Alex Daw, curator of the city’s first ever cycling festival Spin London, talks to The London Word about what gave him the inspiration for the event and why the city is falling in love with the humble pushbike.
Daw got the idea to organise a cycling festival after realising the city’s emerging cycling culture.
‘I’ve always cycled in the city but never felt part of a scene, even though I’ve got lots of mates who are into bikes. I never felt there was an outlet to learn more, short of going onto forums.
‘I thought there was a gap between art, design and bike crossover. I’m personally interested in that and felt that I could present something in an original way.’
Existing cycling shows in the city lacked imagination, he says. ‘So I decided to do something different for people in central London. I’m by no means a bike expert. I’m coming at this from a cultural perspective.’
The event is part art exhibition and part trade show, with exhibitors displaying items such as the invisible cycle helmet, a collar that inflates an airbag on impact.
‘There are some British inventions, such as a light that projects a cycle lane in front of you. The idea was to get as many interesting people in cycling into one room.’
Other entertainment includes a biking fashion forum, live music, and a talk about the Brick Lane bike black market.
‘We’ve got ex bike thieves who are reformed and working with a bike charity in Bethnal Green and some lock companies. We’ve even had the police email to see if they could attend. From Friday through to Sunday there are talks and films, including a pedal-powered cinema. So it’s really varied.’
Daw believes there’s a number of cycling subcultures in the city. ‘There are loads of interesting cycling groups people are not aware of. For example, there’s one called the Fifth Floor who hang out on the fifth floor of a car park in Hackney and print jerseys for the team they’re a part of.’
The capital is well suited to two-wheeled transport, he says. ‘Because London is so flat, you don’t have to be fit to cycle around. In Hackney, a lot of people are conscious of their carbon footprint and the situation with the environment and congestion. But in places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, you can’t move for bikes. Arguably when cycle lanes come in there will be a lot more people on bikes in the city.
‘People use bikes as a lifestyle choice. I think there is a real integrity to it, you don’t have to have a lot of money to have a nice bike, and you can get involved creatively on how it looks.’
Does he have a favourite part of the city to cycle? ‘I love Regents Canal, but when you get to east London it gets very narrow and everyone hires bikes so it’s busy. Generally I just quite enjoy the urban landscape. I love the rich diversity and London’s multiculturalism, especially in east London. There’s so much going on, and you can just jump on a bike and go to the National Gallery, Tate Britain.
‘I like the commute, you feel in a team, but places like the Elephant & Castle roundabout are a bit mental!’
What’s next after the festival? ‘After this Spin will become an annual event, and we’ve had interest to do it internationally from people in Barcelona, Copenhagen. But there’s been nothing to encapsulate the urban perspective before.’
Spin London is taking place from Friday 3 to Sunday 5 May at:
The Old Truman Brewery
91 Brick Lane
Tickers are £7 in advance or £10 at the event. For more information visit the website: spinldn.com