On Your Bike!

A celebration of the humble bicycle at the Waterfront Hall

While most of Belfast city centre sleeps on Sunday morning, the Waterfront Hall is alive with the spinning of spokes and the ringing of bells.

In conjunction with Queen's Film Theatre and Belfast Film Festival, the Waterfront and surrounding area plays host to On Your Bike!, a celebration of all things bicycle related, both on the big screen and in everyday life.

The day kicks off with a screening of Tim Burton’s first feature film, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, in the Waterfront Studio. Despite an early start, a large crowd is in attenance. Featuring Paul Reuben's titular character on a wacky road-trip, on which he tries to track down his beloved stolen bicycle, the lunatic set-pieces and toy-box colours really impress when viewed on the big screen.

Whilst this is, in essence, a childrens film, a large proportion of the audience is made up of likeminded giggling adults who should really know better – it's a joyous start to the day.

For those who find Pee Wee too much (or too weird) to handle, the nearby Belfast Barge shows the Nicole Kidman classic BMX Bandits on their lower deck – a hit with younger audience members and children of the 1980s alike.

Indeed, throughout the day simultaneous screenings run on the Barge and in the Waterfront Studio (as well as a large outdoor screen), providing a smorgasbord of bike-based celluloid and offering a large variety of genres.

Afternoon highlights include Vittoria de Sica’s revered classic, The Bicycle Thieves and Sylvain Chomet’s unique animation, Belleville Rendezvous. The Barge also shows a lunchtime double bill of short but sweet films aimed at junior cinephiles, the animation Love Triangle and Englebert Humperdinck driven musical Les Bicyclette de Belsize, comfy beanbags provided.

Whilst the film roster is comprehensive, it is far from the only aspect of On Your Bike!. An impressive outdoor stage is erected by the water’s edge, with performances throughout the day from a wide array of acts, including the red hot banjo of Stephen Hall and the Moon Shed, local favourites Katie and the Carnival and a seering early evening set from Pat Dam Smyth.

As well as fashion shows at regular intervals throughout the day and an exhibition of cycling related art in the Waterfront foyer, an unmissable hit of the event is the RampRage Jump Show – a jawdropping display of BMX tricks. Two huge 7ft quarter pipes are constructed outside of the Waterfront, with a giant 6ft jump box in the middle. The stunts are mindblowing.

Offbeat clowning performances from The Barren Carrousel, Paul Currie and many more quirky acts pepper the afternoon, along with talks on basic bicycle maintenance and workshops from Young at Art, where youths are invited to make their own reflector badges and cycle accessories.

A special mention should go to the hundreds of people who turn up to the event on their own bicycles, and indeed a lot of fun is to be had admiring the rides on display.

The day is finished off in style with what is, for me, the ultimate bicycle movie – the great Jacque Tati’s Jour de Fete. A tale of one bicycle postman’s struggle against modern transportation methods, it is the perfect mix of charm and hilarity.

The whole day runs like a finely tuned machine and delivers a variety of delights. Perhaps the most staggering aspect is that the whole event is entirely free. This is the icing on the proverbial cake for a day that outclasses many overpriced festivals – consider the bar raised!