Photo Credit : All images NVA, Alan McAteer, James Johnson, Tim Smith
A monumental public artwork created in response to the Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014, Ghost Peloton fused performance cycling with athletic choreography within the varied landscapes of the race route through Yorkshire, in the UK. Each rider, bike and performer was illuminated using NVA’s bespoke LED light suits, which can be controlled remotely to instantaneously change colour, flash-rate and luminosity.
Two sell-out live events transformed the urban environment of Waides Yard, Central Leeds; whilst a film of the work was screened along the Tour de France route and broadcast as part of the official race coverage. The recent worldwide digital launch of the Ghost Peloton film through Creators Project has achieved the recognition of the ‘staff picks’ curated selection on Vimeo.
Yorkshire Festival 2014
NVA & Phoenix Dance Theatre
Angus Farquhar - Creative Director
James Johnson – Head Designer (Light Suit and Bike Lights)
Phil Supple – Lighting Design
Sharon Watson – Choreographer
Charis Osbourne - Associate Choreographer
Mark Huskisson – Film Director
Anthony Davey – Composer
NOVAK Collective – Live Event Visual Design
Ellen Potter - Executive Director
Jodie Noble - Project Manager
Nikki Kane - Project Coordinator
Claire McNaught – Marketing Assistant
Joanne Wain – Event Manager
David Graham - Technical Manager
Lawrence Stromski – Lighting Programmer
Dave Evans – Technical Crew
Simon Hayes – Technical Crew
Andy Reid - Technical Crew
Adam Long – Production Manager
Tim Garbutt – Safety Officer
Lesley Jackson – Executive Director, PDT
Abi Cattley – Development Coordinator, PDT
Fra Panella – Marketing Manager, PDT
Cyclists: Alexis Brennan, Mark Sadler, Tom Mutton, Vanessa James, Nicola Merry, Neil Beasley, Dominic Skerratt, Patrick Thornton, Tara Baker, John Baston, Liz Boothman, Simon Cantrill, Danny Connolly, Andy Cooper, John Davis, Aidan English, Rolf Farrell, Gareth Gadd, Lynsey Jefferies, Munny Lee, Cluny Macpherson, Fiona Makin, Ben Manuja, Laura Moretto, Stephen Nutter, Kat Shepherdson, Chris Smith, Darron Speck, Hannah Stoneman, Emily Thomas, Simon Thomas, Ed Thompson, Eli Thorp, David Thorpe, Simon White
Ghost Peloton, a collaboration between NVA and Phoenix Dance Theatre, in partnership with the national cycling advocacy charity, Sustrans. A key commissions for Yorkshire Festival 2014.
Ghost Peloton is a new iteration of NVA’s Speed of Light, which premiered in 2012 as a highlight of the cultural programming for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and has since toured internationally. The work takes non-elite endurance running into the realms of the extraordinary, working with hundreds of amateur athletes in each location.
Adopting cyclists as the core of mass communal movement and inspired by the wheel in motion, Ghost Peloton explores the notion of cycling as a collaborative activity rather than an individualistic competitive sport. Amateur road cyclists were recruited from the local community, dedicating hundreds of hours of volunteer time to training and rehearsals. Two live performances transformed the urban environment of Waides Yard in Central Leeds, with free tickets “selling out” for both evenings. Pedal-in tickets and organised cycling groups encouraged audience members of all ages to get on their bikes.
Key to the creative intent of Ghost Peloton was the desire to use amateur cyclists, and as a result a lighting kit had to be created that would adapt and attach onto any cyclist and any type of road bike. The kit had to be sturdy and simple enough to be used in challenging terrain and in all weather conditions; easily and comfortably fitting the riders and bicycles of all different shapes and sizes, and most importantly express the beauty and rhythmic movement of a cyclist in motion.
What sets the Ghost Peloton bike lighting kit technology apart from off-the-shelf bike or wheel lights is that the lighting is controlled remotely, live during performances. The colour and intensity of the lights of each set of wheels and the suit the rider wears is controlled wirelessly, allowing for the creation of patterns and sequences that would not be possible with a static or pre-programmed system. To achieve this a new bespoke electrical mechanism was required, which would allow remote-controlled LED lighting technology to be applied to the bicycle wheel to articulate the elegance of the wheel in movement.
Ghost Peloton participants devoted a great deal of their time, committing to multiple rigorous training sessions and rehearsals. Having no prior experience of dance or performance, they successfully learned and executed complex choreography as they moved in formation throughout the performance space.
Responses to an evaluation survey revealed participating cyclists rated the overall experience 5/5. The quality of the event, event organisation, light suits and rehearsals all achieved average ratings above 4/5.
“It has been an absolute pleasure, a very positive experience in every way. The whole process from being a group of strangers, that morphed into a focused and inspiring team of friends that cared passionately about how we could present Ghost Peloton to our audience. The whole vision held by NVA and Phoenix that we became part of was incredible” Fiona Makin, Cyclist
“The fluidity is breathtaking and becomes, as darkness falls, oddly moving. The peloton starts to resemble a mass of sensors, restlessly taking the temperature of the evening sky. This is the mystery of public art, that if done well it can create an invisible barrier around itself, placing it in a magically different world from the ‘real’ one just inches away.” Laura Thomson, The Telegraph
Encouraging active cyclists who may not necessarily have an existing interest in the arts to become part of a moving artwork was a key focus of the campaign. The challenge was to recruit experienced road cyclists who owned drop-handlebar bicycles and were able to dedicate the required time to rehearsals. Through our partnership with cycling advocacy charity Sustrans, we targeted cycling groups to successfully recruit 50 cyclists and cycle leaders. Although the participants were active cyclists to begin with, 14% said their involvement in cycling has increased since taking part in the work; whilst 81% agree that Ghost Peloton increased their enthusiasm for arts and culture.
The work achieved a high volume of advertising as a key highlight of the Yorkshire Festival. Press releases and press calls achieved significant exposure through national media outlets including the BBC and The Guardian, with the Telegraph publishing a four-star review of the performances. The PR campaign also achieved television coverage on BBC Look North and ITV Calendar.
High quality visual and video documentation of the entire creative process achieved high levels of engagement and sharing through social media; from designed visualisations to photography and footage generated during rehearsals, lighting tests and filming sessions.
Bike events range from small community groups heading out to raise funds for a charity through to the Tour de France. Something they all share is the event experience. A mix of design, direction and lots of logistics. We're looking for Bike events that made an impact on both participants and observers. How did the event team design the program, what challenges did the overcome, how did they stretch the budget and how did they measure their success. A great bike event will have impacts on a wide range of stakeholders. It's time to be recognized for the courage to do something different, propose a new way to experience a bike event