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Godiva Awakes - Pashley-powered 30-foot puppet heads from Coventry to London Olympics

Arts Council-funded project enlists help of 100 cyclists split into teams of four

A 30-foot model of Lady Godiva will next year make the journey from Coventry to London in time for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, powered by 25 cyclists riding tricycles made by Stratford-Upon-Avon firm, Pashley. In all, 100 riders will take part in the week-long journey, split into four groups that will ride half-day shifts.

The project, called Godiva Awakes and devised by Imagineer Productions, is one of 12 arts projects throughout Britain funded by the Arts Council to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad.

One cyclist will tow the rig, called the Cyclopedia, containing the Godiva model, which will be animated by a team of puppeteers, with the other 24 riding behind it.

The riders involved range from novices to serious competitors, and have been in training since the start of this year. One, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire producer Rosie King, is blogging about her preparations for the BBC.

Initial sketches for the model were prepared by artist Frans Wesselman, with designers and engineers from Coventry University and NP Aerospace then working together on how to translate the concept into reality.

Unlike her medieval counterpart who rode naked through the streets of Coventry, this particular Godiva, who will be sat on a horse, will be clothed in undergarments designed by fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, covered by a cloak made by glass and textile artists from the West Midlands.

Imagineer say that “Producing a road-going multi-seated cycling machine capable of travel to London and powering Godiva requires a structurally sound and innovative design. The Cyclopedia draws on Coventry’s past ingenuity in bicycle design and uses contemporary light weight materials, technology and human power in the design.”

At their second group training session, held last Sunday at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, the cyclists powered a prototype rig for the first time.

Kathi Leahy, Director at Imagineer Productions, commented: “Seeing both the team develop and the Cyclopedia take shape is hugely exciting for Imagineer.

“The Godiva Awakes Cycle team continue to demonstrate their commitment to being part of London 2012 through our project so we can’t wait to see the cyclists try out the prototype Cyclopedia and really begin to step up to the challenge that is ahead in 2012.”

David Batstone, from NP Aerospace will act as lead cyclist on the project, which he has worked on from its earliest stages, as he explains.

“My involvement with Cyclopedia was initially through my role as a design engineer at NP Aerospace assisting Roger Medwell and Harvi Sagoo.

“As I’m responsible for designing the concept of linking the tricycles together it is appropriate at this stage in the program I take the lead tricycle to better understand any problems and issues we may have and to get feedback from the other cyclists.

“We still have many design details to resolve that are inherent in a structure of this size and weight while staying true to the artists brief.

“As a regular cyclist I know this will be physically challenging, but Cyclopedia will present an amazing sight on the road to London.”

Godiva Awakes will travel from Coventry to the London Borough of Waltham Forest next July via Rugby, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Luton, Hatfield and Waltham Abbey.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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