Festival of Cycling Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Dunlop Sports Field, Erdington (Birmingham) (Birmingham, Warwickshire, England)

Year: None

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


23 June at 6.15pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Festival President [Pageant Master]: Kimberley, F.A.
  • Festival Organiser: E.T. Bannister
  • Commentators: Winifred Munday, A.P. Chamberlin and Reg. C. Shaw


Kimberley was President of The British Cycle and Motor Cycle Manufacturers Association.

Names of executive committee or equivalent


Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • McLachlan, D.D.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Sponsors of the Festival included the British Cycle and Motor Cycle Manufacturers TU, Gaumont and Odeon Theatres, National Cycling Union, National Clarion, Tricycle Association, and the National Association of Cycle Traders.

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Part of the Festival of Cycling, 23-24 June 1951, which was itself a part of the Festival of Britain Celebrations. 

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a



Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

Other Events of the Festival of Cycling included Release of Pigeons, Parade of Clubs, Cycling Races, Bicycle Safety and Skill exhibitions, Tug o’war, Folk Dancing, Festival of Cycling Singers, Cabaret, Fireworks, Open-Air Church Service by the Archdeacon of Birmingham, and Bicycle Polo.

Pageant outline


Episode One. Two-Legged Transport

Ancient Greeks light the Olympic torch and send a third Greek off on foot carrying the torch around the stadium.

Episode Two. Four-Legged Transport, Eighteenth Century

Dick Turpin on horseback starts his famous ride to York.

Episode Three. Two-Wheeled Transport – The Earliest Illustration 1640s

The first known illustration of a bicycle-shaped vehicle is installed, in the shape of a stained glass window, in Stoke Poges Church near Windsor, 1642. Tableau shows craftsmen of the period carrying the stained glass window as onlookers look suitably amazed.

Episode Four. The Bicycle – Feet on the Ground, 1760-1790

  • Alternative One: A Phaeton in Fleet Street, London
  • Alternative Two (if a tableau of the Phaeton cannot be produced): A Parisian carrying a toy Velocifere. Then De Sivrac with his full-sized Velocifere

Episode Five. Feet Still on the Ground – The Hobby Horse, 1818

Baron Von Drais startles London with the Draisienne or Hobby Horse, startling a group of onlookers. Disraeli rides a hobby horse to the Houses of Parliament

Episode Six. Feet Off the Ground – The Bicycle is Born (1839-42)

MacMillan cycles along and arrives before Glasgow Magistrates. Before interested onlookers, he is fined 5s for knocking down a child on a side-path. Much shaking of heads as he rides away, seemingly unperturbed.

Episode Seven. MacMillan’s Design Departed From! – The Dear old ‘Boneshaker’ or Velocipede, 1869

Scene in Hyde Park with a group admiring the Boneshaker

Episode Eight. And Now the World-Famous ‘Penny Farthing!’, 1874-1890

The Commentator introduces ‘The Penny Farthing’, ‘which was the steed of the adventurous young men of the period, contributed nothing to cycle design, but what a thrill to our grand-parents or great-parents who rode it!’

[Alterative of a tableau of three girls  ‘crazy about the adventurous “young blood” on his Penny Farthing, just as modern teenager girls go crazy over Motor-Cycle Speedway riders!’]

[Alternative Two: Set in the (topical) Battersea Park (current site of Festival Gardens) where the ‘smart set’ of the 1880s and 1890s meet, where both men and women cycles.]

Episode Nine. And Now the Bicycle is Really Born – As A Commercial Proposition, 1885.

J.K. Starley against the background of the Stock Exchange with gentleman bidding up bicycle stocks and shares. The Commentator tells the story of the ‘Bicycle Boom’.

Episode Ten. It’s the Great Year of 1888!

The annus mirabilis of cycling. J.B. Dunlop has invented the pneumatic tyre, the cyclists are given freedom of the highway. Tableau of Dunlop being given a copy of the Act of 1888 and then winning a race on his pneumatic-tyred machine.

Episode Eleven. The Bicycle As We Know It To-Day.

We move from a 1900 girl to a 1920s girl to the Clubgirls to-day on bicycles, set against a country inn.

Episode Twelve. The Bicycle as a Dollar-Earner and a vital British Export.

A final tableau of cyclists in the costumes of the USA, South America, British West Africa, Malaya, India, Canada, Rhodesia and New Zealand on modern British bicycles draped in their countries’ flags. This is followed by a British Club Girl and Clubman Cyclist, one with the Union Jack and the Saltire. Fallowed by standard-bearers with flags of the CTC, NCU, National Clarion, and Tricycle Association.


The Runner from the Prologue mounts a modern bicycle and cycles around the stadium with his torch alight. The Narrator declares: 

In this Festival Year, we send a message throughout the world that this Game of Cycling which we love will go from strength to strength in the years to come!

God Save the King is sung.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Turpin, Richard [Dick] (bap. 1705, d. 1739) highwayman
  • Disraeli, Benjamin, earl of Beaconsfield (1804–1881) prime minister and novelist
  • Macmillan, Kirkpatrick (bap. 1812, d. 1878) inventor of the pedal bicycle
  • Starley, John Kemp (1855–1901) bicycle manufacturer
  • Dunlop, John Boyd (1840–1921) inventor of the pneumatic tyre

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant


Book of words

None noted

Other primary published materials

  • Festival of Cycling: Programme. London, 1951.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Warwick Modern Records Centre. Copy Programme and typescript of the Pageant, Reference MSS.328/C/3/5/1

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The 1951 Festival of Britain was the occasion for many historical pageants (see Coventry and Wollaston), of which the Festival of Cycling Pageant was certainly one of the more unconventional. Most of these took the form of celebrations of the history of particular localities. This pageant, however, told the story of the development of the bicycle, and the pastime of cycling. It was held as part of the Festival of Cycling, itself an element of the wider Festival of Britain, but it was evidently also something of a publicity stunt for the bicycle industry. The event itself was held at the Dunlop Sports Field, which was in the grounds of the Dunlop Rubber factory complex in the Erdington district of Birmingham: unsurprisingly, J.B. Dunlop, inventor of the pneumatic tyre in 1888 (‘the annus mirabilis of cycling’), got an episode to himself. Aside from Dunlop, other sponsors included the National Association of Cycle Traders and the British Cycle and Motor Cycle Manufacturers Association whose head, F.A. Kimberley, officiated as president of the pageant.


How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Festival of Cycling Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1469/