“Obscure musician” cycled from Dublin to Glastonbury, wants to make journey into a film

Dubliner, musician and director Nick Kelly is looking to make a film of his cycle from Dublin to Glastonbury in 2022 — he aims to spark a discussion on the “pretty terrifying statistic” that 80% of the carbon footprint of a major music event is related to travel.

The former The Fat Lady Sings frontman is no stranger to crowdfunding. After walking away from a major label deal in 1997 he funded his first solo album by writing to 600 fans for support and has funded each of his subsequent solo albums in the same way. 

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Kelly’s supporters have already pledged €21,752 of €25,000 of the goal to start a conversation on sustainable ways to tour live music.

On his Kickstarter page, he said: “In 2022 I decided to cycle from my home in Ireland to the Glastonbury Festival in England – carrying my guitar, my tent and everything else I needed with me, and playing shows in towns along the way – to prove that it was possible to be a touring musician without driving. By doing so, I hoped to start a conversation about more sustainable ways to play and witness music live.”

“I also filmed my journey – and now I’m looking to turn that footage into a finished movie with the working title ‘The Song Cycle,'” he said.

He said the funding is needed to cover editing, colour grading, purchase of archive and stock footage, sound design and mix, music composition, and final playing out of our film.

Among the tasks needed to make the film, he said there’s a huge amount of material to sift through and assemble for the project’s editor which will require several months of his time.

On his carbon footprint, Kelly wrote: “I’ve been a touring musician for over 30 years – both as a major label frontman with my former band The Fat Lady Sings (1986-1994) and latterly as an independent musician – travelling between shows across Europe and America by plane, tour bus, splitter van and private car. I’ve also travelled considerably as a filmmaker, especially since my short film ‘Shoe’ was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011.”

“My first feature ‘The Drummer and The Keeper’ (2017) won awards at festivals all over the world, many of which I was invited to attend – obviously gratifying for me as a writer-director but also guilt-inducing in terms of how much all that air travel was amplifying my personal carbon footprint,” he said.

Kelly said he’d “become increasingly aware of other musical artists”, such as Coldplay, Massive Attack and Billie Eilish, who were also “grappling to reconcile their artistic and economic need to perform live with the harmful impact of that activity on a global environment under existential threat.”

A “moment of revelation” came in 2019 when he was asked to perform a single song at a large multi-artist event in Dublin’s 8,000-capacity 3Arena. He said: “Realising that backstage parking at the was going to be extremely constrained. I donned my rain gear (this was a very typical Irish Autumn night), strapped my guitar onto my back, threw my stage wear in my pannier, and mounted my trusty bicycle.”

He continued: “I got a few curious looks from Security and one or two of my fellow musicians at the stage door, but the surprising ease of this way of travelling to a gig was revelatory for me.”

On the Kickstarter page, Kelly added: “That show inspired me to plan The Song Cycle — a sustainable tour kicking off in Dublin, then travelling by bicycle (via the Rosslare-Pembroke ferry) to gigs in Carmarthen, Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol before performing two shows at the world’s most famous music festival itself. I was accompanied by my great friend and musical partner Sean Millar — we perform and record together as Dogs – who tracked my route on public transport and performed with me onstage every night, and by cameraman Céin who cycled with me and filmed our journey, our performances and our conversations.”

1 comments

  1. THE most inspiring story! I’m a big Fat Lady & Sean Millar fan and I heard Nick do a brilliant interview with John Kelly on Lyric. I’ve travelled very little by plane since mid-2019 – boat & train to London and two trips to mainland Europe this year. Air travel is no longer that enjoyable in my experience. It’s really motivating to hear someone make non-flying work for them. Thanks for sharing his kickstarter link too Cian!

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