On a rare quiet night at Fullcity, when the last few couriers had taken leave of Leather Lane, I found myself in conversation with Clarence about the forthcoming Keirin, London courier life, and what would happen to SUBTLE in the wake of Josh's passing.
Clarence, Josh's friend and creative partner in SUBTLE, who's positivity in the face of such sadness is an inspiration, told me 'Things have been moving very fast in the street racing game, and we have plans to develop the Keirins and grow the street racing scene into something that inspires both male and female couriers to race'. Speaking to Clarence, one of the most gentle and thoughtful couriers you are ever likely to meet, it begins to become clear that whilst street racing is a competitive event, Clarence is more focused on the 'journey', and SUBTLE epitomizes the 'less is more ethos' of this particularly diverse group of people.
An established if somewhat chaotic looking event, the Keirin format involves, a lot of socialising, a not inconsiderable consumption of alcohol, both before and after the race, some hanging around, and some frantic running for bikes and fast riding from check-point to checkpoint. The prizes (yes, there are even prizes) are up to £100 for the first boy £100 and for first girl and a second prize that reflects the people or idea that they are currently promoting. The prize money comes from the entrance fee, so the more people that race, the better the prizes.
Clarence told me that it was a challenge to get enough girls to enter. And whilst the girls are not technically racing the boys, things have been hotting up recently, as the 'best girl' came fourth overall, against a pretty stiff field of male riders in the last event. But there are not yet enough women involved at 'street level', so he is working hard to increase the female presence, and get more girls involved!
In the long term, Clarence is hoping that SUBTLE will become a name that is synonymous with street racing, and he is planning a range of 'one-off' tshirts and caps which will sell with the hope of raising money to do more events.
Historically, the events have been supported and promoted by both the couriers themselves, and by us at Fullcity, but ever looking at the bigger picture, Clarence is hoping to grow the event to include increasing numbers of couriers and support from other like-minded businesses. And despite some very rainy weather, the turnout for this year's events has been amazing, and SUBTLE are expecting even bigger things for the summer.
Their next event is on the 14 March, a collaboration with Captain Upcycling, or 'Zoltan' as he is known on the street. If you havent met him, Zoltan is the guy who makes the belts and key wrist bands currently on sale in Fullcity. SUBTLE are working in collaboration with Zoltan to promote his Upcycling ideas.
In the future SUBTLE will be working with a variety of different people and promoting businesses andindividuals who are involved with the London courier scene; such as an independant frame builder/courier working here in London - more on that in future posts; but it just goes to show there is a lot of talent in the scene that is so much more than just street racing madness.
Janine (tallbird) was talking to Clarence Takunda Chodokufa.