Environmentalism, social entrepreneurship and a good old sense of adventure were the inspirations for the beginning of Brake the Cycle in 2011. Marcus and Joe, two young street fundraisers from London, set the ambitious task of raising £30k for various charities by cycling from London to South Africa. Were they pro cyclists? Nope, but they had some get-up-and-go and a good dose of blissful ignorance. The aim was to stay at interesting environmental and alternative communities; exploring different ways of living and giving monetary support along the way. Necessity breeds invention and several creative projects sprung to life in order to raise the money. First was a Lands End to John O’Groats cycle in which 20 cyclists and a red double decker bus hit the road for 2 weeks, staying at organic farms and inspiring projects such as Offshoots and Fernhill Farm, raising £11,500.
Next was a 1,000-capacity music and performing arts festival called Cloud Cuckoo Land, which ran for 3 summers and, in addition to bringing over £10,000 to the charity pot, founded ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ (Native American Indian for ‘life out of balance that calls for another way’), a trust that gave money to creative community projects. Also contributing to this pot was the seasonal Beggars Banquet, a 150 person 5 course food waste banquet with live music, circus and performance art.
Money raised and appetites whet, they set off one rainy day in mid September with the wind in their… helmets? The route was set to ride through the Middle East, stopping for tea in Damascus and Christmas in Bethlehem...until the Arab Spring sprung in full revolutionary force. They were on the road only an eventful 3 months before the wheels fell off their adventure. Swift re-navigation led to a winter on the Greek Island of Evia, at a fledgling eco-community called Free and Real. Here they learned about the politics, pitfalls and successes of creating a community, and built the ‘Cuckoo Yurt’, which is now a key structure in the community.
Looking for a new project to channel their energy into, Marcus and Joe collaborated with Josef Davis-Coates of United Diversity (a co-operative development network) to conceive Building Man, an eco-build festival based on Burning Man principles of co-creation and self-expression. The 2nd End to End cycle in 2013 raised over £10,000, which funded the 6-week project over 90 acres at Bodenham Manor, with the aim to build a co-living arts and enterprise hub and to put the community-building tactics learned at Evia to work. Longer term access to the site was not granted, but the project taught them invaluable lessons about team building, giving the team valuable resources for future projects.
Now no longer focused on fundraising for charity, Brake the Cycle has turned its gaze inwards; each cycle tour and project has revealed in different ways just how many lessons can be learned on the road, and that the impetus for great transformation starts with the individual.
What started off as a charity challenge has grown completely organically into a community building vehicle, using adventure to inspire and empower its participants to live in a more connected way. Marcus is now living in Evia having met his wife that winter at the community. They have a young son and have just launched their new venture Origin Club, connecting small scales farmers in Greece with UK markets. Joe continues to run Brake the Cycle in an evolving adventure in new ways of living.
At Brake the Cycle we believe that showing up, challenging our old boundaries, finding the spark and growing it in a compassionate community is the key to positive change.
And it’s bloody good fun too.