Moving play, based on Eilidh Cairns, opens

A powerful new play, inspired by the death of a popular Northumberland woman, has opened at a London theatre.

Eilidh Cairns.
Eilidh Cairns.

The White Bike is based on the heartbreaking and tragic story of 30-year-old Eilidh Cairns, from Ellingham, who was crushed by a tipper lorry as she cycled to work in Notting Hill, London, in 2009.

The show, written by Tamara von Werthern, is being performed at The Space, London. It opened on Monday night and runs until September 30.

Described as ‘an affecting play about personal loss and a celebration of one woman’s life, tragically cut short’, The White Bike tells of Isabelle, who sets off on her bike through Hackney – but never comes home.

It is a moving, personal account of one woman’s journey by bike through an existing route in London and her coming to terms with her own death and its impact on her young family. It asks the audience to immerse themselves in the experience of cycling to truly empathise with the character’s fate.

Earlier this week, Eilidh’s sister Kate, and mother Heather – both from north Northumberland and former county councillors – went to The Space to see the play.

Kate, who launched the See Me Save Me campaign in 2010 to tackle the issue of blindspots in HGVs, said: “I founded the See Me Save Me campaign in 2009 following the death of my sister.

“Tragically and scandalously, these deaths continue eight years later.

“There are many ways to change public opinion, industry norms and political sway; I have tried most of them but art, theatre and drama are another powerful influence for change.

“My feeling is that The White Bike will play an important part in helping to raise awareness of the tragic and futile deaths that are caused on our streets year after year.

“It will add another voice to the voices of those who campaign tirelessly in order to stop these deaths and I have pledged my support for the project and will help in any way.”

In the eight years since Eilidh’s death, a further 100 cyclists have been killed in London alone.

The White Bike is directed by Lily McLeish and stars Chris Akrill, Helen Millar, Helen Stern, Josephine Starte and Liam Faik. The show creates an immersive experience of cycling in a physical, abstract and imaginative way.

It has been developed with help from Arts Council England, and is supported by Queen Mary University of London, Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, Sustrans, SeeMeSaveMe and RoadPeace, and with support from Kickstarter, Pedlars, MiCycle, A&S Bikes, and various individual donors.

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