Mountain Biking : The Untold British Story


Getting off the concrete of my commute and onto the fat tyres and into the woods and the mud is what I love to do.  I’m utterly rubbish at it but I love it just the same.  Since I set up the Bicycle Film Club I’ve wanted to get some mountain bike films and documentaries lined up and I’ve got a few options for 2017 and what better way to kick things off in January than this new film from Blue Hippo Media and Singletrack Magazine.

Mountain biking is now in it’s 4th decade and it’s come a long way from it’s beginnings in the hills of the West Coast USA. But that’s only part of the story. The UK MTB scene grew in parallel to the well told US tale and this documentary, from BAFTA award winning film-maker Michael Clifford, aims to layout the complete and unique history of how the MTB developed in British mud.

Through archive footage of early XC racing through to the modern adrenaline fueled disciplines of Enduro, this film will layout the British claim to the origins of the modern mountain bike scene. Featuring interviews with legendary names such as Tracy Moseley, Steve Peat, Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton, Martyn Ashton, Rob Warner, Gary Fisher, Jason Miles, Geoff Apps, Carlton Reid and many more, this will be the story of how the Brits have carved their names into history and helped shape the global phenomenon that is mountain biking.

Brush the mud off and come and enjoy the best of British Mountain Biking

Date: Monday 23 January at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost: £5 in advance (tickets can be bought via the Eventbrite link opposite)

Bicycle Thieves



Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola in Vittorio di Sica's 1948 Bicycle Thieves


For our final film of 2016 I’m really pleased to be showing what has regularly polled as one of the greatest films of all time – Vittorio de Sica’s 1948 classic Ladri di Bicilette, or Bicycle Thieves.  The film was a key part of the Italian neorealism movement and things didn’t get much more real than this study of poverty in postwar Rome.  Indeed all of the film was shot on location, no studio sets were used and the cast were untrained non actors (Lamberto Maggiorani was a factory worker).  De Sica wanted to portray the poverty and unemployment of post war Italy and was unable to attract any financial backing from any major studio so eventually funded the film himself with the help of friends.

Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani) is a poor man who is thrilled when he is at last offered a job: delivering and putting up movie posters. But he needs a bicycle, and must supply his own, so his wife Maria (Lianella Carelli) pawns the family’s entire stock of bed linen to redeem the bicycle he had already hocked. On his first day his bike is stolen and Antonio drops everything to go on a desperate odyssey through the streets of Rome with his little boy Bruno (Enzo Staiola) to get it back, pleading and accusing and uncovering scenes of poverty similar to theirs wherever they go. Faces always gather around the pair, commenting, complaining and magnifying the couples’ distress.

Antonio seems unable or unwilling to embrace the obvious redemptive moral – that his son is the important possession, not the bicycle but perhaps because this moral is a luxury that only rich people can afford. The father remains obsessed with finding a stolen needle in the urban haystack, obsessed with getting his job back.  The result is a brutal authentic portrayal of poverty and a brilliant work of art.  Despite this being filmed in 1948 in post war Italy there are worrying and unsettling parallels to the desperate situation that many find themselves in today, both in Italy and closer to home.

I hope you will join us for a slice of cinema history.


Date: Monday 14 November at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost: £6 in advance (tickets can be bought via the Eventbrite link opposite)

Cycling Shorts


Ever since I set up the Leeds Bicycle Film Club it was always my intention to show a selection of short films as there is an amazing array of really creative and interesting short films out there.  The issue was working out how I was going to have the time to chase down all the permissions in order to curate an interesting evening.  Luckily Laura who knows everything about putting on films and as been invaluable in helping me was also interested and so as part of this years Yorkshire Festival we teamed up to do a cycle social evening which featured a documentary and a selection of shorts that I curated and Laura helped to get the permissions.

So I’ve now got a cracking evening of short films to put on.  There are 12 films, none longer that about 6 minutes and featuring all different types of film making from music video to Oscar winning animation, politics to humour to mock horror and featuring all different types of bikes and riding from lots of different countries.

As an added bonus a local cyclist and Super 8 film maker will be joining us to show us his short film as well as having a chat and answering questions on the film making process and the work that goes into making a short film.

So stick your cycling shorts on and come and see mine !

Date: Monday 17 October at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost: £5 in advance (tickets can be bought via the Eventbrite link opposite)


For The Love of Mud

love of mud 2

For our September film we are delving into the muddy world of cyclocross.  Who cannot remember the pure unadulterated joy of riding through a muddy puddle as a child, whooping with joy as mud splattered your face?  Well the cyclocross world has taken this feeling and bottled it riding laps of muddy fields during the winter, although there seems to be quite a bit a pain involved to me as it’s searingly tough.

For The Love Of Mud explores this world in all it’s forms from the tens of thousands who flock to the superprestige races in Belgium where the likes of Sven Nys are superstars to the northern British fields where happy amateurs do battle. The genre originally started so that road riders could continue to keep fit and race over the winter in the off season but has now developed into a fast growing sport loved by racers and fans alike.

Benedict Campbell spent two years making the Love of Mud providing a beautiful history and narrative on the “religion” of cyclocross.

Date: Monday 19 July at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost: £6 in advance (tickets can be bought via the eventbrite link opposite)

love of mud3




Slaying the Badger


With the Tour de France upon us this months film looks back at a classic rivalry from the 1986 tour.  Cycling, like most sports, loves a classic rivalry but nothing spikes that rivalry more than when the riders are on the same team as was the case with Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault.  The story goes that Greg agreed to help Hinault win the 1985 tour to become a record equalling 5 times tour winner but the deal was that it would be reciprocated the following year with Hinault helping Lemond.  However was Hinault really going to pass up the chance to try and be the record tour winner?

Hinault aka the Badger was known for his ruthless streak and he brilliantly describes how he did not renege on the deal saying that he would help Lemond win but he didn’t have to make it easy.  The documentary is not just the story of a sporting rivalry but rather two conflicting stories of the same event.  Lemond’s people have one version Hinaults’s another which, even though we may know the outcome of the race, adds intrigue and colour to the stories of the two great riders and rivals.

One lesson is clear.  Don’t mess with the Badger


Date: 18 July at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost: £4 in advance (tickets can be bought via the eventbrite link opposite) – all profits from this screening will be going to charity.


Jour de Fete


Jour de Fete (“The Big Day”) is a 1949 French comedy directed by the legendary Jacques Tati in his feature film directional debut.  It tells the story of an inept and easily distracted French postman who frequently interrupts his duties to converse with the local inhabitants, as well as inspect the travelling fair that has come to his small community. Influenced by too much wine and a newsreel account of rapid transportation methods used by the United States postal system, he goes to hilarious lengths to speed the delivery of mail while aboard his bicycle.

The film introduces what would be a key theme in Tati films, the over-reliance of Western society on technology to solve its (perceived) problems.  Tati beautifully illustrates the circular nature of this futile cycle for efficiency in a great moment in the film as he practices new biking techniques while on a merry go round. Yes, he’s getting faster, but he’s going in circles. Representing ideas of Modern society and efficiency, it shows that while the world is moving faster, it moves so fast it moves back in on itself.  Perhaps as prescient now as it was then ?

Originally released in 1949 and shot in black and white but also in Thomson colour, an early and untried colour film process.  In 1995 technology allowed the restoration of the colour copy which was finished and released by Tati’s daughter Sophie Tatischeff and cinematographer Francois Ede.

Join us for this warm, wry critique of modern life.

Date: 20 June at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost: £6 in advance (tickets can be bought via the eventbrite link opposite)

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist


12 years ago Marco Pantani was found dead, alone in his hotel room surrounded by cocaine, and our May film, to coincide with the Giro d’Italia, will be the screening of James Erskine’s powerful and moving documentary on the rise and fall of this controversial man.

Pantani was an extraordinary talent, driven by passion who captured the heart of the Italian nation.  He rode with a showmanship, swagger and panache that together with his appearance gave him the nickname Il Parata – The Pirate.  The fans on the mountain roadside will still display banners and graffiti in celebration and rememberance of Il Parata taken from them too early and in disgrace.  Was he sinner or sinned against and Erskine’s film explores that line.  Glory comes at a price and with Pantani this price was too much to pay invovling as it did a spiralling web of conspiracy, corruption, big business and doping that led to his complete destruction.

The title of the film is based on Dario Fo’s play Accidental Death of an Anarchist, a study of morality and bureaucracy in which plenty of people are complicit in a death that none of them need take responsibility for. The comparisons with Pantani and pro cycling as a whole over the last 20 years strike a powerful chord.

Join us for the journey into the dark heart of one of cyclings most charismatic and tragic figures – The Pirate and the murky seas he sailed in.

Date: 23 May at 7pm

Venue: The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

Cost: £6 in advance (tickets can be bought via the eventbrite link opposite)