Brighton Festival: searching for the perfect place to hide a secret

For this year’s Brighton Festival, Portslade-based Blast Theory are inviting you to cycle through the streets, searching for the perfect place to hide a secret.

Rider Spoke Brighton Festival 2021_credit Blast Theory
Rider Spoke Brighton Festival 2021_credit Blast Theory

As you ride on, the voices of strangers will draw you to new and unknown places…

Going under the title Rider Spoke, the event runs from May 1-3, May 5-9, May 11-16 and May 18-23.

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And as Nick Tandavanitj, one of the three Blast Theory artists and the lead on Rider Spoke, says, it should prove a Covid-proof experience: “You are going to be outdoors and you are going to be on your own.”

The idea is that Rider Spoke invites you on a ride guided by a smartphone app with a narrator and a delicate score by Blanket. You will be prompted to think about the people in your life while you search for hiding places. You will be urged to record messages and share them with strangers you will never meet. As Nick says, “To cycle alone, in the evening, with no particular destination offers a rare freedom.”

Blast Theory create internationally celebrated experiences that explore how we connect with strangers and how technology shapes society. Rider Spoke certainly fits into that pattern.

“It’s actually very simple. It’s a bike ride where you are guided by a smart phone. We have a special handlebar mount for the phone. It attaches to your bike, and you have an earpiece just in one ear. And you hear a narrator, and as you cycle it invites you to explore the city.

“The narrator will also ask you to reflect on your own lives and she asks you questions about yourself and then you find a safe place to stop and record your answers. You are invited to explore, you listen as you cycle and then you stop and you record.

“The work comes from thinking about the experiences that we all have. We are a group of three artists and we have been working in the field of interactive art for decades, and we all had a common experience of using cycling as a space to think and reflect. The act of just travelling means that you are slightly detached from the world. If you have had an argument or an emotionally-intense experience, then you might be needing to escape, to get away, and cycling is one of the ways you can do that. It is about having an opportunity to take some time for yourself. It’s about inviting people to go and find a safe place where they can go and share their thoughts and talk about themselves, to share something intimate about themselves.

“It’s an experience which will be about 60 minutes, and we have got a growing archive of recordings. People are invited to contribute their recordings to the archive anonymously. So it is a place where you can make a contribution, and if you make a contribution, then you can listen to other people’s contributions. It’s actually a project that we developed back in 2007. We made it in advance of smart phones. Back then we had a very obscure piece of technology called an internet tablet. It was an experimental piece of work and we ended up taking it to 20 cities. It toured to Australia. It toured to Italy. There is already an archive of recordings. And we showed the work at the Brighton Festival ten years ago.

“Please bring your own bike to take part in Rider Spoke. If you don’t have a bike, it’s easy to rent one from BTN Bikes. Please note that you need to wear a helmet to take part in Rider Spoke. We have a limited number of helmets available for you to borrow. We have tested Rider Spoke for use by audiences with diverse access needs. We welcome you to take part on your bicycle, wheelchair, mobility scooter, alternative cycle or on foot. We also offer some access technologies, suggested routes and additional assistance - including a free ticket for your carer or buddy – on request.” May 1-23, 6–9.30pm (slots every 15 mins). Meet opposite Theatre Royal Brighton.