Some words on our d??but: The Big Chill 2007

sign-up.jpgAfter a couple of months of hard graft, as detailed in our blog, finally the time was upon us… our d??but at The Big Chill 2007 as part of their ‘Arts Trail’; three consecutive five hour nights of screenings.

We’ve collected together some thoughts and photos from the crew. We all learnt a lot from the gig, things that went well, things that could have been better… But all in all the general feeling is amazement at how well the thing went, that the kit worked and that we all made it back in one piece. We’re all looking forward to more cycle powered madness in the future!

Bike ride to The Big Chill

So eight of the crew rode from Cambridge to The Big Chill, about 140 miles in total, including an extra 10 right at the end due to flooding. We sent some pictures and words from the road for a previous blog post, so here’s a few more snaps from our journey…

About to set off from our workshop at The Portland Arms.

Three hours later, we make it to the front of The Portland Arms.

Luckily, we remembered how to spell ‘cycle’ in the nick of time.

One of the early stops, all smiles and sunshine.

A nice camping spot for our first night out on the road.

Back on the road again, the weather holding nicely.

We did plenty of this.

And lots of this.

End of the second day, could have been nasty as the clouds opened up, luckily, we found a handy barn.

Start of the third day, everyone asleep as the sun rises.

Yet more ‘group map reading’.

As we head further west, the recent flooding soon becomes apparent.

One of the final stops, still all smiles, spirits are high.

Mud won’t stop the cycle cinema crew.

Nor minor flooding.

The Big Chill is just round the corner and it’s the final sprint!

Setting up the Cycle Cinema

We had three days after arriving at The Big Chill to set up the cinema. Our big top was already in place, so our work involved building the semi-circular platform for the bikes, setting up the control console, bikes, screen and projector… and lots of decoration.

Shaun and Ben get busy on the platform.

Meanwhile a couple of bikes get set-up so we can test kit and have some music while we work.

1… 2… 3… break your back!

Shaun had pre-built the chunks of platform before the gig, so we soon had the two halves assembled and lifted into the big top.

First bikes getting placed.

It starts to look neat, the cables threaded beneath the platform.

The ‘Control Console’ gets moved into place and Andy starts ‘tinkering’.

End of the first day, things are starting to look good…

Our big top starts to look like a bicycle graveyard, just the aesthetic we’re after.

Good work team, day one over!

Day two, time to work on the ‘cinema’ and decorations…

We find a local bike shop that has lots of ‘bike junk’ we can nab, we’re soon hoisting bike wheels up the pole of the big top.

Five of the bikes from ‘up the ladder’.

The Ringmaster surveys the scene.

Our never ending ‘tape-based-to-do-list’.

All 10 bikes, projector, legs ‘a’ powering… We’re getting there and it’s starting to look TIGHT!

We borrow the 10×8 screen from The Projector Tank and the speakers are placed…

Old bikes wheels pile up, end of the second day.

Some bike power testing by the crew, an impromptu ska party!

Final day for set-up and there’s not too much to do… A few last minute changes to the bikes, as
this is the first time we’ve had 10 bikes set-up for more than an evening, we’re learning a lot about getting good gearing.

Team meeting, our sexy blue EL wire in place.

Andy mans the ‘Control Console’, ready for a ‘crew test screening’ of Belleville Rendez-vous.

BIKE POWER! The projector comes to life…

Cinema! And a cycle powered one at that.

Welcome Bennitto Chunkolini Prince of Darkness!

A last minute stroke of luck was to discover the one and only Bennitto Chunkolini Prince of Darkness, a one man legend, a member of the UK arm of the Chicago Rat Patrol and he lives about 20 miles away from The Big Chill. After get in touch with him the week before the gig, we learn that he’s a welding master and has a range of tall, long and wobbly bikes. It doesn’t take much pursuading and before long we’re sending ‘Nick the van man’ off to Bennitto’s place to pick up a load of bikes and cider.

Frenzy as the bikes arrive.

Chunkolini, making some last minute chain adjustments.

Simon, our film curator, loving the tall bikes.

Our Ringmaster whipping up some kind of cycle cinema frenzy down in the festival proper.

There’s nothing quite like an usherette on a tall bike.

Big Chill Security on the chopper… and loving it.

Big thanks to Chunkolini for letting us go crazy on his bikes for a couple of days, they added something very special to the whole experience and most of the crew have come back from the gig wanting to learn how to weld and chop up bikes… Expect news of horrific injuries soon.

Welcome David Butcher & Tim Siddall!

We were very pleased to welcome David Butcher and Tim Siddall into our big top. Both of them have experience with ‘bike power’ (over 30 years for David!) and they were commissioned by another artist working at The Big Chill to produce bike powered lanterns in the trees in the main arena. David and Tim joined us on several evenings, sharing knowledge and various details and kit. We’re looking forward to staying in touch with them both and sharing our BIKE POWER knowledge.

Barbora looks on as David gives one of our bikes a thrashing, this man is good for 100W for at least 40 minutes.

Andy & Ben give Tim & David the ‘bike power’ nod.

Tim in the spotlight, powering away…

The Screenings!

So we’re set-up and ready to go. We’ve already had a couple of nights to test the kit and play films, music and generally enjoy ourselves in a BIKE POWER kind of way. But now it’s the real test, our first time dealing with THE GENERAL PUBLIC, at a festival… Up until now we’ve had friends, family, journalists and some Big Chill production crew on the bikes. Even then it got messy at times. Luckily, we’d planned ahead and it was time to unleash our trained, tooled-up usherettes to make sure things run smoothly.

Would you mess with the usherettes?

It’s a weird mix of human and machine power station!

The Ringmaster and Chunkolini round up some cyclists outside.

Of course being a ‘power cyclist’ is a good excuse to show off your six-pack.

Usherettes had serious work to do, like fan-waving, smiling, water-providing and wrestling drunk cyclists of the bikes.

At times we had a full-house and crowds outside watching the scene. Sometimes people would turn around and watch the cyclists and crew instead of the films, hopefully not a comment on our film selection?

Happy human-power-machines.

Luckily, we had a crew only tent for the usherettes.

More happy cyclists, six-packs and usherettes.

Simon at the console, in control…

One of our cyclists found his way into the usherettes changing room.

Andy and Dafydd at the console, trying their best to keep the cinema running and getting enough Watts per cyclist.

Three nights of five hours and we only have to shut down once on Sunday due to ‘lack of energy’. In that instance, ten minutes of music and we soon rounded up enough fresh legs to get the cinema going again. We manage to screen our entire program, apart from two films that were censored by The Big Chill.

And after all that, we’ve still just about got energy enough for a quick bike powered crew party…

Take Down

Although there was a little apprehension that it would take us a month to pack everything up, two and half hours of hard work and everything was in the van ready for the trip back to the workshop. TEAM POWER!

And down she comes… Bikes off the stands and ready for the trip home.

How it went, from a technical perspective…

We’ve updated our D.I.Y page with all the technical details of the kit we took to The Big Chill. A quick round up would look something like this…

  • Our sound system couldn’t quite cut it against the background of a festival and a noisy ‘bike power station’, especially as the levels on some of our films were ‘up and down’. Action: Beef up the sound system, think of illuminated signs / signals which can cut down on shouting.
  • We need more visual feedback in the rig, for each bike and the power station as a whole.
  • We need more varied sizes of bikes, as ours were all a bit big.
  • Automate the shut-down procedure of the cinema, so the person in behind the ‘Control Console’ doesn’t have to make a (stressful) ‘executive decision’ on whether there’s enough power to keep it going.
  • It’s easy for some people to ‘coast’ whilst others are ‘peddling away like mad’, visual feedback on each bikes power output should solve this.
  • People watching films don’t really want to do 70W of work, continuous. 50W is a more leisurely pace and when you start having to cycle hard it’s difficult to concentrate on the films. Action: Work on minimising our power usage, through clever amp design, choice of playing device… Again, visual feedback on the entire output of the power station will help cyclists know what’s needed.
  • Think about the layout of the big top, we only had one entrance (plus a fire exit) which created a ‘bottle neck’ at times. Also, people like to ‘just watch the scene’, the cinema as a whole. We had a ‘viewing area’ - the side of the big top removed and EL wire used to mark out the edge - which was great, but was also near the entrance which didn’t help the ‘bottle neck’ problem.

All in all…

… it was great fun, everything worked as it should and the everyone seem to love the cinema. The look of shock on some people’s faces as they entered the big top was worth the hard graft. Now we’ve got some breathing space after our d??but we’re looking forward to improving the rig, getting more organised as a group, building some tall bikes and other cycle cinema based fun. We’re moving forward with planning our schools program and it looks like we’ve got some more gigs coming up, expect news soon.


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