Play seeks prop: a Beryl-Burton-era bike

The Highbury Players is seeking a 1960s road bike to appear in "Beryl", a play about the life of Beryl Burton, one of Britain’s best ever competitive cyclists. "We are having difficulty borrowing a suitable racing bike of the period that Beryl won her world championships," said the group’s Andy Tomlinson.

Burton started winning world championships – on the track at first, road later – in 1960. The Highbury Players would therefore like to trace a track or road bike of suitable vintage. Burton was sponsored by industry stalwart Ron Kitching through most of her career (she turned down a more lucrative deal with Raleigh) and raced on a Kitching-branded road bike.

"The bike will not be ridden," stressed Tomlinson, "it only appears on stage."

Between the late 1950s and the 1980s Burton dominated the world of cycle racing, at all distances and in most disciplines. She usually also bested men, including in her most famous victory, a 12-hour time trial in 1967. She cycled 277.25 miles, a womens’ record that still stands. (It took another two years before a man rode further.) During this record-breaking ride she passed champion rider Mike McNamara and, as form of compensation, she handed him some Liquorice Allsorts. "Yeh, ta, love," he replied, as she rode away from him.

"I met Beryl a number of times in the 1960s when I worked part time on exhibitions for the Cycle and Motorcycle Association," remembered Tomlinson. "She was a wonderful woman and tremendous athlete."

Burton died in 1996 while riding her bike delivering invitations to her 59th birthday party.

"Beryl" was first performed in 2012. It was written by actress Maxine Peake, and was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The play was later adapted for stage and was performed in Leeds to coincide with the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire in 2014.

The latest staging of the play will be at the Highbury Theatre Centre in Sutton Coldfield from 29th May to 9th June.

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