Beryl: A Love Story on Two Wheels – radio play about the greatest cyclist of an era, possibly ever

So at last Maxine Peake’s play about Beryl Burton made the airwaves this afternoon.

I was traveling so I have had to listen to it myself in my hotel room on the i-player this evening – link here.

Followers of my blog know I have been building up the Beryl story since May (Click tab “Beryl Burton” for other posts and material). I had this horrible moment about a week ago when I read the synopsis on line and I thought it might just be terrible and a bit twee, focussing on a manufactured love story between Beryl and Charlie and my buildup would be in vain.

But what made it work for me were the recordings of Charlie and daughter Denise chatting about Beryl as if she was just round the corner and had popped out for a ride, almost like the day she died. It brings that authenticity and honesty I can respect, bringing to life some of the stories from the book “Personal Best” on which it is based.

Such a dominant figure in the cycling history of the period, but spoken of which such affection by the two people who knew her best, even if it is clear she was far from easy to live with. Yes it was a love story.

Aficionados will be cross at some of the corny sound effects to make radio drama accessible and I can assure you that there weren’t crowds, loudspeakers and commentators at 1960s time trials, if there had been maybe Beryl would have been the star she should have been. But I am forgiving, they were needed for the narrative to work and it is hard to portray a superstar at a sport that was invented for its anonymity! If I have one complaint it would be that her achievements still didn’t really come across, she really was such an athlete she is so hard to sum up.

But all in all a really good effort and its placement on Radio 4 will have gone a long way to telling the world about our hidden heroine. I have only seen feedback on twitter so far tonight, but overall it is really positive.

Please give it a listen, and if you can get a copy of “Personal Best” do so, it fills out the rest.