What's all this? One of the guardians of our country's heritage, the National Trust, is out to woo the biker community? Yes, the NT will be shedding any remnants of a stuffy image when it celebrates "outsider" culture with a month-long festival – titled Dark Materials – at Lincolnshire's Tattershall Castle (nationaltrust.org.uk/tattershall).
The festival revved up on Friday to the sound of roaring engines, as participating biker clubs pulled up for a preview evening of a major art installation by Tod Hanson and for the launch of the events programme, which runs until 26 October.
Open to the public from yesterday, the main attraction is a giant sculptural work – Horsepower Vault – which explores the architectural details found in the vast chambers of this imposing Grade I-listed castle.
Hanson – best known for his work with Greenpeace and his designs for London's The Brain nightclub – has interpreted the remnants of stained glass, heraldic crests and insignia and combined them with the mechanical language of the "Knights of the Road" in a celebration of the contemporary gothic.
"Tattershall was a display of power, a piece of technology," says Hanson. "The floor plans look like cut-away sections of bike engines. So my artwork turns the castle into a series of machines, making chambers into combustion engines and castle moats into exhaust pipes."
But what was it that inspired the National Trust to make Tattershall Castle a biker-friendly property?
Dark Materials is the brainchild of curators Jane Greenfield and Kate Stoddart, who realised that every weekend hundreds of bikers pass by on their runs to the coast. "But they rarely stop for a break," says Greenfield, "because they are not sure if they are welcome. This project aims to make it clear that they are welcome to park up, rest, refresh and explore this incredible place."
Research subsequently carried out by the National Trust among the biker community revealed that 95 per cent of those polled regularly visit NT and heritage properties and that 88 per cent would potentially attend an arts event.
Features of the programme include curator talks, stargazing and an Alternative Village Fete (15-16 October), which will feature radical craft, folk activism, live art, interactive performance, heavy metal face-painting, and, of course, a display by the Triumph Owners' Motor Cycle Club. Special guest will be junk metal sculptor Jo Rush, with his collection of mutant machines made from motorbike engines.
If you don't want to miss out, you'd better get that motor running.