Wild West 2008

Welcome to the Wild West cycle tour team’s journal. Read on to be regaled with stories of travel, triumph, theatre and thighs of steel as the team journeyed from Kettering to Merthyr Tydfil and everywhere in between.

Wild West Journal 5 – the end of the road

Hello all and welcome to this; our penultimate AND final tour journal both rolled into one!

Yes, that’s right; we’ve just finished the last two weeks of or our six-week cycling theatre troublemaking tour across the UK, passing this time from Carmarthen to Swansea for impromptu street performances, through to a longer stay in Bishop’s Wood country park outside of Mumbles and travelling to our final destination in Merthyr Tydfil. Well, without further ado; let’s continue and on with the show!

Following our stay at Silver Cross Scout site just outside of Swansea, we woke up, loaded up our bikes and noted with pleasure that for the first time all week, the weather was gorgeous! But no – t'was merely a trick of the light. As soon as we set off it was business as usual. The heavens open up, and instead we spent the day cycling along the south Welsh coast in gale force winds, the rain lashing our faces. Although Ryan and Matt found this quite amusing – some even say refreshing – Eluned was less than impressed.

The cooking team rolled into Mumbles only to find a whole host of Oteshites taking shelter from the storm in Davies Bakery, where cake and tea ensued (some of it free – a BIG thank you to the bakery staff!). Up the hills we continued then to find our way to the magical mystical place that is Tom’s Roundhouse in Bishop’s Wood. In fact, it was Magical Mystery Musical Monday; much drumming and guitar playing ensued late into the night once our host had opened up his box of random instruments, we’d got out our whistles and guitars, and several exotic drums were unveiled in the process! We went to bed in the large tents that had been kindly provided for us for a warm and comfortable night's sleep, ready to wake up for our day off and beginning to explore our home for the next three days.

Words cannot do justice to the time that we spent in Bishop's Wood. The wood and earthen Roundhouse provided a focus for our community, with seating all round, lit by candles and always with a fire roaring in the centre with hot water on the boil. The land’s water supply is collected by hand from an old Holy Spring in the woods; water as it really should be – no plastic bottles here!

On’t day off many of us Oteshites were led on a bike pilgrimage to Arthur's Stone by local Otesha hero Tom. The stone itself was fascinating and the views fantastic. The group split after this, and a few of us went in search of mushrooms, Marsh Samphire and a lost beach. We came back when darkness fell, with no mushrooms or samphire but with great memories of beautiful scenery and swimming in the choppy sea.

The next day we gave back to the Bishop’s Wood community, laying stones for the footpath, emptying the compost toilet, creating cob window frames and shelves (cob – a mixture of earth, ash and straw – is a beautiful architecture to work with) and erecting a marquee ready for the afternoon's performance, which was warmly received by a very open audience of locals, community members and young surf instructors! Excellent practice for our performance and workshop session at Red Café youth centre the next day.

Come Friday it was time to move on; however, c'est la vie! ‘Tis the life of a group of nomadic cycling performers. Next stop was the wonderfully proactive Cwm Primary School on the outside of Swansea, where we did our first ever school performance and held workshops on the secret life of a banana and bicycle maintenance. A bit thank you to the lovely head teacher Amanda Taylor for her wonderfully warm welcome!   As the week drew to a close, we began to get into the swing of things ready for our last week of full on school’s work in Merthyr Tydfil 30 odd miles north.

The ride to the underwater city Merthyr was lovely except for the the two HILLS OF HELL!! These monstrosities spread for miles at a time with no end in sight. But reaching the top and whizzing downhill at 35mph for another mile or so was definitely worthwhile! 

Merthyr was nothing like we’d been told- there were no floods in sight (contrary to what doom-laden messages had earlier prophesised). Since we’ve reached our home for our final days together – Bedlinog Community Hall – we’ve been met with so many warm and friendly locals, including a man who drove all the way up a very steep hill just to offer barefooted Chris a lift in the worry that his shoes were rubbing him!

The Community Hall has really made our last week amazing. With the luxury of indoor cooking facilities, the cooking teams have outdone themselves – we’ve had a whole host of the most delicious vegan food including cakes, risottos, poached pears, fruit salad and TOAST!

This week's work has been possibly the most inspiring we've had. Our final performances took place at Abercanaid Primary School, Cyfartha and Gellifaelog High Schools, and Pen y Dre Primary School, with a visit from Mount Pleasant Primary. Over these past four performances, the group has really shone in our ability, enthusiasm and confidence to get up on stage. What's more, we’ve been left feeling that after these six weeks we’ve really reached the people that matter. We’d like to thank our two speakers for the week from Transition Towns and Stop Ffos y Fran (an open cast mine just above Merthyr), Merthyr’s Mayor for coming to see our final performance and last but not least a massive and very much heartfelt thanks to Jo, Kylie, Lauren and all who helped us during our stay in the area. THANK YOU ALL!

Well…it’s come to an end then! We’ve spent the last two days wrapping up our tour. Hanna has come up from London to help us reintergate ourselves into the outside world and to help inspire us with ideas to continue all the changes and work that we’ve been doing on our adventures. We’ve experienced a lot together and looking back on it all with warm memories and constructive feedback makes us realise how much we’ve really enjoyed being the second ever Otesha UK Cycling Theatre Tour!

The time is half past four, and already four of the team are homeward bound with more to follow later this evening before a mass exodus occurs tomorrow. For now, this is Otesha Wild West signing off to all of our friends, family and loved ones thanks for reading. We’ll see you all real soon.

Best of wishes,

Ryan, Matt, Luci, Karo, Rob, Chris, Abby, Yan, Liz, Cress, Daisy, Michelle, Ed, Jessie, Georgie, Peter, Eluned, Sarah and ALL of our wonderful pedal powered machines!  

 

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Wild West – Tour Journal 4, Caped Crusaders Edition

Disclaimer: The editors would like to apologise for a description error in the last apparently scare mongering journal. The ‘death stalking illness’ monkey was in fact more of a windy wondering wobbly worm and all Otesha tour members are (relatively) hunky dory and healthy(ish). Except for Cress R.I.P.

‘Is it a bird? Is it a plane?… NO, it’s someone wearing pants over their lycra with a quick dry (easily packable) cape flapping dramatically behind them…”

 “!@% WHAM*%” It was superhero day; motorists gawked in surprise as the Amazing Bike-Curious Girl, Captain Planet, Freddie the Freaky Forestlover and… Kylie Monogue (nice whitey-tighty’s Georgie) flashed past them on their bikemobiles from St Davids to Pembroke, fighting climate crime and spreading the Otesha odour as they went “Ka-boom!!!”. If you blinked you missed them. Unless that is, you were in the pub at Tiers Cross at 13:00 hours. It was as if Louis Lane had had a corked glass of fairtrade wine and was crying out in distress; Otesha descended with their cycling thighs so big that they deserved their own postcodes; they popped their sandwich boxes, rushed to the bar and congratulated themselves on their super sonic picnic pub finding intuition. “Holy bicycles batman” (!**?!) Bar staff looked on as several people with underwear over wear everywhere bought cups of tea.

Arriving at Tanyard Youth Project in Pembroke was like Cat Woman arriving in a leather store – ping pong and pool tables galore! The youth project was so inspiring, jazzily decorated and with an organic garden outside.  After a glorious indoor slumber the Otesherites woke up to prepare for two performances that day: learning workshops on transport, media and fairtrade as well as rehearsing new parts in the ever evolving play.

Young James from Tanyard took it upon himself to shepherd us to our first performance, not trusting our troop on his local roads – boldly stopping the traffic to hurry us on our way.  No one had realised that Rob was actually a closet bad boy BMXer as he borrowed James’ bike, flipped up his hood, and did a fantastic wheely through some unfortunately placed dog poo. Our play ‘Morning Choices’ was well received and spurred some great conversations.  But quick!  We had to fly back to Tanyard for our second performance. Suspiciously, we were met with a waft of Lynxy odor which had clearly been let off in a bid to hide our superhero scent.  The show went down a storm, though there were some interesting interjections: “Do you even own mobile phones?”, “When was the last time you showered?”, and apparently Daisy’s rendition of Hunky Harry was very convincing “is that a boy or a girl?”. The show was followed by an Otesha/Tanyard five aside football game and a table tennis tournament. Thank you so much for having us (and for all the cups of tea). 

Onwards!  We cycled to Carmarthen with some epic and spontaneous street performances along the way in Tenby, making Otesha waves by the sea.  Inspired by performing our money scene, various banks along the route were subjected to questions about their ethical policies, eliciting evasive directions to non-existent websites.  Other less productive activies included skinny-dipping and accidental bike trailer-flipping on the bumpy coastal route.  The day ended in a (drum roll…) a cow shed outside Carmarthen.

On Thursday we cycled in convoy, causing (safe) havoc on the roundabouts en route, to perform at Dr M’s youth project. The next day was set aside for Midterm Retreat – a day free of performance and travel in order for us to evaluate our tour so far and decide on what to prioritise in the remaining weeks. It started with the perfect team building exercise at Jonno’s wonderful scrap yard, excitement erupted as we were let loose on an abundance of materials with which to create… a bicycle!!! (original we know) and what a specimen it was. Jonno is a superhero. 

A bottle of champagne was popped for Daisy’s birthday over our couscous and quinoa compost picnic in Carmarthen square, which gave us some ‘dutch courage’ for some fantastic street performing after which some of the audience followed us into Barclay’s Bank to ask them about their ethical policy (Bohemian Rhapsody style).  Operation Hellboy II was launched as Daisy was sent off on a red herring allowing 18 moustached francophones to get into position. Suddenly she was ambushed, moustached and hustled into the cinema.  The night got better and better as we kept bumping into people who had seen our play over the last few days and were eager to know more about Otesha, the issues and the facial hair 

News flash, news flash in the news letter: the next morning it was… – shock horror – sunny, yes the sun was shining HALLELUJAH. This was perfect for the coastal ride to Swansea that day. Whilst one team ‘culture jammed’ outside McDonalds, other teams rendezvous’d on the beach; Lucy played her guitar as Ed and Pete unsuccessfully went rock pool foraging hoping to serve crab hors d'oeuvres for supper, and Chris and Michelle practiced some yoga.

Zoom!!! Wizz wam bamm thank you mam, that was another episode of the O-team, same bike channel, same bike time, same bike place.

Love from Cress, Daisy and the Wild West team.

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Photos now online for your viewing pleasure

We've finally found internet access long enough to put some photos up! See us at the Art Meets Environment Festival (in Kettering) and the Green Man Festival (in Wales) here: www.thenag.net/crowds/otesha

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Tour Journal Week 3

Otesha week three… a week like no other…

This week has been like a big wet muddy rollercoaster. Considering it is the wettest summer since 1912, Otesha somehow chose to hold tour no.2 in the soggiest place in the UK. Illness has reared his ugly head and is slowly stalking the Otesha team one by one, pouncing in the middle of the night on unsuspecting victims (Abby and Luci, however are perfectly healthy specimens and hence fit enough to document these past events)… Clothes are also falling victim to the ravenous jaws of mould and damp. Don’t worry parents, we are all still smiling and alive to tell the tale of the week gone by:

It began last Monday the 18th, when we waved goodbye to the muddy lakes of the Green Man Festival to pastures new: Tipi Valley, a dry haven of tranquility and warmth in which to warm our rotten feet. Or so we thought. After hours of lugging the heavy trailers through torrential downpours and up the infamous Welsh mountains, making many a wrong turn and finally heaving our bikes along a muddy track in the pitch black darkness, we were met with the sight of a smoke-filled, water-logged tipi.  And still it rained.

The last teams were greeted with Chris’ delirious cries of, “This is a survival sitution”. The rest of us huddled around the campfire eating rice and marmite with dry wheetabix, occasionally getting up to look after those with early onset symptoms of pnuemonia. Luckily, however, some lovely man, Blaze, let us use his empty dry yurt as a mass bedroom, so snuggling up together and listening to Karo’s stories we fell asleep dreaming of warm beds and dry socks. Crisises aside a big thank you to Dave, Dani and Blaze for all your help, and it was lovely to meet you Jack and Alena.

On Tuesday the team, a little weakened from the previous day’s escapades, decided a 60 mile journey would be a little ambitious. A few phone calls from Hanna at the core set us up with tent space on Llanybydder village’s playing fields. The rain finally stopped.

Perhaps here is a good time to introduce our faithful abodes (our tents)… We have the Flowerly Palais (thanks to Georgie’s little sister), the Blue Castle and the Grey Fortress at the upper end of the accomadation size, right down to Sarah’s Hubba Hubba tent, Karo’s Red Boudoire and Chris’s tiny anti-snuggling coffin tent. At each new camp we play musical tents so we end up with different tent buddies which is just as well as some people’s bottom burps are rather fruity tutti due to our high vegetable diet.

Anyway, back to Llanybydder…. A drink at the Cross Hands pub yielded more than a good ale when a lovely local lady, Eleanor, offered her washing machine to our stinky menagerie of clothes. Eleanor we cannot thank you enough- ti’n seren mawr! 

On Wednesday morning we mounted our trusty steeds and pedalled with new found gusto to meet Michelle and little Eva at the Llandysul farmers’ market.  She then guided us en mass back to the Dyfed Permaculture Trust Farm which is perched up a road that even the best moutaineer would struggle with. Puffing and panting we were shown to THE BARN.  It was like the Ritz hotel to us weary travellers – with hot (solar heated) and cold water, a proper stove and real china plates, we were in awe.

That evening we performed to the Newcastle Emlyn Transitition Town group in a lovely village hall. Despite it being one of our most giggly performances it seemed to go down a treat. We had fascinating conversations with everyone afterwards, espeicially about how to include more young people into environmental movements. We had a quick night cap at the local pub to make us brave for the hill ahead back up to the farm and the warm barn.

Next day was Chris’s birthday, so we roused him gently with an a capella animal noise psychtrance piece. We had a perfect day being shown around the amazing farm by Phil and  Michelle, learning about permaculture methods; sything and hay making, mulching, hedge making and organic gardening. We spent a couple of hours freeing baby oaks from the perils of the bramble bushes before sitting down to a hearty ‘Das Mules on Wheels’ special stew filled with local vegetables fresh from the farm. All the stops were pulled out with a good portion of the food budget spent on birthday chocolate. That night we were lulled to sleep by a local storyteller, who enthralled us with stories of Welsh dragons and knights, over the light of a dying candle.

And so, finally, we made it to St David's after a picturesque 50 mile cycle along the west Wales coast. On Saturday we had a full day off. Some beached, some squatted at the sofas of The Bench café, whilst some picnicked upon the windy cliffs with a bottle of red wine and a book of welsh folk stories, discovering the delights of the local cheese. Some even sampled the healing waters of St Non’s spring (St David's mother) so hopefully we will all be cured of our inflictions. Nonetheless, I’m sure the brisk sea air and beautiful peaceful scenery will aid our recupuration.

It is now Sunday night and we are currently sitting in the Flowery Palais with jam jars of wine and our memories of yester week. The rain has finally stopped yet almost half the group have horrible illness ranging from colds, chest infections and funny tummies. However, we have had a lovely time in St Davids (one of the smallest cities in the world!), a tiny tourist village perched on the cliffs of the stunning Pembroke Coast.

In terms of the play, today we said good bye to a much loved and loathed character, Mr Slow, who sadly had a run in with a proverbial axe- the group consensised that a random man advising a young girl to breath deeply and put films on the internet was just a little creepy. We’ve spent today playing around with different roles, learning workshops for school visits and recruiting a willing audience by sending many an Oteshite, donned in brightly coloured t-shirts, around the City of St Davids.  Our performance this afternoon in the TYF Eco Hotel, was intimate but well executed in the small space provided.  Feedback ranged from ‘it was amazing,’ to, ‘it was too cheesy to watch,’ a rip-roaring success we thought.  Tonights cooking group (‘Good Looking Meal Cooking’) outdid any other by obtaining 20 portions of chips for only £15 then making baked beans n mushy peas, Otesha style.

We are getting sleepy now and we are getting up at 6:30am to carry on our journey as per norm so maybe beddy byes. However tomorrow we dress in superhero attire and set forth with haste to Pembroke, capes billowing in the wind. Let's hope next week we shall see less hills and wind (in more sense than one) and more healthy smiles and sunshine.

Lots of Otesha love,
Luci, Abby and the rest of the Wild West team

 

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Wild West – Tour Journal Week 2

It has been another intense, eventful week! Here we are at Green Man Festival near Crickhowell in Wales.  Our bellies have just been filled with a delicious fried breakfast cooked up on a camping stove by the “Das Mules on Wheels” cooking team.

We’ve survived a night of torrential rain that nearly flooded our tents (which we moved in the nick of time), squelchy rivers of mud, and being completely soaked with no guarantee of drying out. We soothed our sorrows and elevated our spirits with some cider brought by Millie, Jessie’s sister, who joined us for the weekend.

Our other lovely guests are Orlando (Jo’s special friend), Cammy (Abby’s friend), and Martha (Edmund’s girlfriend). We woke up to (miraculously!) no rain this morning, even some sunshine, and hope for a dry day as showtime approaches.

This week we’ve cycled 220 miles through beautiful countryside from Kettering via Leicester, Coventry, Warwick, and Worcester to Daisy’s grandmother Mary’s house in Abbey Dore at the Welsh border. We’ve had many an adventure and met wonderful people on the way! With four successful shows under our belt, the “Morning Choices” play is becoming more and more familiar and is constantly developing. We’re having so much fun with the play, swapping characters and performing!

Our first show was at the Arts Meets Environment Festival in Brigstock near Kettering, where we all nearly lost our voices competing with the band next to us! We had to rush off straight after to get to Clipston village hall about 20 miles away. It was good to get on the road after our week’s training. The freedom of moving and prospect of a new place were invigorating. Hello to Owen and his dad, who we met en route to Clipston – we hope you had fun fishing! Thank you also to Ian and Elaine from Kettering for helping a few members of our group to find the way to Brigstock!

Each day we divide ourselves into small cycling groups of 3-5 and stagger leaving (safety first!). The next morning (Monday) we mounted our noble steeds again and cycled via Leicester to a scout camp. It was an amazing day of cycling, giant slides in the playground in Leicester, a lovely cycle path (though the gates on it were a massive hindrance to groups with heavy trailers), picking blackberries, and meeting other groups on the way. Thank you to two lovely ladies in Market Harborough.

On Tuesday morning we visited Beacon Energy, a showcase of renewable energy technologies from solar panels to hydrogen power. Thanks to Tony Marmot, the owner, for showing us around. We had an interesting experience that provoked many discussions. Afterwards we still had a long way to cycle to Garden Organics (an lovely organic garden in Ryton, outside Coventry, where we pitched our tents in an orchard!). The last groups to leave sheltered miserably under the trees at Beacon Energy in a downpour of rain, waiting for the shower to pass before setting off. The weather was impossibly ever-changing that day, but we were rewarded with a mesmerising rainbow and beautiful skies, as well as a dream-come-true organic & health food shop upon arrival at Garden Organics. A big thank you to our hosts there as well as to Helena from “The Heritage Seed Library”, who gave us lots of vegetable seeds!

Wednesday was our longest cycle of the entire tour, about 60 miles to The Fold eco café in Bransford outside Worcester. It was an adventure of a day for everyone, with heavy rain and flooded roads, wrong turns and getting lost, but we all made it in the end – I was in the last group to arrive after 11 p.m. (having to cycle in the dark along main roads was not amusing). It was wonderful to arrive to warm hugs from the rest of the group and a delicious dinner cooked by the lovely people at The Fold.

Thursday dawned bright, sunny, warm and beautiful. We enjoyed a restful, cycle-free day with swimming in the river, rehearsing, and two performances at The Fold café. Our shows were a big success and we got lots of lovely positive feedback from our audience. Thank you to all the staff and our audience at the Fold (with special mention to Freddie and his sister!).

On Friday morning it was time to go again, with some groups visiting grandmothers on the way. We prepared for a very early start the next morning to get to Green Man.

Some of our favourite activities whilst cycling include singing, grazing on trail mix and dried fruit, ringing our bicycle bells, giving support to those with the trailers, chalking messages on the road for each other, and…. fixing punctures!!!

We’ve had minor mishaps with bicycles this week, requiring various visits to bicycle shops along the way. Special thanks go to Bikes 4 All, a social enterprise in Leicester, and Broadribbs in Lemington Spa for being very helpful, friendly, generous and super lovely!

We would like to extend a warm and heartfelt thank you to all our hosts this week, thank you so much for having us!

With much love, warm smiles, wet feet and excitement,
Karo and the rest of the Wild West nomadic cyclists

P.S. Our second performance at Green Man was a brilliant success, in my opinion the best one yet. We all had SO much fun, drunk with our group energy! We had an excellent response from the audience, with many who felt inspired by our play. It feels so rewarding to facilitate the propagation of this positive and empowering message!

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Wild West – Tour Journal Week One

Hello!

As the training week draws to a close, it's time for us to reflect on all the experiences we have had together in 7 intense and spectacular days.  There is loads to share with you so we thought we’d give you a taste of a day in the life of an Otesha tour member. Here goes!

It’s 7am and everyone is soundly asleep in their tents.  Everyone that is, except the cows, the sheep… and Peter. But not for long.

Suddenly music blasts out from Peter’s tent and the sounds of “Chim Chimminy Chim Chimminy Chim Chim Cheree” rouse our drowsy campers from their sleep. One by one, the cast jump from their tents in horrified anguish and join together in a crazy improvised dance off.  Legs and arms flail as the energy quickens and all rise to their feet.

Breakfast is served at 8, promptly. Maybe around 8.30.  Perhaps 9. Then our day really begins. First we warm ourselves up with a game.  Aside from being a fun way to start the day and get to know each other better, the games have helped us to develop confidence in acting, projection, movement and one of our favourite skills: supporting each other.

After a quick break for snacks (and hugs) we move on to workshops.  Some of the things we have covered include public speaking skills, how to run a workshop about the banana trade, bike maintenance, consensus decision making, film making and anti-oppression awareness.

Moving swiftly on, it's time for lunch.  Everyone runs, tupperware in hand, to the kitchen of the local village hall to fill our stomachs on delicious vegan food. We return for seconds.  And then thirds. And as the week goes on, fourths.  Once the facilitators manage to tear us away from the kitchen, we head back to the field.

We gather for a formal meeting to discuss the important topic of FOOD! This is an emotional subject for each and every one of us.  Heated discussions follow.  However, despite our challenges and differences we successfully reach a consensus using our decision making skills.  

Under the guidance of a rotating facilitator, we take turns speaking and we show our feelings using specific hand gestures… The tour is going to be vegan. It’s time for a hug. And of course, a snack and a nice cup of fairtrade tea.

Now time for the real deal. We’re creating a play, aren’t we? Working from a script written by previous Otesha members, we start to make the play our own. Using improvisation and the constructive criticism of our group, we developed many fantastic characters.  It’s only been three days and already we have a complete play to show on Sunday. Our first performance is going to be at the Art Meets Environment festival in Brigstock, where a local farmer has kindly hosted us all week.

We continue rehearsing after dinner.  Although we are all pretty tired by now, the enthusiasm and drive which has brought us here carries us through to the late night. We are really happy with what we have developed so far, and also very proud to say that as a team we couldn’t be stronger. (Oh dear, let’s move on before we sound too cheesy!)

We gather around the bonfire for our evening circle, where we each go around and share our highs and lows of the day with each other. This is one of the most important points of the day, when we can freely voice our feelings. There are plenty of highs, and we work as a group to resolve our lows.

  

 

Training week has been a journey within ourselves in Brigstock. Having collectively cleared the local Co-op of all of its oats, brown rice, grains, humous and dark chocolate, we feel it’s time to move on to another town where we can make a home. On Sunday, our cycling begins.

We can’t wait for our pedal touring disco adventure to start.

Much love and many hugs,
Eluned, Michelle and the Wild West tour xx