Image © Dominic Cocozza. All rights reserved.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Every other city with style had done it and after a few beers and some banter with the courier folk I know there was obvious scope for Glasgow to hold its own Tweed Ride.
Started in London in 2009, the idea of getting one’s Victoriana on, donning tweed and riding out on a stylish velocipede caught on quickly and the likes of New York, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, Paris and Toronto all soon followed suit. Riders set out on a tour of their home city, dressed to the nines in dapper fashion,
took in some sites, popped into a hostlery or two and generally enjoyed a pleasant day out in good company.
I’ve organised and run events for over a decade for thousands of people. Up mountains, in forests, on boats, in warehouses, legal, illegal, day, night, summer, winter…it doesn’t phase me.
This was easily the hardest to pull off. No budget to speak of, apart from my right hand man Stoofa no staff to lean on, no “official” status to lend weight, no time, no pay, an increasingly ambitious gameplan…
And to top it off, me being me, chose to name the Glasgow ride The Harris Tweed Ride, instantly appropriating a brand name that some people have been spending a lot of time and money and effort successfully re-establishing. The marking of Scotland’s first tweed cycling event with the world-famous orb seemed a no-brainer. With hindsight, a rather naive no-brainer.
The idea of this event ending up a marketing disaster plagued me from very early on, failure to pull it off with any sort of style, flair or credibility would see me a laughing stock, barred from island circles, the man who made a mockery of the clo mor.
No pressure then.
A whole host of local, independent businesses and partners were pulled together to feed, water and entertain the 100 riders who had signed up. Almost all of them were small but leaders in their field with a particular Scottish bent. Argyle teas, SY marag, West Coast oysters, Scottish cream scones, whisky cocktails, Scottish gin, all plied by some of the most respected bars and restaurants in the city (Brown’s, WEST, Gandolfi, Ben Nevis, Crabshakk, Stravaigin, Blythswood Square…).
The design and identity was strong, using a local up-coming designer, the marketing was low-key, underground, word of mouth and social media driven and there was no big press hullabaloo. The riders were drawn from right across the Glasgow scene, couriers, musicians, artists, fashion folk, tweed geeks, bike nerds, foodies, friends.
No big names, no celebrities, no scenesters or “faces”. No sell out, no awful brand associations, no cynical marketing, no big statements. Just grassroots enthusiasm, a genuineness, a true reflection of the many good things about Glasgow.
In the run-up, the omens weren’t good. The weather forecast was awful, volunteers called to let us down, last minute meetings with the council and police were called due to confusion over event timings and routes. All signs pointed to my red-faced resignation from the world of weaving.
But on the day?
For my part, it was an honest event. Damp but far from damp spirited. There are things that could have been improved on, things that I’d have done differently but such is the nature of an inaugural outing like this. I think everyone genuinely had a great experience and that’s what matters. So many people and businesses gave so generously of their time, energy and efforts too. It was all most heartening in so many ways
The event was my last project here in Glasgow. It pulled together all the things I love about this place, good people, good food and drink, good music and it rounds off a year of big changes, a year in which I’ve been more “out there” than I generally feel comfortable with. It has been fun. A lot of fun. But now it’s time to reel my neck in and get on with doing what I do, under the radar and away from the limelight.
A quieter life beckons.