MAY DAY, MOTORCYCLE DAY, WORKERS' DAY, PARADE DAY
HASTINGS BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND 2016
The Hastings May Bank Holiday Programme
Revolution Motorcycle Show
A couple of hundred metres from the town centre of Hastings, there's an imposing brownstone edifice. The carvings on the front announce that it was built in 1853 and was the print works for the Hastings and St Leonards Observer newspaper.
After being abandoned it had fallen into disuse, like many Victorian-era buildings, but was finally re-opened last year as a multi-purpose space for a number of projects and community initiatives. And over this May Day holiday, its graffiti-covered walls would lend an atmosphere of anarchy and rebellion to the Revolution motorcycle show.
The Hastings seafront has hosted a once-a-year gathering for motorcycles for several decades now. It started out (as things often did before social media) by a spreading of the word, and was an informal 'ride in' starting near Bromley, on the outskirts of London. Today it attracts thousands, the local authority has embraced the event and an organisation called bike 1066 makes it a huge one-day bike show with stalls, sponsors and entertainment for the two-wheel masses.
Jack in the Green
Another long-standing May Day festival event: Jack in the Green, a celebration of May as the beginning of spring that can be traced back to Celtic and Roman times and has been a fun festival and parade in Hastings since the early '80s when the local Morris Dancing troupe instigated it. This uniquely colourful, noisy, pagan parade displays costumed dancers, monsters, drumming and samba groups winds through the Old Town from the fishing beach.
May Day Marches
On May Day proper, Sunday 1st, the local trade unions organised a march and speeches to the magnificent new pier that has been funded by local people buying shares in the venture after the previous pier was burnt down. May Day marches commemorate the struggle for the eight-hour working day that was started in the USA in the late 1800s and became International Workers' Day, celebrated as a public holiday in Scotland since 1871 and in England since 1978.
Sunday - Revolution
It's promoted as bringing together motorcycling and the art it inspires, but the Revolution show also embraces the new strand of individual bike design that has developed amongst groups of skilled builders and is epitomised by the Bike Shed in East London. It is seen as a more individual reaction to mass-produced motorcycle manufacture and consumption, much in the same way that craft beer, and smaller scale food production encourages different tastes. And this was where I'd chosen to go on the Sunday.
The first floor of the 'Observer' building showed off an eclectic mix of art, design and photographs, along with a number of bikes which added a garage floor atmosphere to the old bare concrete and plaster walls. The skill on display here is not what we conventionally associate with our interest and sport, but it was easy to see how all that surrounds motorcycles and motorcycling encourages the artist's eye and imagination.
Lovely evocations of different engines, colourful cartoon-like paintings, a collection of small photographs from someone's dad and his bike in the '70s called 'Connection'; long mural-like black and white sketches of a New York bike workshop.
Here are a few artists who grabbed my attention:
Jeremy Lacy, from Denver USA, an artist and designer who's inspired by the myriad aspects and possibilities of art and biking.
Martin Squires, who literally visits shows and exhibitions with his sketch pad and produces delightful images and concepts of bikes and biking.
Brett Breckon, who produces more surreal, almost fairy tale-like paintings and prints in vivid colours. A completely different style to the more 'technical' bike illustrations and interpretations. Filled with colour and outlandish, supernatural, and eccentric imagery.
Most of what was for sale was within a working biker's budget, but on one end wall, a large mixed media picture of a BMW R7 was on display with a price tag of £4,500...I'm guessing most visitors would think about spending that on a bike rather than a painting.
Crossbreed Cycles - The Outrageous Bike of the Show
In the middle of the floor, minding its own business, sat this outrageous beast: a 2.7 litre V6 Maserati engine shoehorned into a frame and two wheels and boasting a six-speed Ducati gear box. The bike is from the obviously fevered but talented imagination of Chris Barber, who builds one-off specials under the title of Crossbreed Cycles. His website illustrates the technical detail of the build in drawings and photographs. There's not a lot of narrative information, but there is a short video of this big engine unit being run on a bench. It should be worth listening to this leviathan when it fires up.
Down on the ground floor, more bikes sat in the bar and catering area with a vintage Pierce occupying the small Vaudeville-like stage. A few clothing stands and a cinema were the other attractions. While I was looking I noticed that there were not very many spectators. This was a pity and I hope it hasn't put paid to a show in future years.
In contrast to Sunday 1st, where the sun shone, and crowds enjoyed the new pier, and where the Sussex Brass Band led us May Day marchers to, Monday dawned grey and drizzly. But it didn't deter either the motorcyclists nor the Jack in the Green spectators and paraders. The bikes poured in to be marshalled into the seafront car parks, on this day 'two wheels only', as they say.
Bikes, bikes, bikes, filling every conceivable space. It doesn't matter what you ride here, just come.
I watched a fierce looking bloke in a patched leather jacket manage a burn out with a Puch Maxi moped outside the Carlisle, a pub that attracts the 'rocker' and thrash metal population. Those sports bike riders who had invested in aftermarket exhausts couldn't resist hitting the rev limiter.
The more mature riders parked up their Harleys, Triumphs, Honda Gold Wings etc, taking care to stow their gear before moving off to explore the stands and seaside delights: an altogether more relaxed tempo. All is tolerated and welcome whatever the ride, and a minimum police presence too. The vicissitudes of our weather were not going to deter anyone from being there.
If you attended any of these events, tell us what you thought about them by emailing email@example.com.
06/05/16 Great pics!
07/05/16 What a lot of bykes wow
07/05/16 That's not even 1/3 of them.
07/05/16 Even in the horrid weather was a good day,great bikes and bikers
07/05/16 Great atmosphere, fabulous bikes and well organised : )
07/05/16 I was there! Got caught by a mobile speed camera on the way home - grrrrr!
07/05/16 I don't remember...
08/05/16 An amazing morning there love seeing the bikes . Didn't see another NC21 - good to talk . I suspect some of the rarer Iron stayed away due rain . Ace tho !!
09/05/16 Good to see the bikes despite the rain.
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