I get news from The Guardian and my social media echo chamber, so widespread agreement that 2016 has been an utter ballbag should come as no surprise. But despite the end-of-days ambience, you have to seek out the positives. As the year draws to close, it’s comforting to look back and scrape together a list of not-altogether-shite things that have happened close to home. In no particular order, here are 10 good things from Roll for the Soul in 2016. (An entirely subjective list by Rob.)
Supporting The Bristol Bike Project, Life Cycle UK and Bristol Cycling Campaign in their excellent works. These are all small organisations, all at least partly voluntary, that do great things with bikes in Bristol. When we started out, we really wanted to help out with the grassroots bike stuff that was already happening in the city. Being able to assist in small ways like providing meeting space and directing people to volunteering opportunities is lovely, because these are the people that inspired us.
After a pretty exciting 2015 (Martha, twice! Trust Fund, twice! Radiator Hospital, only once but they came a long way!), 2016 had a lot to live up to musically. It all started so well. The early part of the year is a bit of a blur, but we had some belters running up to Easter (Woahnows and Lower Slaughter are especially sticky in the mind). Turned out to be the end of a golden age though. On March 30th we had a letter from the Council telling us that our noise was a nuisance and requesting that we STFU. Evidently our neighbours in Electricity House did not appreciate the value of an accessible city centre DIY venue. Or if they did (they don’t), they felt that it was outweighed by the intrusion of music going on until no later than 10.30pm on a Friday or Saturday night. So we had very few shows over summer. We were sad. But when Trust Fund asked if they could play in late August, we couldn’t pass it up. It was a joy, and autumn continued in the same vein with great shows from Benjamin Blue, Bruising and Marcy (huge thanks to Cruise or Lose, Art is Hard Records and the inestimable Dan Johnson, respectively). For more blah about why we love DIY music, read this.
Matt Jones became UK and European 24-hour Mountain Bike Champion this year. He also works full-time, so, no mean feat. We sponsor him by servicing his bikes, and we’re very proud of what he’s achieved in 2016. A thoroughly nice man working very hard and getting what he deserves. Almost encourages you have a bit of faith in the universe.
Boneshaker Magazine is a beautiful thing, aesthetically and in its attitude. “No training tips, race diets or adverts. It’s not how much your bike weighs that matters, but where it takes you. It’s not how fast you got there, but what you saw along the way.” That’s a good expression of how we see cycling too, so we were delighted when Boneshaker moved in and made our old first-floor meeting room their permanent home in October. Kindred spirits. And remarkably, their old place was apparently even colder.
Very much in the Boneshaker spirit, we had a great run of bike-related talks and events at the tail end of the year. The women of The Adventure Syndicate told us about the Transcontinental Race and encouraged others to push their own boundaries; Jet McDonald mused on cycling and philosophy; and Boneshaker themselves put on a screening of the beautiful Beulah. More of this sort of thing in 2017.
Despite there being no Bristol Cycle Festival proper in 2016, we still had the Dundry Drubber. Four times up the hill on different routes, it’s awful in the best possible way. A right pain in the bum for George to organise, but he does it because it’s also a lot of fun and seems like a good idea. Casquettes off to him, and all the others who help out. This is exactly what “cycling community” means. (Rumour has it than the Cycle Festival may be back in 2017. We know that the Drubber will, because we’re going to lend a hand with it.)
Setting aside the everyday sexism of Arsene Wenger’s “Everybody thinks he has the prettiest wife at home”, he makes a fair point about all of us being biased. So I confidently say that I have the best colleagues in the world. A few of the original crew moved on in 2016, which isn’t surprising after three years, and they are sorely missed. But those who remain are, to me at least, among the finest humans of all. It’s a joy and a privilege to work with them. A particular highlight of the last twelve months has been seeing Jake fully fall into the abyss of bike geekery. He has gone from man-who-likes-riding-a-bike to man-who-likes-riding-a-bike-and-is-also-routinely-in-work-on-his-days-off-fiddling-endlessly-in-the-workshop-and-when-he’s-not-doing-that-he’s-at-The-Bristol-Bike-Project. For want of a picture of Jake with his bike, here’s a picture of Ian MacKaye with his (basically the same).
As well as working with fellow cycling projects and groups, we’ve been able to support a bunch of other organisations to do their thing (usually just by providing a free venue): LaDIYfest, See It From Her, No More Taboo, and Alzheimer’s Society among others. It’s very gratifying to be able to help them. Often what they do is voluntary, and volunteering makes the world go round. It’s a shame that it has to, but it’s never been more necessary than in 2016.
This has been the year of the ‘gig economy’, personified by the Deliveroo riders who’ve become a permanent fixture outside our window. They’re subject to precarious and borderline unlawful employment terms, so they took inspiration from their peers in London and got organised. With the help of IWW they’re working hard to win better conditions. An inspiring effort. We’re proud of them. Have a look at this film they made.