Brilliant bikers

BMAD Festival

BMAD Festival - Credit: Archant

Leather-clad bikers are gathering for a tenth charity festival, writes CHRISSY HARRIS

BMAD Festival 2013

BMAD Festival 2013 - Credit: Archant

It’s an awesome sight – hundreds of bikes and bikers lined up as far as the eye can see along Paignton’s glorious waterfront.

But don’t be alarmed, this leather-clad lot are a pretty friendly bunch. Together they have helped to raise nearly £320,000 for charities across Torbay, including young carers, disabled children and the county’s vital blood bike service.

Now, members of Bikers Make a Difference (BMAD) are preparing for their biggest gathering yet – a ten year anniversary festival, due to be held over the May bank holiday weekend.

“It’s going to be amazing,” promises BMAD chairman Andy Hobbs. “Over the years I’ve found that bikers are just about the most generous people you could hope to meet. The way I see it, we want to raise money for charity. It’s just that we happen to be bikers.“There’s that image people have of us but it’s just not true. You come down to one of our events and just see all the smiles on the faces. There’s always an incredible atmosphere. I just feel so humble to be able to be a part of it.”

BMAD started in 2002 with an idea to have a social gathering of bikers along Paignton’s impressive mile-long seafront.Since then, thousands of bikers, passengers and onlookers from across the country have gathered on the Tarmac to take part in Wednesday ‘bike nights’, held during the summer months and the BMAD festival which takes place every year. Each rider contributes a minimum of £1 and the cash, together with proceeds from the festival is all donated to local charities.

Marilyn Mitchell works at Mayfield Brilliant bikersSchool in Torquay, which cares for children with severe learning difficulties.Pupils there have benefited from the generosity of BMAD’s members.“These bikers are absolutely brilliant,” says Marilyn. “I’ve developed a great relationship with them over the years and the money they raise is fantastic.

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“We’ve been able to buy iPads for lots of the children here to use. For many of them, it has opened up the world for them to enjoy. We’ve been able to record one child’s first steps to show to their parents and another uses the iPad to communicate with the world.”

Helping disabled children is a cause close to the hearts of BMAD’s founders Kelvin and Jane Halloran. The couple were ‘at a low point’ in their lives, trying to find support to help them care for their disabled twins when they had a moment of inspiration while looking out to sea.

“It was a very low moment,” says Kelvin. “We just felt like we were getting nowhere when we had the idea to get a few bikers together to raise some money for local charities. We wanted something good, a focus. On that first night we had about 800 motorbikes there. Little did we know just how big it would become in the years that have followed.”

The BMAD festival is now regarded as one of the area’s summer highlights.The event is well policed and seen as a way of encouraging motorbike safety for riders and pedestrians alike.

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