Strong Island Co.

Photography

Exhibition of Photography by Meryem Amelia at The Kings Theatre

The Kings Theatre on Albert Road has for the last few years been home to not just performances on the main stage but also exhibitions of art and photography in the public spaces by the circle and bar. The exhibitions of artwork get seen by 1000s of people a month and often focus on different elements of Portsmouth.

Currently on show is an exhibition by local photographer Meryem Amelia who has her first exhibition on the walls from now until the 2nd of May, with many of her photos featuring the city. The exhibition is also open to the public on Thursday and Saturdays via the theatre box office, so if you’re passing get a look.

Below are a couple of examples of the images on show.

Photography by Meryem Amelia (1)

Photography by Meryem Amelia (2)

Photos from Southsea Seafront & Southsea Rowing Club Photo Walkshop

Saturday morning we were out in the sun (well, while it lasted anyway) along Southsea seafront for our 17th photo walkshop. The sold out walkshop started off at the foot of the new Solent wheel ride at Clarence Pier, the latest landmark in the city. We looked at triptych ways of documenting a scene and also using reflections on windows and puddles. We made our way down to the hovercraft and used some different focusing and composition techniques in capturing the busy Solent. As the weather took a little turn for the worse and the sky turned grey and the sea turned green we made it to Southsea Rowing Club just in time. The club had kindly agreed to let us explore their boathouse on this walkshop, with a rare glimpse at the craft as well as the different equipment, etc. With the sun back out we finished up the walkshop looking at using depth of field when photographing one of their craft ready for the water.

The next photo walkshop is at the beautiful East Head, with us looking at the sand banks and the sand dunes. This and all the new spring and early summer walkshops in Portsmouth and at Emsworth, Hamble, Lee on Solent and more spots on the south coast can be booked HERE, the walkshops are 2 hours long and only £10. We also have a couple of walkshops with Chichester Harbour Conservancy that are 3 hours long too.

Photos from Saturday’s walkshop are below, you can find out all about the Strong Island photography walkshops at:

www.photowalkshops.com


























Created Local – Instagram @philswitch.engage

In the fifth of our special features celebrating our favourite Instagram photographers with links with our city we are featuring Phil Tickner (@philswitch.engage).

Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from and your links with Portsmouth if no longer living here?

I was born and spent the first few years of my life in Portsmouth, specifically Fratton, before moving to live in Bedhampton and Havant. I returned to the island about six years ago and now I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Most of my free time is taken up by roller derby related shenanigans (I’m one of the official photographers for the Portsmouth Roller Wenches, and also play as one of the Portsmouth Scurvy Dogs) and what time is left is shared between cycling (when the weather allows it) and getting tattooed, mostly.

Do you have a favoured camera or device that you use for your Instagram photography?

I always had a massive problem with the whole idea of ‘Instagram photography’ for some reason, that was until I finally got myself a phone that could take a decent picture. It’s not always practical to lug round my usual DSLR kit so the idea of capturing a passing moment with something that fits in your pocket finally made a lot of sense. Currently using a poverty-spec iPhone 5c, but it does the job.

@philswitch.engage

@philswitch.engage

Can you tell us more about your photographic experience, is this something that you’ve studied or maybe a hobby which you’ve developed?

Photography has always been a hobby, and I’ve never had much in the way of tuition aside from the odd tip I’ve picked up from photographer friends. It’s always just been a case of getting stuck in and attempting to learn from my mistakes.

Would you say that you take photos more for yourself or for others?

I try to take photos primarily to please myself – when I tried to make a bit of money doing wedding jobs and the like, I found myself quickly losing my passion for photography as soon as I had to try and work around someone else’s idea of a good photo. I’m much happier just doing my own thing again. However, I’m not going to deny it’s a great feeling to have someone compliment my work, so I guess there’s a part of me that still tries to take some photos that I know people will enjoy looking at.

Exploring the theme of the “Local”, Portsmouth has a wide variety of climatic conditions, buildings and landscapes. Are there any local places or environments that are personal to you or that you love to photograph for a particular reason?

Personally my biggest preference for subject matter is the local street art scene – I’ve become good friends with many local creatives through it, and thoroughly enjoy documenting the work that appears around the city, both out in public and inside galleries and exhibitions. The greatest appeal to me is the fact that it’s not permanent – so having a record of pieces that I enjoy is extremely important, before they disappear for good.

Are their any other photographers who either influence you or that you would encourage our readers to also check out?

I tend not to take influence from anyone else, as such, and I don’t think the work I do has a particular style itself that anyone would be able to identify – I basically just make it up as I go along most of the time. Not really a good answer but I can’t do a lot better than that.

@philswitch.engage

@philswitch.engage

@philswitch.engage

The Strong Island Calendar 2017 Needs You! #SIC2017

Firstly from everyone at Strong Island and the Alzheimers Society we would like to thank you for your continued support of the calendar project. We hope that they are all taking pride of place in your kitchens, offices or wherever you’ve chosen to hang them.

We are now open to submissions for our 2017 calendar. We welcome submissions from photographers of all abilities whether you use an digital SLR or mobile phone. If you’ve taken a photo that you’d like to submit then we have made it even easier this year. As well as using the hashtag #SIC2016 you now submit your photos using the Strong Island Facebook page here. Simply click on the calendar option and then just follow the on screen prompts. Should you have any questions please just let us know.

There are no limits to how many you submit, the only rule is that the image must be relevant to Portsmouth. This can include photos that have already been taken prior to today. We are especially keen to receive submissions from all over Portsmouth not just our favourite Southsea landmarks.

If you think you know someone who might be interested or is perhaps too shy to get in contact then please share this with them and encourage them to get involved!

Calendar Call 2017 FINAL2

PompeySaturdays/SouthseaSundays Photography Exhibition

PompeySaturdays/SouthseaSundays is a new photography exhibition designed to showcase all sides of Portsmouth. The exhibition will feature work by local photographer Andrew Malbon, from St Jude’s Church in Southsea, including two sets of his contemporary photos featuring some of the defining experiences of living in the city.

In the exhibition will be black-and-white photos showing ‘Pompey Saturdays’ which get to the heart of what it feels like to roll up at Fratton Park full of expectation on a match-day – and the emotions generated by the result. There will also be Andrew’s colour photos uncovering ‘Southsea Sundays’, that showcase the beauty and vitality of a sunny day on the seafront. Both contrasting sets of images will be on display (and for sale) at St Jude’s Church, Kent Road, Southsea, from 9am to 5pm each day from April 16th to April 30th. The two-week exhibition will be launched at an event from 7pm to 9pm on Saturday.

The exhibition will raise funds for a group of 18 adults and teenagers who are giving up 10 days of their holiday this summer to help decorate a school in Ghana. The group, who have called themselves ‘Project G’ come from Church of England churches across the city of Portsmouth. They’ll be heading off for a life-changing trip to Ghana in July, decorating a classroom for children who have special needs.

Andrew, who works as an architect for Portsmouth City Council said: “I’ve lived in Portsmouth since I was at university here, and I’m only a few hundred yards away from Fratton Park. You can see the expectation in the faces as the fans walk to the ground, and you can feel the elation or despair as they pour out again at the end. I wanted to capture that emotion. Portsmouth also has a fundamental relationship with the sea, which is best expressed for me in the colour, vitality and peacefulness of Southsea seafront. I’ve tried to capture some of the details that make the scenery come alive for me.”

Check the flyer below for more details and also some examples of Andrew’s great photography that will be on show in the exhibition.

PompeySaturdays/SouthseaSundays Photography Exhibition (3)

PompeySaturdays/SouthseaSundays Photography Exhibition (4)

PompeySaturdays/SouthseaSundays Photography Exhibition (5)

PompeySaturdays/SouthseaSundays Photography Exhibition (2)

Photos from Hilsea Lines & Foxes Forest Photo Walkshop

Saturday morning we had our second photography walkshop at Hilsea Lines and Foxes Forest (and our 16th in total), a great place to experience nature’s first sights, sounds and smells of springtime, and we even had a little sunshine too. We started off at one of the freshwater moats/lakes with a friendly pair of swans and the first of this spring’s bluebells. We looked at different focusing techniques and the advantages of switching between auto and manual. With the snowdrops and bluebells we also looked at macro settings too. We walked down to Foxes Forest and looked at different perspectives and how to creative narrative within images using a variety of composition techniques and tips. We made our way down to the bastion tunnel and then back to the moat lake water before ending up by the railway bridge and reed beds. A huge thank you to everyone who came along to this sell out walkshop!

The first of the spring & early summer photo walkshops is this Saturday, exploring the western edge of Southsea Beach including Clarence Pier. From there we get to have an exclusive explore of the Southsea Rowing Club boathouse on Southsea Beach. You can book this walkshop online HERE.

You can see photos from Saturday’s walk below, to find out more about our photography walkshops visit:

www.photowalkshops.com


























New Photo Walkshop Next Saturday at Southsea Rowing Club

A quick heads-up, we’ve begun adding the spring & summer walkshops to the Photo Walkshops website and we’ve made the first one bookable. It is a bit last minute (next Saturday the 16th April 10am to 12pm) and will be on Southsea seafront but will include something very unusual: a rare chance to explore with your camera the Southsea Rowing Club boathouse. We’re always trying to book unusual places and team up with local organisations so a big thank you to the guys at the club for welcoming us. We’re working on a few features with the club for the new website too, keep an eye out for those soon.

You can book on to this photo walkshop HERE and full details are below:

We’ll be starting off at Clarence Pier, photographing elements of some of the rides (like the new Solent Eye) before moving down Southsea Beach to the Hovercraft arriving and departing. We’ll continue quickly along the beach to the Southsea Rowing Club who have kindly invited us to explore their boathouse with our cameras and who will going out on the water (if the conditions are right).

Expect to see a busy pier, lots of craft on the Solent with many different types of boats, interesting beach finds and a fascinating and rare chance to explore the rowing club.

Meet at:

The entrance of the arcades at Clarence Pier for 10am. Parking is available across the road in the main carpark or on the road, where available (pay & display). There is a main bus stop right by the meeting point.

Notes:

This walk is about 80% wheelchair accessible, apart from a period on the beach. The promenade can be part of the walkshop (including the ‘yellow’ shelter) as an alternative as access to the beach itself may not be easy/possible.

Aspex Gallery Joins The BBC’s ‘Get Creative’ This Saturday

‘Get Creative’ is a scheme celebrating arts, culture and creativity across the country. The BBC has teamed up with a variety of organisations, attempting to make getting creative easy and enjoyable. This Saturday (2nd April) to can get creative at Aspex Gallery.

Throughout the day, the Aspex team will be delivering a variety of imaginative activities responding to their Main Space exhibition ‘Waldeinseimkeit’ by Malene Hartmann Rasmussen. Families will be challenged to create a story for Aspex’s Twitter in 140 characters or less, using Malene’s woodland-inspired ceramics and artwork as inspiration. They will also put their photography skills to test, taking over Aspex’s Instagram, capturing the work from a new perspective.

Aspex aims to reach the wider community through a programme of engaging, participatory events. It is part of several free workshops hosted by the gallery, preceding the launch of ‘Family Saturday’s’ in mid-June.

Find out more at:

www.aspex.org.uk

BBC Get Creative


Photo by Megan Humphries.

Photography Kayak Trip In May With Portsmouth Watersports

Portsmouth Watersports are running another of their popular kayaking trips on Langstone Harbour, focusing specifically on photography. You can kayak around the beautiful Harbour and with a bit of luck you can spot & photograph seals and different birds (such as terns) plus a variety of important archaeological features, including the Mulberry Harbour, which was built in support of the D-Day landings. Langstone Harbour contains four islands and large expanses of mud flats, shingle banks and sand banks which are exposed at low water, this is a great opportunity to explore the harbour with your camera in a really fun, new way.

The kayak photography trip will be on Sunday 15th May from 9:30am to 1pm, and only £40 per person. All kayaking equipment and kit is supplied, you will be given basic instruction on kayaking, and led on the trip by an experienced instructor. All you need to do is to bring your camera and cross your fingers for seals sunbathing!

Limited spaces are available, to book please call 02392 663873. For more details visit:

www.portsmouthwatersports.com




Created Local – Instagram @no1son

In the fourth of our special features celebrating our favourite Instagram photographers with links with our city we are featuring Scott Birnie (@no1son).

Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from and your links with Portsmouth if no longer living here?

I am a graphic, web and UI designer and based in a shared office space in beautiful Emsworth. I originally come from Aberdeen, Scotland and moved “dan saff” in the year 2000. We moved to Havant in 2006 as my wife is originally from here. All her family is here and my own family moved near the area too.

I work in Emsworth and commute (on bike mostly) to the office from Havant.

Do you have a favoured camera or device that you use for your Instagram photography?

I only tend to use my iPhone 6 for Instagram shots as it is quick, easy and always in my pocket ready to capture that perfect pic. I also run some of the shots through various camera and visuals apps. My favourite and pretty much go to app is called Sanpseed. I then run it through some favoured processes and what I like to think gives me a certain style to my shots. For some of the more abstract shots on my Instagram feed i have used other apps like Fragment and Layout (Instagram’s native one).

Scott Birnie

Scott Birnie

Can you tell us more about your photographic experience, is this something that you’ve studied or maybe a hobby which you’ve developed?

I went to Grays School of Art in Aberdeen and photography has always been something I have done through the course and since. I have an honours (2.1) degree in Design and Craft so like to think I have some kind of eye for it! I have always enjoyed taking photographs and experimenting with effects, composition, dynamic shots etc. I like seeing what others have done and covered in terms of subject matter and like to try out my own too.

I feel confident that my shots must be at least a little good and hit the mark as I have been featured in your awesome Strong Island calendar (2015), had one of my shots on a Redbull promotional billboard advertisement and won some random competitions to have my favourite shot printed 🙂

Would you say that you take photos more for yourself or for others?

A bit of both really. I like taking some shots just to record and document, I also like to take some just because it captures a moment (sorry very cliche) and other times I like to take them to experiment with shape, form and composition.

I love a sunset and sky shots, as you can tell from my feed! So I guess that is for me. But others appreciate my shots when I do post them and a lot of people have asked from framed copies of them. I really do need to try and get onto selling some of my shots. No excuse really as i have all the tools required to do so.

Scott Birnie

Scott Birnie

Exploring the theme of the “Local”, Portsmouth has a wide variety of climatic conditions, buildings and landscapes. Are there any local places or environments that are personal to you or that you love to photograph for a particular reason?

I love Emsworth and Langstone harbours and coastal routes. So of my best and favourite shots have been created simply by pointing and shooting these areas. I have also had quite a few good shots up at Staunton Country Park where I take kids sometimes. The natural surroundings and historic buildings provide a lot of opportunities.

I also like Chichester (where I have worked in the past too) Old Portsmouth and Gunwharf Quays too. I do need to get out a little more to these areas and take some time out of the office to refresh the batteries and the creative mind by going “walk about”.

Are their any other photographers who either influence you or that you would encourage our readers to check out?

Mike Kus is superb. I used to share an office space / floor with him and think his work is awesome. He definitely has a certain style that has lead to him taking shots for some top clients and getting some nice pay in the process! He has been on instagram since the beginning and with how many followers he has he obviously does something right!

I also follow Dan Rubin, who is a veteran of instagram.

Scott Birnie

Scott Birnie

Scott Birnie

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£800 raised at our 3rd Birthday Charity Raffle

Wow. Another Incredible success. Myself, Paul and the Strong Island Crew owe a MASSIVE thank you to all the people who donated, helped out, attended and of course bought those ever so important raffle tickets.

With your generosity we managed to raise an amazing £800 for The Portsmouth Autism Support Network and The Portsmouth Lifeboat Station.

Everyone had a great time and got fully involved in the atmosphere of the night. Free Strong Island Iced Teas were flowing, and the buffet was awesome. Pet Sounds kept the musical vibe alive and the crowd did the rest. A really good turn out of Strong Islanders made sure The Belle Isle was packed and the charity tin was full.

Well done to all the people who were lucky enough to get one of the prizes. If not more. Winners win prizes…..

Thanks to everyone who came down, all of the very generous prize donators and of course extra special thanks to Paul, Graham, Ben, James, Andy and all The Belle Isle staff for letting us hold our party and making sure no one went thirsty. Cheers guys.

Without the support from our readers, contributors and friends Strong Island would not be in the position to hold such an event, and we greatly appreciate it.

Prizes were very kindly donated from the following people: LJRs / The Belle Isle / Sopranos / Southsea Skatepark / Caravan Gallery / Michelle So Scone / Boed / Southsea Boutique / Dead Mans Glory / Lou Bush / Helen at Kings Theatre / Geoff at The Wedge / Love Southsea / Mikey Ayling / Mark Persuad / Southsea Gallery / james Porter / Parmiters, Ian & Sue / James Weaver / Alanna Smith / Matt Howarth / Bruce Jamieson / Jamie Olivers (Megatron) / Diana Goss / James Batchelor / Fran Bierton / Paul Thurlow / Bonzo Studio / Head Hairdressers / I Love Dust / Holgarama / Stuart Trett at Ye Olde Bike SHoppe. Apologies if I forgot your name.

We’re already looking forward to our 4th Birthday Party next year. Hope you can make it. All the best and thanks again.

Tristan & Paul




















Photos: Matt Saxey

Strong Island Easter Bike Ride Video II

Sharpie just sent me over his edit from the Bike Ride last April 4th. He attached one of those fancy Flip Cameras onto his handlebars and he was away. Really cool to be able to see the ride from different perspectives. Cheers buddy.

Created Local – John Illsley

We got sent a link to John Illsley’s website recently, loads of amazing photos including many from all over Southsea and Portsmouth, be sure to check it out. Here are a few examples:

John Illsley

John Illsley

Sunny Southsea

I went for bike ride today to take advantage of the nice, albeit cold, weather and take a few photos. Check them out over on my Flickr photostream.

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Hitler’s reaction to The Registry closing down.

This is just classic. I’ve seen a few others before. I think I saw one about accidentally using Arial instead of Helvetica, funny stuff. This one however is just hilarious, if you know the Portsmouth pub scene. More so if you’ve ever ben a student.

When The Tour Came To Portsmouth – A Conversation With John Bagnall – Part 2/2

Welcome back to part two of our interview with John Bagnall, a key player in bringing one of the biggest dates in the sporting calendar to Portsmouth in 1994. You can revisit part one here.

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Hi John, in part one we discussed what it takes to begin paving the way for a Portsmouth stage. What else did you have to organise or overcome on your road to June 1994?

The next obstacle we had was the police, mainly due to the fact they had never dealt with anything quite so big before. At the time you had the Milk Race and the Kellogg’s Tour Of Britain as the biggest cycling events in the UK. And those were done by rolling road closures: a police car or motorcycle in front and behind which leapfrogged each other to stop the traffic. The Tour wouldn’t contemplate that, it had to be a completely sterile loop. The police have an organisation called ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers), that oversee combined or national large scale operations. We got assigned an inspector who was a bit full of himself and quite jack the laddish. You could see why he had gone far in the police force; a rather strong personality. He came to the first meetings saying, “well you know, I can’t see it working but we’ll go through the motions”, it was that sort of attitude. This was partly because, to start off with, they couldn’t get their mind round what the Tour was and how it felt to be part of it. So we took him and a couple of his deputies, including another guy assigned by Hampshire Constabulary, to France the next year to see the race. The Tour kindly decided to put them in their control car as guests, and for two days they were able to experience their operations first hand.

Unfortunately we thought we’d blown it on the first day. By then they were into the mountains, and this particular stage finished at Sestriere in the Alps, which is one of the very famous climbs if not one of the very legendary ones. Sestriere is now in all of the record books because Claudio Chiapuccino won it with the longest by distance and time break away in Tour history. Claudio came in forty five minutes ahead of the rest, it was quite an incredible ride, and probably drug assisted at the time if the truth be known… But Sestriere is a mountain top and it was just gridlocked. There was no way you could get anywhere for hours afterwards and yet we were supposed to collect these ACPO guys in order to look after them. We just couldn’t make the physical connections. Mobiles were very new technology and there was no coverage on the tops of the alps, so we had no means of getting in touch with them. We thought we had really blown it, they will be pretty hacked off at being left stranded with French men. As it turned out our French counterparts realised the situation and said “don’t worry, we will look after you”. They dished up a really nice dinner, got them suitably drunk and they had a really good time. When we met up with them the following day we fully expected them to pull the plug on the whole affair, however they expressed a different kind of concern; “After what we saw yesterday I’m not sure that we, the English police force, could manage something so awe inspiring. It was so well organised, it is going to give us real problems matching it”. Thankfully this soon became an ego thing and before we knew it, the challenge had been set to do it better than the French.

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I recall in the first half of this interview you briefly mentioned the issue of legislation having to be created specifically for the Tour, could you give us more details on what had to be put into place?

What the police soon realised was that road cycling at that time, took place under a minor clause-of-a-sub-statute-of-a-bit-of-legislation dating back to 1948. This simply didn’t give them the powers they would need to create a completely sterile road closure. The existing legislation meant that it was okay for a police car to stop and for a policeman to halt traffic with his hands for 15 minutes, but not for a full day. So we shaped and drafted an Act of Parliament that was taken through as a private member’s bill. It was very discreetly done because this was still subject to confidentiality, all very hush hush. The bill went through Parliament and was enacted; giving all the relevant authorities the power to do whatever necessary to close the road and such like. This is the same legislation under which the Tour can take place in Yorkshire on Saturday.

That then just left all the towns and villages. We had numerous meetings with the county councils: Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire because the Tour want money to come. To be a start of finish town back then was around £100,000.00, which is quite a lot of money. And that was just for the Tour to come, so not including your organisation costs. All of that had to be negotiated through all of the various councils, but I think we had the political network working for us, everyone at Portsmouth City Council was up for it. By then a momentum was gathering and rumours started to appear. Cycling Weekly would phone up every so often and ask “what is going on?” “well what do you think is going on? I haven’t heard anything?”, all this bluff and counter bluff. Cycling is a small world, so they recognised that if they blew it then it could lift the lid on the whole thing. They were bound into it as well. Gradually we ticked off all the councils putting up the money for physical improvements. After this operation had been put into place the roads on the planned the route had never better for cycling; whole stretches were re-tarmacked because none of the councils wanted to be known for having bought a rider down.

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The next part of the operation was to simply identify all the businesses that would be affected; banks, supermarkets, retail outlets, etc. Staff would have problems getting in due to the roads being closed at five in the morning. Deliveries would not be able to take place and cash points would not be refilled. Memorably I researched every crematorium, cemetery and undertakers on 25 miles either side of the route in order to write to them saying “please be aware that on this day restrictions will be in place and you might not have access for mourners, don’t book funerals for that day”. Similar to this, part of the route was going up Ditchling Beacon where a very rare orchid grows, so rare that its location is kept a secret. Naturally the Environmental Agency were worried about it, so the area was coned off and marshal placed there specifically to protect this plant from cycling fans and plant collectors alike.

Then it was just down to getting people along the route to buy into it; we persuaded villages councils and the Department for Education to allow schools to close for the day so that their pupils were able to watch the race. By the time we had the national launch, Cycling Weekly was planning events and their editor, Martin Ayres, came on board on a freelance basis to help with the writing of our newsletter. Through our newsletters we were having to inform people who had never heard of the Tour de France what it was about. We had to get out there and convince the people who, not only did not cycle, but disapproved of cycling in general. All whilst keeping the cycling clubs and the aficionados happy. It all came together amazingly well, but it was a lot of hard work. During the winter of 93 -94, for three to four nights a week I was in village halls somewhere along the route; showing a film and telling people what would be happening. Often you would get people sitting there with their arms crossed saying “why should I pay my rates so that French men can race bikes past my house?”, we were dealing with that sort of mentality.

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By all accounts this was a successful stage, but can you tell me if there were any incidents that you had to deal with? With that amount of people massed together surely some issues cropped up?

The only incident in the whole thing was during the Portsmouth leg, when a child stepped out onto the curb after the peloton came round. Unfortunately he was clipped by the wing of one of the official’s cars who were following the riders, and momentarily we were quite concerned. Thankfully the Tour stopped one of its medical cars and called up one of their helicopters. The helicopter landed just behind where it happened and took the child and his mother to the hospital for the check-up. He had a headache and was slightly bruised but nothing serious. In truth it was fantastic PR on the Tour’s part to of done that, it added hugely to the concept of goodwill.

Over the two days, the police estimated between two and three million people had watched at the roadside. It had huge television coverage relative to the time, I remember Mr Leblanc saying that we have already seen the biggest stage crowd for the whole Tour, and we were only on stage four and five. The goodwill that was generated was just amazing, it’s fantastic anywhere you go on the Tour anyway, but the friendship and fun that was being had was truly magic. It laid the groundwork for the Tour to come back to England.

What would you say the aim was in bringing the Tour here, and what legacy did it leave? What do you think it brought to the city?

The immediate aim was to inform as many people as possible across the world, that there is a city called Portsmouth on the south coast of England. A city with an important heritage and history. A city that is open for commercial business. We were the people that started this whole thing, we are a city with a “can do” spirit. We are international and friendly. This was general promotion of sorts, for all kinds of different reasons and messages, and we very much hoped to ignite greater interest in cycling. Not to mention greater investment in cycling on the part of the city. We are on an island, the highest point in Portsmouth is twelve meters above sea level, it’s difficult to think of somewhere better, perhaps Cambridge apart, in physical terms for cycling. And yet the provision within the city is not good. Unfortunately I think Portsmouth just didn’t managed to capitulate on the immediate legacy of the Tour to achieve a tipping point that could be built on. In a way that you could argue that London has done with the Boris Bikes. There is still more work to do and I don’t entirely see who is doing it and where it is coming from. Southsea Cycle Club and various community projects are doing a great job in making it visible, but I don’t think it’s really come together as a critical mass in Portsmouth.

What really makes me sorry is if you cycle up of down the back or Portsdown Hill, you can see where the cycling tracks have been laid and marked out, but the tarmac has almost worn off. There is just the faint trace of a bike as you come up from Waterlooville and I think that is ever so sad, it’s symbolic of the tokenism that prevailed in the end in Hampshire and Portsmouth. They were given an opportunity to make themselves famous permanently in England as the cycling city, but the momentum was never really achieved in the first place. It was a very successfully stage and I think the longer term legacy wasn’t in the immediate benefits to the people who ride bikes in Portsmouth. However, to the cycling community in Britain as a whole it has had enormous benefits; it worked by laying one of the first foundation stones in what you could describe as a cycling wall. In the next course of bricks above Portsmouth 1994 you have Dublin in 1998, and then a couple courses of bricks above that you have London in 2007. Next you have smaller bricks above that: Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. Riders who, as kids, might of watched Portsmouth on Channel 4. I would love to know if Mark Cavendish did and whether it fuelled his desire to be part of such a legendary event. You cannot quantify this part of the legacy. By this weekend, Yorkshire 2014 will be at the top of the wall. Yet when you look closely; Portsmouth is still right there at the bottom, as a foundation stone. This is where it all began.

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I would like to express a huge thank you to John & Jan for allowing me into their home and sharing this great story with me. The 101st edition of the Tour De France begins on Saturday the 5th July, with ITV and ITV4 covering live stages and providing nightly highlights.

Southsea Common Barbecue Zones

I’m sure a lot of you enjoyed the fantastic weather this weekend and many of you no doubt had a barbecue on The Common. I was out of town on Saturday but heard it was seriously busy down the seafront. A few of us had a BBQ on Sunday and we’re approached by some council officials regarding our position. They were very polite and let us carry on as we were already cooking and handed us some details of all the new zones.

Unfortunately the new zones now means hundreds of people are going to be packed in to single areas. The main common by the War Memorial will be extremely busy over the summer. More so than usual for sure. I fully back having these zones in place, but feel I’ll no longer be going to the common for BBQs if I can help it as they have made a lot of areas no go zones. It was always more appealing when you could spread out from other groups.

When The Tour Came To Portsmouth – A Conversation With John Bagnall – Part 1/2

With the 101st edition of the Tour de France due to begin on Saturday and a summer of sport well underway, I believe the time is right to delve into the past and look to when the world’s greatest cycling race crossed the channel to our shores. On the 7th of July 1994 Hampshire was gripped with cycling fever; a 187km long 5th stage was about to begin and end in Portsmouth. Half a billion eyes around the world were glued to television sets as the peloton, which included cycling legends Marco Pantani, Miguel Indurain, Chris Boardman and a young Texan called Lance Armstrong, powered past HMS Victory in the Historic Dockyard. For a day, Portsmouth played host to one of the most prestigious sporting events on the calendar. So how did this extraordinary day come about? In a two part post, I catch up with Southsea resident and ex-council employee John Bagnall, a key player in bringing the event to the city.

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Hi John, thank you for taking time out to speak to us. First of all can you tell us what you were doing during the lead up to 1994?

I was the Marketing Communications Manager at Portsmouth City Council, it was looking after press and media relations.

And I believe that this whole venture arose from a discussion over a pub lunch, is that right?

My colleague David Knight, head of leisure for the city council said to me “What can we do that will really put Portsmouth on the map and be a counter point to the D-day commemorations? What is international, bright, young and youth orientated?”

So when you say the commemorations? This was the 50th D-day celebrations? Quite a big deal.

Yes, it was the 50th anniversary of D-day. So for a week at the start of June, Portsmouth became centre to the world in terms of commemorating the liberation, or the beginnings of the liberation of Europe. Clinton and the Queens were here, many world leaders came to Portsmouth and stood in a special bandstand built on Southsea Common. There was a huge international flypast, I think a couple of hundred planes came over Portsmouth; Spitfires, Lancaster Bombers, Flying Fortresses, it really was the world solemnly marking D-day and the beginning of the end of World War Two.

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OK, so press-wise, a pretty good window of opportunity here. What was discussed over lunch?

As I said to David over that pub lunch “Hey, why don’t we bid to get the Tour De France to England?” I’d never really thought at that moment there was a realistic prospect of getting them here, I just thought the council would probably laugh it out of court anyway. Even if we did get as far as sending an invitation to them they would just turn round and say “I’m sorry, why would we come to England? You have no history or heritage of cycling”.

So to add a little context, I believe The Tour had come to England once before? In 1974?

Yes, the time before they raced on the newly completed, but not yet opened, Plympton By-pass near Plymouth. It was just coned off at each end and they went up the dual carriage way for X number of laps. And that was it. I think a few hardcore cycling clubs came to see some of the riders of that time, but there was no broadcast coverage and precious little coverage in the newspapers. By all accounts it was very dull and very boring. The Tour didn’t like it because of the amount of time it took to get the riders there and then take them back again.

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I see, so it seems like The Tour organisers weren’t exactly scrambling to recreate another UK leg?

No, the tour had no thoughts of coming to England ever again after the Plymouth stage. So during that pub lunch the idea really was to “fly a kite”, let’s do something a bit crazy. My argument to David was; they will probably say no even if they bother to reply, but I can still get some publicity out of that. Perhaps a little story into the cycling friendly The Guardian about how a town in Portsmouth bids to get France’s biggest sport event there (wry laugh)… So David and I went to talk to a guy called Richard Tryst who was the chief executive of the council. Richard was quite a frightening man with a hawkish and cynical sharp manner, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He liked boldness and directness. We went to see him and basically said “it’s crazy but we think this is a good thing to do, it ticks all the boxes of what the council are looking at”. He sorted of nodded and said “well yes, there are a lot of other questions to answer as well, but we’ll keep this alive”.

Richard bought in the then leader of the conservative council, a guy called Ian Gibson, who like all local politicians that get to be leaders of the council, was a very upfront, bold and visionary guy. And he got really excited about it as well. So on the 18th of December 1990 I drafted a letter to Henry LeBlanc who was the president of Amaury Sports Organisation, which was the company that controls the Tour De France. And about two weeks later they came back basically saying; “Subject to commercial confidence we are interested, and we are very grateful for your support”. They went on to explain that the Tour at that time was losing direction as the Tour De France; it had this great tradition attached to it but it wasn’t going anywhere with it. What they were trying to do was to introduce a policy that they called “mondialisation”. The organisers wanted to take it global and they were actively looking for other European countries that they could go to. They even discussed the possibility of, and this was back when people were excited by Concorde, to go across the Atlantic and even starting it in America or Canada. So to have an approach from an English city saying “what can we do to help?” was brilliant to them.

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Could you perhaps detail some of the ins and outs of trying to organise an event of this scale whilst remaining compliant with the confidentiality agreement? Seems impossible to me.

We had to sign legally binding documents with them not to divulge the fact that they might be coming here, and from there it became a planning operation. The organisers want to be able to book up every hotel going within, in some cases, 50 to 60 miles of a particular stage town. And at a competitive rate too. If it was common knowledge that the Tour was coming to Portsmouth every hotel in Hampshire, Sussex and Dorset would be ratcheting up their prices. Not only that but we had to make sure that the public knew where to be and what they were going to see. We took care of safety and we made sure there were no embarrassing blockages such as level crossing gates being down. It was a massive planning operation that went into incredible detail; and day after day more and more levels of detail were added.

One of the first things that came up was that the Tour uses a massive bandwidth of transmission frequencies. Back then, before radios were used with the riders, the teams still had their private frequencies so that the Director Sportif could talk to the team cars and any other helpers he needed to contact. The race officials too needed an overall race frequency that everybody could listen to, as did the aid operations, the radio operations, the feeding operations, the signing operations and for the clearing up of the signing operations. The list just went on and one. Hundreds of frequencies and sod’s law would have it that was the most of them were in the band of frequencies used in the UK for hospital radio paging systems. There was no way that we could bring the Tour through with hospitals being disrupted and lives being put at risk because of radio interference.

Immediately we set up a meeting with a government agency called the Radio Communications Agency. This was a formal meeting with about 30 of their wise men. We bought over the communications manager of the Tour and a specialist from France Telecoms. During the meeting’s presentation you could see various people around the table shaking their heads; “impossible”, “far too hard”. But a couple of the right senior people listened intently, and one of them I think the deputy chief executive said “well look, I have no idea how were are going to do this because it will be a massive problem, but leave that to us, if we can’t solve it we shouldn’t be doing our job, we think we can do it.” Suddenly the head shakers were agreeing. We got their commitment. From then on the RCA also undertook all that was necessary to make sure that the hospitals, for those two days, would be working from a different wavelength and there would be no clash.

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Another major issue was that the overall physical envelope of the Tour is massively more than just the peloton. You have the advanced publicity caravan, you have the people who would have gone over two or three days prior: putting up signage, checking access to the routes, checking where they can take off vehicles that might break down. All the kind of technical aspects. They are physically working several days, and perhaps hundreds of miles distance, from where the Tour is at that particular point. It is all part of the live event. Then you have the security operation that physically surrounds the tour: the motorbike marshals that escort the official’s cars, that monitors the press and first aid cars. They have their own radio frequencies and take up physical space on the roads. Amongst those you have the camera bikes that are filming the close-up of the derailleurs and the break-aways. They are beaming a signal up to a helicopter above and there will be four to five other helicopters covering the breakaways and the peloton. Each group of cyclists needing their own cameras.

For two days they would have to touched on Gatwick’s airspace and the approach path for Heathrow. I remember being in the office when Alan Rushton called Directory Enquiries (this was pre internet days) to get the number for the Civil Aviation Authority. He phoned up the switchboard and asked to speak to whichever department was responsible for closing the airspace above British airports. You could sense the stunned silence on the other end of the phone. Thankfully the CAA came back very quickly with a can do attitude. The only stipulation being that any emergency aircraft landings would have to take priority, but otherwise they would work with the French air traffic specialists to bring the Tour through safely.

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Be sure to check in on Wednesday, when we bring you the second part of our interview with John. We will touch on what else was required to bring the race here and what cycling legacy (if at all) the Tour left, not just in Portsmouth, but for the UK.

Vintage Photography – Sunny Southsea

Big thanks to Khalid who sent over these vintage photographs scanned from The Images of Portsmouth (1993). We have a small selection so I’ll put one page up each week.

Love this first shot of the band stand on the common in the 1920s showing how the site was originally used before the Skatepark was built around it in the 70s. So many deckchairs, it must have been big business back then. It’s a shame they didn’t keep the bandstand as it was with the little steps and iron railing. It’s a little different NOW as Marcus’s ariel shot shows. Click the image to see the high res scan up close.

Southsea Seagulls

How good was the weather on Sunday. Albeit cold, it was a belter for sure. Me and Liz hit up the seafront for fish & chips and inadvertently got involved with dive bombing seagulls. They love them chips…

Photography : Tristan

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