Q&A: Ollie Hawkley, Host – Big Bike Film Night

A New Zealander in Aberdeenshire, Ollie Hawkley reveals more about the first ever Scottish tour of the distinctly Kiwi Big Bike Film Night, which comes to the Eastgate on 25 November.

Tell us more about the origins of the festival and its founder back in New Zealand

The founder or curator is Brett Cotter from Taupo. He is also known as the ‘Film Pedlar’! Our story originates from a terrible act of vandalism on the Taupo giant bike statue seven years ago. Together with a bunch of fellow cyclists and community leaders Brett wanted to raise money to get the giant bike statue repaired and put back. He decided to hold a short cycling film evening and it basically grew from there. Today, the Big Bike Film Night shows in over 50 locations across New Zealand and is now showing in Australia as well as the current Scotland tour.

What do you look for in the films that make the cut?

The films are primarily selected by Brett through various channels. Firstly, we are both avid consumers of bike films ourselves, so we are always on the look-out for good content. We also now attract a number of submissions through the success of the festival, but it is also a case of finding a theme that we think will resonate with audiences and then building the content from here. The films are all different and story driven. Some are cinematic epics, some feverishly creative and others are highly emotive stories of human courage and resilience. Already, we’ve had some of the most hardened mountain bikers in Scotland shed a tear or two and we have inspired 10-year-old girls to get out and ride bikes! I think everyone finds inspiration in some form from the content that we put out there. What we are not is mainstream; we are left field, independent and at times eccentric … and damn proud of it!

What can audiences expect from the range of films shown at this year’s Big Bike Film Night?

This season’s showcase includes 12 short and documentary cycling films from all genres of cycling. The films include a seven-year-old girl who likes to ride BMX; an audacious mountain climbing challenge; a tale of trees, traps and trails; a passage of three first-timers on their way to Ironman Taupo; two friends on an environmental mission; a beautiful story about the power of two wheels and a community built through bicycling; and a part documentary/part fantasy with mountain bike illustrations that will have you looking for your rig and heading down the trail in search of the same kind of magic. It has something for everyone and even for folk who don’t consider themselves cyclists.

This the first time that the touring festival has come to Scotland. Why here, why now?

That’s pretty simple. I moved to Scotland with my Scottish wife in September 2020. Gillian wanted to return home to be closer to her family after 15 years of living in Aotearoa, New Zealand. As a cycling family we were big supporters of The Big Bike Film Night in New Zealand and immediately knew that we would miss attending the festival in Nelson (our hometown), so it seemed sensible to simply bring the festival to us in Scotland and host the evenings here. The pandemic did kind of get in the way of the initial idea but through some perseverance we are now lucky to be here showing the Big Bike Film Night to an incredible new audience.

How did you get involved in actually hosting the Scottish tour?

I used to sit in the audience and I knew Brett. In fact, we had shared our interest in films whilst mountain biking on the Old Ghost Road in New Zealand during an epic mid-winter trip through the Kahurangi National Park. We had an instant connection, so it really was a match made in heaven in terms of taking each other’s ideas and bringing the festival to Scotland. It has been both a privilege and a real buzz to be able to do this on the back of everything we have been through as a community recently. I must admit that I shed a tear myself when we finally premiered the festival in Ballater. It was quite a moment!

Finally, any personal favourites among this year’s Big Bike Film Night collection?

I do have my personal favourites but I’m not going to give these away yet. Ask me at the end of the show in Peebles and we can swap notes, but I can guarantee that there will be more than a few films that will the audience inspired and desperate to get out there and ride their bikes.

Further info

The Big Bike Film Night screens at the Eastgate Theatre at 7pm, Thurs 25 Nov. Tickets £15, £25 adult + child, available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online here.