This year’s theme; ‘Popular Culture of the Past 50 Years’
The stage is set for the fiftieth Great Knaresborough Bed Race, which is to be held on Saturday 13 June 2015. As ever, this great spectacle is in two parts: the gathering of the beds at the Knaresborough Castle in their decorated finery, and the race itself, run as a series of time trials. Everything is organised by volunteers, run by amateurs and staged to raise money for good causes. The organisers, the Knaresborough Lions Club, hope the event will bring in £100,000 for charity.
The event pits 90 teams of six runners and a passenger against each other. There are prizes for the best decorated beds, most entertaining teams and fastest around the course in various categories; overall, women’s juniors, mixed and so on. Over 140 teams applied to take part and a public lottery was held in March to select the 90 to comprise the race field.
Apart from the 630 runners and riders, there are 500 other paraders, young and old, supporting the teams, as well as dance groups and marching bands. It is believed that anything up to another 1,000 people help in decorating the beds and stitching the costumes. Some 250 volunteers turn out to marshal the event and provide other support to the 37 Knaresborough Lions who have organised the event 1993.
Martin Brock, chairman of the Knaresborough Lions’ organising committee said:
It is a massive event for Knaresborough and is known all over the world.
Bed Race is a fabulous occasion, made even more so in that it is all organised by volunteers to raise money for local and international good causes.
The fiftieth event makes this extra-special.
We are delighted that among our helpers this year are former members of the Knaresborough Round Table group who created Bed Race back in 1966 and ran it until the mid 1990s. Various factors meant that their organisations could not continue so they worked with the Lions for a few years before we took over.
If visitors to Knaresborough see any of those original Round Tablers on Saturday we hope they thank them for what they have done for Knaresborough and for bed racers all over the world.
The first Bed Race in 1966 attracted four teams and was hit by wet weather. Nevertheless, the idea took root and by the late 1960s thousands of spectators turned out to watch scores of teams take part.
In the early 1970s the organisers recognised the fact that teams were taking part in fancy dress and were decorating their beds, and this was made a compulsory condition of entry.
Themes have been issued ever since to tax the creative ingenuity of those taking part. From the early days, teams of US servicemen from Menwith Hill and Germans from Bebra, the Knaresborough twin town, have taken part. This has helped spread the concept internationally.
There are now scores of bed races in North America, Europe, South Africa, Asia and Australasia, and in 2012 Knaresborough Lions helped a group establish a bed race in Auckland, New Zealand.
We don’t know if bed racing started here but it was in Knaresborough that it took off.
Because it has spawned so many other events, it began to be called the Great Knaresborough Bed Race around 20 years ago.
As far as we can, what we have that others don’t is the spectacular topography of Knaresborough itself: the Gorge, the Castle, the steep ascents, cobbled streets and the River Nidd.
Knaresborough is the real hero of Bed Race – it is important for the town.
In 2013, the Knaresborough Chamber of Trade estimated that Bed Race is worth £350,000 to the town.
We estimate that it brings along 30,000 people to watch.
A Family Fun day
The event starts on Saturday morning at the Castle where from 9 am teams in their fancy finery arrive with their wonderfully decked-out beds. Judging of the best dressed beds starts from 11 am, with details of the winners being announced some time after midday.
At 1 pm the Parade starts. This leads from the Castle, around the Market Place and down the High Street and Bond End. As it snakes past Knaresborough House the judging for the Most Entertaining Teams award is conducted. Led by the marching bands, the colour party from Menwith Hill and dancing group, the teams enter the grounds of Conyngham Hall where the beds and teams are stripped to racing trim.
The Bed Race itself is run as time trials with teams going off at approximately 10-second intervals, starting with the fastest. The course is 2.4 miles long and takes them through Conyngham Hall and along Waterside, through the Nidd Gorge and up the steep climb to the Castle, through the Market, down High Street and Bond End again, before crossing High Bridge and making their way through the parkland of McIntosh Field.
The final act is the 35-yard swim through the icy waters of the River Nidd. This is the highlight for many racers and spectators. To reduce crowding on the banks, the Lions have cameramen filming this stage and projecting it on a huge screen in Conyngham Hall Field.
The fastest teams finish in less than 14-minutes; the slowest in about twice that time. Being Yorkshire, the whole event is treated by the participants as deadly serious, with fierce rivalries emerging and teams competing against their previous times if there is no one else to match.
Results from 2014
Fastest team Harrogate Harriers
Fastest Female Team Ripon Runners for Girls
Fastest Non Club Team Harrogate Racers
Fastest Non Club Female Team Piccadilly Fillies
Fastest Mixed Team Armed Forces Fitness
Fastest New Team Fishers Till We Die
Fastest Junior Team Harrogate Young Life
Fastest Junior Female Team Heels on Wheels
Best Dressed Bed First Scriven Scouts
Second Team Red Beer
Third The Young Ones
Most Entertaining Team Tewitt Youth Band
Most money raised for charity St John’s Juggernauts
Outstanding contribution to Phil Urukalo (our Timekeeper)