REMARKABLE FUNDRAISING EVENT AT THE STEPHEN NEALL GROUP PRODUCING £50,000 FOR CHARITY
Stephen A Gee (Andy Gee to my family and friends), Son of Alan Gee (a former member of Leeds Kirkgate cycling club). Proprietor of a premium furniture studio & small to medium family business in central Harrogate.
In 2013 the Kirkgate’s lost a stalwart member, when Alan passed away after a long battle against Cancer. Cycling and The Kirkgate’s gave Alan a lifetime’s fulfilment in the world of cycling and I know he would be very proud if I could give something back in his honour. The Tour de France Grand depart on the 5th July is a unique platform to raise funds for a good cause and an ideal opportunity to use a unique venue at The Factory building, to embrace Le Tour 2014 in Yorkshire.
Poliform North embraced the spirit of The Tour alongside RedHouse Originals art gallery and artist James Straffon, to host a series of events at their luxurious town centre showroom, within 250 yards of the 2014 Tour de France stage one finish line. Yesterday’s heroes of cycling.
Poliform North @ The Factory building (part of The Stephen Neall Group) hosted an incredible collection of original artefacts focusing on the “diehard and dedicated” heroes of cycling. With the help and support of a select group of veteran cyclists, the “heroes of cycling” collection included photographic images of cycling in the 50’s and 60’s, digitally enhanced to run on screen and projection. In addition to the photography, we gathered original vintage – national and international championship jerseys and an extraordinary collection of vintage bicycles including replica or actual examples of road and track bikes used by icons of cycling such as Tommy Simpson, Brian Robinson, Ken Russell, Barry Hoban, Maurice Woodrup, Beryl Burton, Franchesco Moser, Alistair Brownlee, Dave Rayner, Brenda Atkinson, Daniel Davis and some other collectable gems from cycling’s past.
CARBON, SULPHUR AND PAINT
Artist, James Straffon created 42 original artworks focusing on the unrivalled heritage of the world’s greatest cycle race – the Tour de France. Drawing on the rich and vibrant history of the tour and its affinity with Yorkshire, a selection of the specially created portraits of the greatest riders on the tour could be seen alongside some of the biggest names in cycling today. James’s work was exhibited extensively at RedHouse Originals, with a satellite exhibition at The Factory building, trading premises of Poliformnorth.
“It will be my final body of work focused on this unrivalled sporting spectacle. So I feel honoured to mark this closing chapter of my artistic career with the race coming to Harrogate. The Grand Depart represents a unique moment in time, and this show celebrates that. I have come to understand that this epic story has a place for every person who takes to the open road. And that, perhaps, is the heart – legacy.” James Straffon
Stephen Gee commissioned a unique large scale installation illustrating portraits of 8 cycling icons. The installation (sponsored by The Stephen Neall Group) was mounted onto a 90ft long wall of The Factory building, office and showroom for Poliform North and a major focal point in Harrogate town centre.
The giant mural was a showcase of iconic images of cycling heroes including, Jacques Anquetil, Tommy Simpson, Brian Robinson, Barry Hoban, Mark Cavendish, Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx and Bradley Wiggins. The public could view the mural from all inward and outbound trains and in the town centre from Station Bridge and from Victoria Avenue. The actual Murals each 2.5mtr x 2.5mtr became available after the tour, to the highest bidder with 100% of the pledge going to two chosen benefactors. The Dave Rayner Trust Fund and Yorkshire Air ambulance.
Throughout the duration of the Tour de France event, the focus was on fundraising for two charitable causes. The chosen benefactors are The Dave Rayner Trust Fund and Yorkshire Air ambulance.
November 2014 will mark 20 years since Dave Rayner passed away. Since then his name and memory has been kept alive by the very existence of the organisation that bears his name; The Dave Rayner Trust Fund. The Fund was established in 1995 in order to help young riders go abroad to live and race, just as Dave had done. Since then more than 300 season long funding packages have been offered to over 150 different riders. The requirements are simple: under 23 category and willing and able to live and race abroad for a full season with enough ability to obtain results and enough desire to continually improve. The Yorkshire Air Ambulance is an independent charity providing a life saving rapid response emergency service to 5 million people across Yorkshire. Flying seven days a week, 365 days a year, covering a vast landscape that not only do we includes major cities and motor ways, but also rural and isolated locations. The charity needs to raise £9990 per day to keep both of Yorkshire’s Air Ambulances maintained and in the air.
On Saturday 5th July 2014, The Stephen Neall Group hosted a Grand De-party which provided a safe house for many veteran masters of cycling, a gaggle of VIP’s and a whole day of specially prepared events – all culminating in an intimate talk by Yorkshire legends in cycling – Brian Robinson and Barry Hoban.
A CHALLENGE TO COLLECT SIGNATURES FROM ALL OF THE LIVING LEGENDS
In the excitement of the moment and in true sporting spirit, a challenge was set by Mark Dransfield. To secure such a large sum of money for charity, the artist James Straffon should authenticate the whole mural collection and each surviving or current cycling icons should sign his picture. Sounds easy, but 1760miles later !!! For 5 months and after countless telephone calls and emails to cyclists, cycling journalists, charities, agents, Team Sky, British Cycling, Cycling veterans, Cycling professionals and contacts throughout England, Wales, Isle of man, Belgium, France, Spain and Canada – eventually a twitter champagne followed by a sequence of events kick started the signings
THE FIRST TO SIGN
4th November 2014 – 3.00pm West Yorkshire
Brian Robinson, the mural image was carried into his kitchen for signing on the kitchen table accompanied by a cuppa, a digestive and a very special one to one with an icon and a champion.
4th November – 5.30pm Manchester
Mark Cavendish or Bradley Wiggins
As is was unlikely that we would have the opportunity to meet Mark Cavendish or Bradley Wiggins in the privacy of their own home, it was recommended that we leave the images each measuring 8 feet square at Manchester Velodrome in the care of Jonny Clay (Sport and membership director) at British Cycling. It could take a week or two, but this would be our best shot at getting both riders to sign and the bonus was, a guided tour by Jonny of the Velodrome and BMX facilities which are stunning.
4th November- 8.30pm Mid Wales
Barry Hoban, The kitchen table came in handy again when Barry’s mural image was squeezed into his farmhouse kitchen for signing on the kitchen table, the option of a glass of fine red wine was offered, but in view of the pending trek back to Yorkshire that evening – a welcome cuppa and another digestive it was. This was no average cuppa but a chance to get an insight into the world of not only one of Yorkshires cycling pioneers Barry Hoban, but also of the late-great Tommy Simpson. What a night.
8th November- The Dave Rayner dinner
The DRF dinner had been a mile stone of a date to conclude the financial transactions, however, after a couple of failed attempts to secure the signatures of Mark and Bradley, the pressure started to mount. The dinner was an ideal stage to broadcast our (potential) achievement. Potential, because as we all know the deal isn’t done until the fat lady sings (or the money is in the bank) and the pledge of £50k could easily go sour. With the agreement of Brian Robinson and other key members of DRF, we agreed to go public with the pledge in the hope of attracting attention and ultimately from both Mark and Bradley. The stunt was a success and after an introduction by Jos Ryan to Fran Miller, the chase for signatures gathered some pace and things started to happen.
17th November – Belgium
We receive messages from Fran Miller (Team Sky) and Jos Ryan (Journalist and Friend of Mark) that Mark Cavendish has agreed to sign – if we can get his picture to Belgium!
20th November – Manchester
Collect Mark Cavendish’s picture from the Velodrome
22nd November – 7.00pm North Yorkshire
Depart for Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel
23rd November – 10.15am Arrive Ghent Belgium
Miraculously, we arrived exactly on time to meet Jos Ryan, a friend of marks, a journalist and fund raiser for the dave Rayner fund. Jos had arranged for us to meet Mark at his hotel while competing in the 6 day event at Ghent. We took control of the hotel’s lobby area and assembled Mark and Eddy Merckx pictures for viewing and signing. We caused a commotion as you can imagine, especially as we hadn’t sought permission from the hotel management beforehand! Mark joined us after his breakfast and following a chat about our escapade he signed the corner of his picture, result.
23rd November – 12am midnight North Yorkshire
After a mammoth drive back through torrential rainstorms and one particular (*#c%ing) speed camera!
Eddy Merckx was always the long shot and a signature that we could only dream of getting, especially as Eddy was a tax exile living between Monaco and Canada, but a challenge is a challenge and in for a penny so to speak. We had a shot at getting Eddy’s signature if we were prepared to leave his picture in Belgium. The picture would be cared for by Jos’s partner – ex-pro cyclist Tim Harris.
4th December – 3.17pm Manchester Velodrome
Fran Miller (Team Sky) sends a message (and I didn’t die trying, it was touch and go though) job done as Bradley Wiggins signs his picture at The Velodrome after months of gentle persuasion, we finally got our man.
18th December – 1.30pm Manchester
Collect Mark Cavendish’s picture from the Velodrome
23rd January 2015
Tim’s hunch paid off and on the 23rd January I received a message to say that Eddy had signed. Tim then very kindly arranged for the picture to be returned to the UK vie a friends warehouse in Northampton. It may be that we delivered the picture and pushed for this signature, but the fact is without Jos and Tim and no doubt some special people in Belgium, this wouldn’t have happened.
11th January – 11.30am Northampton
Collection of the final signed picture – Eddy Merckx
Total trip 1760miles covered
Hand over to Mr Mark Dransfield
On the 19th March 2015, some 15 months after the installation of the Mural collection, Mark Dransfield of Dransfield properties, took delivery of the 9 Mural images at his business premises in Penistone Sheffield. After installing of the Mural images onto the walls of this prestigious office building, Mark presented me with 2 very welcome cheques.
Presentation of Cheques at Nostell Priory to
On the 21st March 2015, by invitation from Tony Dovestone, I along with my family and one or two very special veteran cyclists attended Nostell Priory for a VIP tour of the facilities. The day was a perfect opportunity to gain an indepth knowledge of the YAA and to finally gift a cheque for £25,000.00
Presentation of Cheques at Cavendish Pavilion to
The legacy is real, after a 40 year intermission, the TDF Yorkshire has put me back in the saddle and I’m loving it.
On the1st April 2015 and in a fit of excitement or madness I’m not sure which, I arranged to meet Brian Robinson and a veritable peloton of Yorkshire’s cycling heroes on a cafe ride from Burley to Cavendish pavilion in the grounds of Bolton Abbey. A coffee stop in the company of the people who inspired me to take on the challenge is the perfect end to LeTour Grand Depart Yorkshire.