News that Utrecht will be starting point of the 2015 Tour de France seems highly appropriate for a city that is in the process of building the world’s largest multistorey bicycle park. But I was quickly reminded that the omnipresence of cycling in the Netherlands does not equate to the same fascination with cycling culture. As one Dutch colleague pointed out, “bicycles have no reason to be funny for us — they just are”. Otto Beaujon, secretary of De Oude Fiets, very kindly showed me around his collection of historic bicycles, memorabilia and documents: while there are examples of play, humour or even satire to be found, these have never been especially prominent in Dutch cycling culture outside the world of children’s bicycles incarnated by Piet Pelle.
Obvious in retrospect, this was one among several useful points to emerge from the 2014 International Society for Humor Studies conference, my first attempt to present the “Jeux cyclistes” project to an international academic audience. Many thanks to the colleagues who provided useful feedback and suggestions for material, with interesting perspectives from as far afield as Macedonia and Japan. If humour is most often associated with concepts like incongruity, surprise and anxiety, bicycles are most obviously humorous when they represent a new and disruptive social phenomenon. Continuer la lecture
A fascinating visit to the Nationaal Fietsmuseum Velorama in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, home to an extensive bicycle history exhibition (including Europe’s largest collection of Draisiennes, getting ready to celebrate their bicentenary from 2016) as well as the archives of Royal Dutch Gazelle. It was a great privilege to meet museum volunteer and former Gazelle advertising director Cees van Wijk, who introduced me to the work of illustrators Ko Doncker and André Vlaanderen, patiently translating and commenting their cartoon strips and other prewar advertising material. A big thank-you to Cees and the rest of the teem for their time, generosity and warm welcome! Continuer la lecture
En route to the National Cycle Archive, a coach trip across the Midlands from Nottingham and a Sunday visit to the Coventry Transport Museum highlight the contrast between past and present. Coventry’s roads seem built to discourage cyclists, and brands like BSA, Rudge-Whitworth, and Humber have all but disappeared, but the museum’s rich and varied collection shows the diversity of the British bicycle industry and its links with motorcycle and car manufacturing over the first half of the twentieth century. I didn’t manage to visit the Coventry History Centre‘s Cycling Collection (open alternate Sundays only), as my short stay was devoted to an all-too-brief survey of National Cycle Archive holdings at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. Continuer la lecture
Raleigh’s domination of the British bicycle industry for much of the twentieth century perhaps isn’t the only reason why dedicated bicycle archives are easier to locate in Britain than in France, though even a quick glance at the catalogue of Raleigh holdings at the Nottinghamshire Archives gives a sense of how far the company’s influence once extended. The collection offers researchers a glimpse of the bicycle industry from the inside, as company records, promotional material aimed at both consumers and bicycle dealers, and scrapbooks of advertisements and articles mentioning Raleigh in specialist and non-specialist publications show how the company evolved in tandem (sorry!) with cycling culture — and how play and humour played a surprisingly important role in its commerccial strategy. Continuer la lecture
Le dimanche des festivals se succédant au lundi du travail, je me mets en selle de bonne heure en direction des Archives Départementales d’Ille-et-Villaine. Comme dans la quasi-totalité des archives territoriales cette année, en France et ailleurs, l’exposition des documents 1914-18 me situe tout de suite en mileu de la période ciblée, mais sur un ton bien plus sombre. N’oublions pas que la bicyclette est elle aussi partie en guerre ! Pour ce qui est des fonds, une belle collection d’affiches cyclistes dont une partie déjà numérisée, ainsi que de nombreuses photos et cartes postales d’époque, des courses de fin de siècle aux cortèges de bicyclettes décorées pour les fêtes des fleurs, en passant par des scènes de plage où les vélos se font plus ou moins nombreux selon le lieu et l’année. Continuer la lecture