Yorkshire Festival gets into top gear

One of the Yorkshire Festival 2014's first events will be an attempt to pull a grand piano up Cragg Vale.
One of the Yorkshire Festival 2014's first events will be an attempt to pull a grand piano up Cragg Vale.
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And they’re off...as the Yorkshire Festival 2014 gets underway, Sarah Freeman takes a look at the highlights of the 100-day programme.

Cast your mind back a few years to the run up to London 2012. The talk was all about budgets, how the capital would never be able to cope and how, more than likely we would end up with egg on our face.

Then Danny Boyle worked his magic with the opening ceremony and as quickly as the Queen skydived out of that plane we forgot all negative thoughts. There had been a similar amount of sniffiness surrounding the Cultural Olympiad. What, asked some commentators did art have to do with sport anyway and wasn’t £97m rather a lot to spend on the 500 or events leading up to the Games.

Well, perhaps, but those theatre performances, installations and live music shows engaged an entirely different audience to the one that crashed the London 2012 website when tickets for the Games went on sale.

The same will hopefully be true of the 100-day Yorkshire Festival 2014. Costing a more modest £2m, it launches next week as a cultural countdown to the arrival of the Tour de France’s Grand Depart over the weekend of July 6 and 7.

The programme was unveiled in January and it’s fair to say it’s an eclectic mix of public parades, solo shows, art exhibitions and commissions which could only have come about had Welcome to Yorkshire secured a slice of the largest spectator sport in the world.

Henrietta Duckworth, the festival’s executive producer, previously side-stepped the question of which event she was most looking forward to, saying it was the equivalent of “asking someone to pick their favourite child”. While Duckworth may be too diplomatic to reveal her top events, there are some definite highlights.

At the start of the next month, one of the Yorkshire Festival 2014’s more left field inclusions will get underway when a team of Calderdale’s most determined riders will attempt to answer the question, ‘How many cyclists does it take to pull a piano up a hill’.

The hill in question is Cragg Vale, which will also feature on day two of the Grand Departs. At six miles, it’s the longest continuous ascent in England and as the cyclists pull the grand piano a team of local and international musicians will play a specially commissioned musical cycle.

One of the most eagerly awaited additions to the programme will be Maxine Peake’s stage adaptation of her radio play about Leeds cycling legend Beryl Burton for the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Beginning her career in the 1950s, Beryl dominated women’s cycle racing in the UK, winning more than 90 domestic championships and seven world titles.

“I was given Beryl’s autobiography by my boyfriend a few years ago and I was struck immediately by her strength and determination,” said the actress, best known for her roles in Shameless and Silk. “She was an extraordinary women, yet it felt to me outside of cycling circles that very people have heard of her.”

You’ll have to wait until June to see the results of Peake’s efforts, but before then there will be performances from an orchestra whose instruments are made from bicycle parts, an art project which uses the fields of the South Pennines as its canvas and an illuminated peloton, which will ride across Yorkshire in a formation choreographed by the artistic director of Phoenix Dance.

Enough to silence the critics? Those behind the Yorkshire Festival 2014 are confident it will be.

For full details go to www.yorkshirefestival.co.uk