A fourth year of the Festival is done! It’s hard to write objectively about something that takes over our lives for a few months every summer, but I’m going to have a go…

So, the most noticeable difference this year was, believe it or not, nothing to do with us – the weather! Last year we had wash-outs galore, forcing everyone indoors. This year the heat made everyone head outside. Never mind that it was a bit too warm at times, it was great to finally have a proper summer after years of drear.

Roll for the Soul provided the perfect venue for Blankety Quiz
Roll for the Soul provided the perfect venue for Blankety Quiz

Following a few years of tramping it up in borrowed properties, we also settled into a permanent home, thanks to the opening of Roll for the Soul. It seems like a minor detail, but having a start and end point for rides, a venue for the smaller events, and a place to hang out and socialise made a big difference to this year’s festival.

We welcomed back regular collaborators the Bristol Cycling Campaign, who took riders on tours of the city’s best-kept secrets, including the tower at Blaise and the lesser-known works of Banksy.

They also managed to corral the movers and shakers from Bristol Council, Sustrans, Green Capital and the cycling community into one room, for an inspiring Cycling Summit. Big plans are afoot for cycling in Bristol, so contact the campaign and sign up to their manifesto if you haven’t already.

Lifecycle UK were also on board again, running more of their excellent second-hand bike sales, and accessible rides for under-represented folks like older cyclists. Both of these organisations are extremely active year round, and you should definitely click on their names and check them out.

Mike Hall said afterwards that he sweated more giving this talk than doing his round-the-world ride.
Mike Hall said afterwards that he sweated more giving this talk than cycling round the world.

We ran another programme of talks, featuring everyone from a round-the-world record breaker to a chap who cycles slowly round the UK taking photos of craftsmen and artisans. We were lucky to have the support of excellent local firm Lyons Davidson for this, which made finding venues a cinch compared to previous years. They also sent their managing partner along to introduce Max Glaskin’s talk in 30-degree heat, and he stayed until the end. Chapeau.

It was great to welcome back APE Project, who are currently running weekly family playdays at Horfield Common. We also saw the launch of the Bike Lane Gang family days at Bristol Bike Project. We’re well pleased to be involved with bringing on the next generation of cyclists, but we’re sure that there are lots more family cycling initiatives out there which we could be linking up with, so if you run or know of one then get in touch.

We had some new events this year, including the slightly random Knights Templar ride, at which we learned that a spot of bicycle-mounted pinata-bashing makes up for a lack of any historical content. And it seemed like you couldn’t throw a dart at our programme without hitting some sort of workshop or maintenance course. Events like this are arguably the best thing about the festival, as the knowledge and self-sufficiency they pass on lasts far longer than 9 days

The Festival finished in fine style with a fancy dress parade round traffic free streets, mugging it up for photos with the Mayor, tunes from the Tri-Fi, and a reunion with the Brontosaurus.

Then Castle Park played host to games, a hotly-fought long jump contest, the mighty Bomberdrome, and a massive water-balloon fight. There was a chilled night of films at the Cube cinema, or you could head to the café and watch Chris Froome do some triumphant laps round the Champs Elysée.

We’re extremely lucky to have the support of some great people, both official types (Bike Week, Lyons Davidson, the Council, the Parks and Events Team and Make Sundays Special) and members of the community who just want to be involved. After four years it really feels like we’re an established festival. We’re 5 years old next year, so we must get planning something special!