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Cyclists race at Herne Hill Velodrome.
Cyclists race at Herne Hill Velodrome. | © Gerry Cranham
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Head Back to the 1940s at Herne Hill's World Cycling Revival Festival

Picture of Luke Bradshaw
Sports Editor
Updated: 25 April 2018
Billed as ‘the festival no one needs, but everyone wants’ one particular part of south London will transform into the 1940s to celebrate the history of the bicycle and one of the oldest and most iconic cycling tracks in the world.

For three days, the World Cycling Revival Festival will take over the the Herne Hill Velodrome, with cycle races, live music, exhibitions and plenty of food and drink to keep you going throughout. This is a British garden party unlike any you’ve seen before – think jazz, tweed, classic photography and a penny farthing world record attempt.

Built in 1891, Herne Hill Velodrome was founded by local amateur racer George Hillier, and has hosted various races, events and record attempts, as well as the cycling disciplines at the 1948 Olympics. After Paddington Recreation Ground track was demolished in 1987, Herne Hill Velodrome spent nearly a quarter of a century as the only race track in the capital, until the London Velopark was built for the 2012 Olympics.

1940s style & the Brompton bike. | © Cycling Revival

Racing highlights

The main event in the festival’s race programme is the Japanese Keirin Trophy competition. An explosive race, keirin sees competitors gradually build up their speed before launching into a furious sprint for the line in the final moments. Former and current world and Olympic champions of the sport, such as Ed Clancy, Francois Pervis and Azizul Awang, will all be in attendance at various points of the festival.

Want to find out more? Here’s a full race programme.

This year’s Brompton ’48 Invitational will be led by five-time Tour de France stage winner David Millar, with a prize of over £10,000 for the winner. It’s a chance to see bikes that have become synonymous with London commutes in a different light. Anyone looking for real rivalry can watch the Oxford & Cambridge Varsity Track Match on the Saturday; the country’s famous institutions have the two oldest university cycling clubs on the planet and will face off in a combined track match for the first time.

Also, for a bonafide ode to cycling’s heritage, a team of elite riders will try to break the world record for the furthest distance travelled in an hour on a penny farthing. The distance to beat (23.5 miles) was set at Herne Hill exactly 100 years ago by Frederick J Osmond.

World Cycling Revival Festival map. | © Cycling Revival


The festival’s music, of course, pays homage to the same era, with plenty of jazz and swing. With over 30 years of playing with some of the biggest names around, King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys will be performing, having previously played with B.B. King, Cab Calloway and His Orchestra, Ray Charles, and the Blues Brothers Band.

Anyone looking to pick up some new dance steps can get tips from Swing Patrol. The dance troupe has 120 members and runs classes across the world in London, Brighton, Berlin, Sydney and Melbourne. As well as performing at the festival they’ll be offering lessons to anyone interested.

Alex Mendham and His Orchestra will be adding their usual Hollywood sophistication of yesteryear. Full of passion and exuberance, the orchestra have played at Kensington Palace, as well as venues and festivals all over the country.

Old school R&B comes in the form of Ray Gelato & The Giants, famous for their long-term residency at the iconic Ronnie Scott’s where they also play sell-out Christmas concerts every year. Ray, known as ‘The Godfather of Swing’ has played for the Queen (twice), and provided the entertainment at Sir Paul McCartney’s wedding.

1940s racing image
Herne Hill Velodrome in the 1940s. | © Cycling Revival

Exhibitions and experiences

What you need to know:

Where is it? Herne Hill Velodrome, London

When is it? June 14–16, 2018

How much does it cost? Tickets start at £39

How can I find out more? Visit the Cycling Revival website.

Cycling Revival - Posters v8
Cycling Revival - Posters v8