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Tour de France festival launched

Details of the first cultural festival to precede the Tour de France in its 111-year history are being revealed today in a spectacular event which will celebrate the world's most famous bike race's arrival in the UK.

The Yorkshire Festival 2014 has been developed to precede the first two stages of the Tour, which will take place in the county in July.

The stages from Leeds to Harrogate and then York to Sheffield are expected to attract hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of spectators. The third stage will run from Cambridge to the centre of London before the race returns across the Channel.

A carnival snail, woolly bikes, choirs and brass bands will emerge from shops at Trinity Leeds shopping centre today to join the band Hope & Social on the concourse for a debut performance of the official Yorkshire Festival song, The Big Wide.

They are all part of the full programme of events which is being announced today for the first time.

The festival is the brainchild of the Welcome to Yorkshire tourism agency and has been backed by Yorkshire Water, Arts Council England and Yorkshire local authorities.

Out of almost 400 bids, 47 projects were commissioned to be officially part of the 100-day festival - which will also include hundreds of fringe events.

The highlights include Los Angeles-based sculptor Thomas Houseago, from Leeds, who has been tasked to create two giant sculptures for Leeds city centre and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield.

Phoenix Dance Theatre, in Leeds, will join forces with Scottish public arts charity NVA to create the world's first Ghost Peloton. Organisers say this will incorporate a riding team of 50 road racers, stunt cyclists and large-scale projection of dancers all utilising unique remote-controlled light suits to produce stunning live choreography.

Another highlight sees the West Yorkshire Playhouse hosting Beryl, written by TV star Maxine Peake to celebrate the extraordinary sporting achievements of Morley cyclist Beryl Burton.

Henrietta Duckworth, the festival's executive producer, said: "Today we wanted to give people a flavour of this brand new arts festival - Yorkshire's a big wide county and we've worked with our world-class artists to create a rich and diverse programme of opportunities and surprises.

"It's a first for the Grand Depart and a festival of free events across all art forms. We invite everyone to explore the new, celebrate together and be part of it."

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: "The Yorkshire Festival 2014 will be a county-wide celebration of arts and culture creating excitement and anticipation in the 100 days before the greatest free sporting show on the planet arrives in Yorkshire."

Sarah Maxfield, director in the north of Arts Council England, said: "Arts Council England is really proud to be supporting the festival. A festival of over 100 days is an ambitious goal but I'm very impressed by the high quality and breadth of the programme, which is sure to impress the thousands of visitors from Yorkshire and beyond and will provide a lasting legacy for culture in the North."

Yorkshire Festival 2014 will run from March 27 to July 6. The first stage of the Tour de France 2014 will set off from Leeds city centre on July 5.


From Belfast Telegraph