, millions watched it, and two mornings later they were down the mines.
“Could you imagine Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney going to the mines?”
The decline of Leeds United, once a formidable top-flight force, is also particularly telling.
Leeds have spent the majority of the last decade sitting precariously below the elite tier of English football, and Clavane jokingly expresses his frustration.
“It upsets me that Leeds United are not the greatest team the world has ever seen any more.”
Under chairman Peter Ridsdale, Leeds encountered severe financial problems, including large loans which could only be repaid by selling key players.
The resulting implosion sent the club crashing into League One within just a few years, seemingly wiping clean all the progress that had been made in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
The Hillsborough disaster of 1989, too, was an incident so tragic that in many ways it was microcosmic of the marginalisation of Yorkshire.
Families and friends of the 96 victims, knowing full well what had happened that day, were ignored and repeatedly demonised by a largely ignorant London media.
The Sun, in particular, is infamous for the blame game it played in the ensuing weeks. The stadium’s chequered safety record was not addressed sufficiently, as it may well have been had it been located in London, echoing the horrific fire at Bradford just four years earlier.
“Very simply, up until 1989, Hillsborough was a symbol of ambition, aspiration and majestic football because the stadium was the Wembley of the north.
“After ’89 it became a symbol of death and everything bad about football and society,” Clavane points out, clearly in saddened agreement with my suggestion that it was emblematic of Yorkshire as a whole.
A Yorkshire Tragedy is alone worth reading for the rich history it unearths.
Drawing upon a wealth of sporting and political knowledge, as well as important critiques of the cultural effects of neo-liberal capitalism, Clavane can best be commended for capturing the rancorous nature of the lament felt by a substantial part of Yorkshire’s working class.
“Clavane notices an ominous connection between neglect and Yorkshire’s rejection of the political status quo on June 23rd this year”
There is no denying their ostracism from the centre of the political consensus. Government funding (or lack thereof) tends not to be afforded to worthy northern programmes and the media, too, seem fixated with events in London.
“There has always been a certain ‘chippiness’ towards the south, or at least the idea of the south as a condescending neighbour that sucks in the north’s skill, goods and talent,” writes Clavane, astutely.
Globalised capitalism, of which the author believes there exists a socially responsible version, has made a mockery of the very values which made Yorkshire a 19th and 20th century powerhouse
Beginning in the Thatcher years of the 1980s, strong social principles of togetherness and collectivism were thrown out, with the individual placed before the community.
‘Right to buy’ increased homelessness throughout Yorkshire, the closing down of mines, decline of the fishing industry and outsourcing of factory work broke that spirited link between work and play, and left many in the north unable to reap the rewards of the south’s economic growth.
A Yorkshire Tragedy reaches out to those who have been left behind and reminds them that they are loved. It tells the disenfranchised men and women of Yorkshire that they are a cherished part of Britain, with a rich and respectable history.
“Sport is unpredictable, and these things go in cycles. But I don’t see the downward cycle coming back up”
Like me, Clavane notices an ominous connection between neglect and Yorkshire’s rejection of the political status quo on June 23rd this year. “What I think has happened is that whole swathes of the country have got chips on their shoulder over being left behind and betrayed, and that to me could help to explain the Brexit vote.
“These deep-rooted, long-standing communities have gone into decline and they’ve stuck two fingers up to the establishment and they will continue to do so.
On the question of an upturn in fortunes, Clavane is characteristically unmoved
“I’m a glass half empty man, so not very. It’s very strange. If I was writing about the decline of the economy or the film industry, you can forecast a trend. But let’s say Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday go up, all of a sudden my theory is buggered. That’s what sport is, it’s unpredictable, and these things go in cycles. But I don’t see the downward cycle coming back up.”
Yorkshire has been left behind. Of that there is no question. The author was understandably “very moved and angry by the absence of communities, shockingly impoverished” while writing his book. If only the political elite had an ounce of his consideration.
A Yorkshire Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of a Sporting Powerhouse, Quercus, £16.99. Feature image courtesy of the72.co.uk
After a hard week a couple of the MA Character Animation Course students found the opportunity to see a Preview of “The Red Turtle” directed by Michael Dudok de Wit and produced by Studio Ghibli.
I honestly did know little by the director and the film by this point, I had only seen the trailer at some point at the beginning of the year. This event was part of the french film festival UK.
I have to say that I was very positively surprised by the film. The entire film was animated 2D and Dudok de Wit stated that they used TV Paint as the main animation software for the 2D animation. There were of course some cheeky 3D elements in the water and the turtle character itself.
I enjoyed the sense of space during the entire film and the fact that it was a silent film, where no words were spoken. This gave the viewer the opportunity to focus on feelings and story of the film.
I liked the style of the film, it reminded me of Moebius or Tintin. It was simple, but with a very detailed line.
After the film, there was a FAQ session with Dudok de Wit, where he explained that this collaboration with studio ghibli came completely unexpected out of the blue and that this was a once in a life time opportunity to work with them.
later on, Judit and I managed to catch him before leaving and encouraged him to come to our uni to give a lecture and he seemed to be quite happy about it and told us that he might have time to do that early next year.
It’s been less than a week since I’m back and we are already expected to pitch our project Idea to the ENO people. After spending 3 months back at home (which was good) I recovered and also had enough time to come up with a decent idea for the project pitch.
We need to present our idea to Shelly Page and the ENO representatives by the end of this week. Over summer, we had to choose between 3 Operas:
The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan
Lulu by Alban Berg
Partenope by Handel
At the beginning I wanted to do something fun after such a depressing disease project back in June, so I started doing my research for Pirates of Penzance. I loved the jolly and catchy music and watched the entire Opera and as well as the 1983 Film that was released. I recommend it to everyone, it is such a well staged film with a lot of surprises and great actors, as well as stage design. Spoilers: Angela Landsbury and Kevin Kline are part of this marvellous cast.
Here is the link:
as much as I tried to come up with Ideas, I did not find one that I liked. The main problem I had with this opera was that there were way too many characters and all characters were too 1-dimensional. All of them were quite a bit stereo typish for my taste and felt helpless.
So I put this Opera aside and had a look at Lulu.
As Lulu was originally written in German (my second language) I managed to find a script online and had a read through. While reading I immediately had an Idea for it which was a bit complicated but as well very dramatic and powerful. I did not need more time to think wether I’m taking this Idea or not.
So I started my research on this one, watched the entire Opera in German and William Kentridges stage design. I loved the complexity of the main Character and how she was a 3-dimensional Character. Lulu is the protagonist of the Opera and is a victim of society as well as the aggressor of the entire play.
Here are some of the sketches I started working in August, just a few concept ideas:
The London Cloth Company was established in October 2011 and is the first micro-mill to open in London.
The company specializes in quality woven cloth, particularly woolens, produced on there’s ever-expanding range of carefully restored shuttle looms dating from the 1870s. the company employ the same techniques that have not changed for decades.
The majority of company’s work is weaving fabrics to order. However, the company tend to always have varied meterage in stock, some of which you can find in online shop.
The company’s bespoke service is open to designers, companies or individuals wanting something unique and perfectly suited to their own style or requirements.
There is a chance we can visit London Cloth co. which is clothes factory on 3rd Dec 12pm-5pm.
Please let me know anyone is interested in visiting the company.
Last Friday the Victoria & Albert Museum hosted a Late Night inspired by the Undressed exhibition with activities addressing underwear’s relation to everthing from sexuality and gender to fashion and form. From French lingerie designer Fifi Chachnil to Coco de Mer founder Samantha Roddick and many more, the event offered numerous talks, activities and an intimate fashion show relating to underwear through the ages.
In contribution to a charity shop we were offered to “knit-a-tit”, a special handmade breast prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast. To be honest, Yasmin and I did not quiet manage to finish it as it turned out to be quiet tricky…. but at least we tried!
My personal highlight was the performance of French lingerie designer Mademoiselle Fifi, founder of Maison Fifi Chachnil which is marked by frivolous beauty, who presented her very own album during the event. Her designs have previously been shown in an intimate catwalk show in the Grand Entrance Hall earlier that night.
Since we are striving and upcoming lingerie designers, we thought it would be fun to join the arts and crafts workshop Baloon Bustles and make some quirky paper corsets using cardboard, gems and crepe paper. I think we totally made the most of it!
It was an overall fun evening in the V&A, looking forward to the next Late Night!