In January of this year, this little event was nominated for the 2023 Ballarat Community Event of the Year. Ride founder Liana Skewes also received the honour of 2023 Ballarat Citizen of the Year for her decade of work organising this event and her volunteer contributions to the theatre arts community over the last several years and throughout the pandemic.
The Ballarat Tweed Ride was an idea of Deneale (you may know her as The Goldfields Girl) and Liana. Liana decided to implement it back in 2012. It was an accidental hit, making the local newspaper and a year later the City of Ballarat events team reached out to Liana to make it an official event in the Ballarat Heritage Festival (then the Ballarat Heritage Weekend) event schedule. It’s been a long road of learning, trial, and error. More than once we’ve had key supporters pull out, leaving the future of the event uncertain. Each year Liana has worked to problem solve to make sure the event goes ahead. The biggest challenge is usually insurance, because every year cycling is seen as a more and more dangerous activity (it absolutely is not), and insurance for cycling events is quite specific to competitive races and extreme sports. That’s quite a contrast to our slow and relaxed event.
Timeless style is a wonderfully ethical concept. The dress code for this event doesn’t lend itself to fast fashion, it lends itself to thrifting, getting things purposefully tailored, and sentimentally reviving pieces that your family has kept for generations. It’s naturally a supporter of slow fashion and fabrics and materials that come from natural fibres. Several years ago we decided to establish fashion/style awards for participants. After our first year of these, Liana and Deneale reflected on how we could make them reflect the core values that we saw for the event. This meant establishing the awards without a specified gender binary and making sure spectators were eligible for an award.
To us, this secured that participants who could not ride for disability reasons were not excluded from the fun of the event. It also made visible our stance that our awards are based on style not how well a person performs to a perceived social gender norm. Because really, what if a woman wears a suit? Or a chap wears a dress? Or a person doesn’t identify as either a man or a woman? Or a person is transitioning from one part of the spectrum of gender to another and has enough pressure around how others perceive their gender to be? We whittled it down to two types of style for the event: elegant or dapper. These loosely represent styles that may be either femme or masc, or maybe even flamboyant or traditional. Importantly, you know what is elegant and what is dapper when you see it. It’s not just about a skirt or trousers because, as are definitely suits that are elegant and dresses that are dapper.
This particular choice meant that we could actively hold space for LGBTQI+ participants, so they would know that we had considered their comfort, their place in our community, and that we were consciously defending that place. It also let our non-queer participants know that they were welcome to support, include, defend and encourage those of the queer community taking part in the event. Liana has had many moments throughout the running of this event where she’s gotten to take a moment and appreciate what this event does for people, but the one she holds closest to my heart was when a trans participant commented on one of our Facebook posts that they felt they could come the following year as their true self.
The ride started in 2012 with a group of 7 friends. Last year we had over 130 riders from Ballarat and around the region, state, and country.
We are looking forward to welcoming you to our event again in 2023.