Cycling Across the UK: A Bard Remembers
Hi! I’m Jess. I’ve just finished performing The HandleBards’ all-female version of As You Like It which we cycled across the UK in Summer 2017 and then recently revived to take to schools, theatres and festivals all over India and South-East Asia. We were happy to be away during the rain and the snow in February, but now we’re back. And it’s still raining. Thanks England. Thanks a lot.
So on this rainy Easter Friday I’ve been given the task of trying to summarise what it’s like to cycle over 1000 miles across the UK with all of the set, props and costumes in tow, to perform Shakespeare everywhere we go. Here goes…
Let’s start from the very beginning (cue my fellow Bards singing in harmony: ‘It’s a very good place to start’). I should probably make that clear. We sing. A lot. We finish each other’s songs not sentences.
So, the cycle tour. Dun, dun, dunnnnn. It is, hands-down, the most mentally and physically demanding job I have ever done – but in the most fabulous way.
Saddled up, dressed in all the gear and with little idea of what lay ahead. We were introduced to our mechanical colleagues… the trailers. These bad boys contained all our set, props and costumes, and weighed roughly 50kg apiece. Over the four touring months we developed a love-hate relationship with them… predominantly hate. Let’s not forget that as well as the trailers we each carried two panniers, plus a tent and a roll mat on the bike too. Here I am (below), in all my glory: padded shorts, my trusty Pashley steed below me, and a beetroot burnt face. You’re welcome.
So what’s an average day like as a Bard, I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you.
Day in the life of a Bard
07.00 – Wake from your slumber on a village floor, in a four-poster bed in a castle or in a tent, surrounded by cows (…one thing’s for sure, this job is an adventure).
07.30-08.00 – Nosh. Whatever breakfast happens to be going.
08.00-08.30 – Pack bike. Bike falls over due to weight. Pick up bike and swear at it.
08.30 – Hit the road Jack (‘…and don’t you come back no more, no more…’)
12.00-13.00 – Pub grub.
13.00-17.00 – On the road again.
17.00-19.00 – Set up for show, and coffee; lots of coffee (or tea if you’re me).
19.30-21.00 – Showtime!
21.00-21.30 – Take down set and forage for dinner. That usually involves devouring the audience’s leftover picnics. A diet of quiche and Scotch eggs.
22.00 – Collapse.
On average we cycled about 30 miles a day. Producer Paul used to send us a schedule for the week, describing the venues and rides. When we saw the phrase ‘Beautiful views on this ride’, what he was actually saying was the route will be hilly… VERY hilly.
I’ll stop talking now because frankly my words can’t do this journey enough justice. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…
We battled wind, rain, hail, sunburn, the Peak District, dislocated shoulders, un-bikeable paths, numerous falls, more than a handful of punctures… and we’re still standing, because #thesegirlscan!
I’ll leave you with two parting messages. If you fancy giving cycling a whirl:
- invest in cleats to clip your feet into the pedals (I’m obsessed with them)
- don’t wear headphones when you cycle. However, if you do, stick on Desert Island Discs… I NEVER did that… 😉
Thanks for reading,
Lots of love,
(The yellow Bard… always longed for purple) xx