Sunday, 15 February 2009

Walking, Cycling and Greening of the Arts

One of the traditions of the long running Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts are the walks in the middle of the first and second week.

Benjamin Britten and his chums thought the festival audience should have the opportunity in the schedule to be rejuvenated in the landscape that
provided his inspiration.

The 62nd Aldeburgh Festival 12-28 June 2009 will hold a walk along the River Orwell on 17 June and one in
Bonny Wood near Needham Market on 25 June. Coach departures are from the Moot Hall, Aldeburgh at 9.30 AM. Subscribers can book now with theAldeburgh Music box office 01728 687110 and tickets will go on sale to the general public in March.

As the impact on of climate change from carbon emissions becomes ever more apparent, especially in the coastal areas of Suffolk, it becomes everyone's duty to reduce their environmental impact. It is obviously in Aldeburgh Music's interest to consider their environmental impact in order to protect the landscape that makes Aldeburgh such a special place to have a music festival. A component in the huge carbon footprint of music festivals and similar events is the travelling required, not just in bringing international artists and orchestras to perform, but that of the audiences travelling to hear them.

Although their transport is the audience's choice more than the producers, arts organisations must consider how their audiences travel and they must enable the use of more sustainable alternatives.

Transport options are very limited in rural places such as the Snape Maltings (the home of Aldeburgh Music) but the possibilities of travelling there from Ipswich or London by a combination of bicycle and train (with the cooperation of National Express) is in my experience quite feasible. The concert hall at Snape is 25 minutes (for this middle aged cyclist) from
Saxmundham railway station and the last departure to Ipswich and London on Monday through Saturday is approximately 22.20 (and even later northbound); usually allowing enough time at an evening concert to hear the encore before pedalling back to catch the train.

Which is why I have proposed that Aldeburgh Music builds on the tradition of festival walks and hold a festival cycle ride or consider offering free admission to a concert to people who arrive on bicycles; a Bicycle Prom if you will.

It's not an entirely original idea nor that unusual for Aldeburgh Music. Over five days in 2003 the chairman Lord Stevenson and chief executive Jonathan Reekie cycled from Lands End to Lowestoft to raise money for the new 'creative campus' opening in May 2009.

In Suffolk the natural surroundings (a paucity of hills), the quiet traffic-free lanes and the infrastructure around Snape Maltings, with cafes, bars and accomodation and pubs and restaurants along the way could make a Bicycle Prom a very attractive proposition.
New Cut Arts Centre in Halesworth is mere yards from Halesworth station on the same line as Saxmundham, this venue also should consider offering incentives to cyclists. Suffolk has many signed cycle routes and several firms already offer holidays for cyclists. If anyone ever takes up my suggestion for a cycle path along the old Southwold Railway line, this could make Suffolk a leader in green cultural tourism.

Some arts organisations have gone much furtheralready, even developing
human powered lighting and amplification by 'human dynamo' is a regular feature of the Suffolk Greenpeace Fair.

In London on March 8th there will be an event
Cycle East, where the audience can spend the afternoon visiting three venues and seeing three performances for only £10 if transport between each venue is by bicycle.

There is also talk of a cycle path from London to Paris, running along the old Dieppe to Paris railway line opening in time for the 2012 Olympiad. Can't wait to do it.

If you like the idea of this proposal (or don't), please comment.

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