Last month saw the Borders town of Hawick hosted a stage of the Tour of Britain for the first time in the event’s history, and to celebrate the occasion the Hawick Festival of Cycling was born.
Recognising the opportunity to stimulate interest in cycling in Hawick, a steering group of volunteers and local partners was established in order to develop the first ever edition of the Hawick Festival of Cycling. Our Club Development Coordinator for the East & Central region, Hamish Cowton, sat down with two key members of the planning group to discuss the success of the Festival. David Killean, Hawick Cycling Club secretary, and Michael Graham, Hawick Community Pump Track treasurer, outlined how the idea to host a festival came about, their highlights from the three-week event, and the next steps for cycling in Hawick.
With so many events having to be cancelled due to the impact of COVID-19, Killean saw an opportunity to unite the town and get residents excited about cycling. Cycling was seen as a relatively safe way to reintroduce major events to Hawick, given the generally distanced nature of a sport that primarily takes place outside.
Furthermore, Hawick is a town abound with knowledge about cycling – between Hawick Cycling Club, the Hawick Belles, and the Hawick Community Pump Track, there is no shortage of cycling enthusiasts in this Borders town. Recognising the opportunity to engage the community as we move forward from difficult times, David set in motion the steps that would see the idea for a Festival come to life.
Having established a project planning group consisting of stakeholders ranging from club cyclists to local councillors as well as other distinguished members of the local community, the volunteer group defined three key strands to focus on and enable the event to be a success:
1) Engage local people in cycling, as a sport, a pastime and a lifestyle choice. Further to this, the group wanted to create a broad programme of activities that would be accessible to all, rather than an activity programme focussing too strongly on elite-level cycling. Hawick Cycling Club and its volunteers took on the responsibility of organising this programme of activities.
2) Local councillors viewed the Festival as an opportunity to promote the town of Hawick. By decorating the town and creating a buzz among locals, the Scottish Borders Council aimed to show the town in its best light.
3) It was hoped that the development and delivery of the Festival would provide an economic benefit to the town. Future Hawick, a local charity, wanted to utilise this opportunity to promote the economic development and regeneration of the town.
This trifecta of strategies ensured that the skillsets of the volunteer group were utilised effectively to generate the maximum benefit for the sport of cycling, and indeed for the town of Hawick.
David, with support from Hawick Cycling Club’s members and associates, developed a detailed and varied programme of activities that took place over the three-week Festival of Cycling. Keen to ensure that there was something cycling-related for everyone, the following activities are highlighted as a selection of the opportunities available for Festival visitors to immerse themselves in the sport of cycling:
- The Ken Laidlaw Sportive kicked off the festival in style on Sunday 22 August. With three routes, and 250 entrants, the Sportive was a fantastic way to begin three weeks of cycling activity. Find out more about the event here!
- A competition amongst the six primary schools to design a cycling top for their school, judged on: Imaginativeness and inventiveness; attractiveness; identifiable with the school; improve the visibility of the wearer to other road users; and practicality for manufacture. After the winning design was decided by judges Barrie Knitwear designers, it was manufactured by premium cycle apparel manufacturer, Le Col.
- The ‘Let’s Ride’ programme was used to publicise various rides. From short 5-mile rides to a longer 80-mile ride following the route of the tour – there was something in there for everyone.
- The Scottish Olympic Time Trial Championships saw the country’s best time triallists battle for glory on the Carter Bar TT course. Find out more info here.
- A come and try event at the Hawick Community Pump Track saw Michael Graham and his team welcome a wide variety of cyclists who were keen to learn new skills at one of the country’s best pump track facilities.
Of course, this is just a small flavour of the wide variety of activities that took place during the Festival, which was a resounding success. To check out the full programme of activities, follow this link.
For Michael, the highlight of the Festival was seeing the wide variety of people that took to the pump track and tested their skills. Female participation was high throughout the pump track sessions, and Michael felt that the lack of expectation and pressure lent itself to women and girls turning up, having a go and enjoying themselves. For the families who came along, there were bikes available so everyone could try out their abilities on the track. There was even a large proportion of attendees from out-with the town, demonstrating the reach that the Festival had outwith Hawick.
In David’s case, it was too much of a struggle to identify one key highlight, given the overall success of the Festival. He did outline, however, how he hoped that the successful staging of the event would inspire others to utilise their support networks and volunteer groups to host similar Festivals in the future. Having provided a template for building a Festival around a major event, we know that it would be great to see others organising their own Festivals of Cycling!
Going forward, the Hawick steering group is keen to increase local capacity for developing cycling at a grassroots level. By promoting cycling as a recreational activity, as opposed to an elite-level sport, Hawick’s cycling community hope to promote healthy living through physical activity in the town. David hopes to facilitate a bigger focus on Let’s Ride, in order to create a pathway into cycling activity for those who aren’t quite ready to jump into organised cycle activity. For now however, it is time for David, Michael, and the rest of the volunteer group to take a well-earned break after six months of hard work.
All of us at Scottish Cycling look forward to supporting cycling in Hawick as the sport continue its exciting development. We offer special thanks to David Killean and Michael Graham on behalf of the steering group for their time provided in the development of this article.
We love to shout about the great work the cycling community does to provide opportunities for people to participate in safe, accessible and supportive cycling activity, and last month’s Hawick Festival of Cycling is exactly the kind of content we want to share – so if you or your clubs are doing great things in your community, please let Scottish Cycling, know, as we’d love to shout about it. Ultimately, we are committed to supporting our members, clubs and partners to develop cycling in an open and equitable way.