Over the years, we’ve had supporters doing some pretty interesting things to raise funds for Qhubeka Bicycles, but as far as we know, Alison Gayler is the first person to have raised funds by printing and selling tea towels for us. And her tea towels – which are not your average kitchen accessories – have been so successful so far that she has funded 30 Qhubeka Bicycles! Thank you, Alison.
Alison explains that Carlton Kirby, a Eurosport commentator, makes what he calls a ‘codec’ for each grand tour. “It’s basically a data sheet, which he collates as each day goes along, so he has all the progressions of riders in the top ten, places, jerseys, day profile, personal comments etc, which helps him keep all info to hand,” she says. In recent years, he’s begun sharing images of each codec on Twitter at the end of the tour.
“Last year, I suggested maybe he would grant me use of the JPEG of the codec to work on and turn into a tea towel,” Alison says. “I’d been thinking of doing it for years, but last year another cycling fan encouraged me to get on and do it. I contacted Carlton and he agreed I could use his codec for each grand tour. So after each tour, he sent me a jpeg, which I then had to work on to bring it up to a point that would print onto a tea towel. I have some experience in graphic design as I have done it for years in between my voice-over work.”
Alison explains that she whitens the codec background, designs a surround that reflects each tour’s colours and includes Carlton’s signature before she sends the finished design to the printers. “And so the Kirby Codec grand tour limited edition tea towels were begun,” she says. “Fans were wonderful. For the Giro 2017, I wondered if I could sell 20, but the orders rolled in and I ordered 125 from the printers. I could easily have doubled that number, but wasn’t sure if I could handle more at that stage, as the tea towels come in one big box, and have to be folded and packed individually. Carlton provided a signed numbered label for each tea towel, which was then included in the packing. It was all rather time consuming – though getting the payments and order details in was far more lengthy. About 30 plus hours a week for 7 months on the three grand tours meant I had no time to do any of my own work!”
For the tour de France and Vuelta editions, Alison sold 300 tea towels for each race, with pre-orders pouring in from fans wanting to collect the set, and with Carlton announcing them on TV.
“They went all over the world,” she says. “Strangely, none to Italy, but to Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, all over the UK, Eire, France, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Scandinavia and the North Pole! Maybe it was Santa ordering a present for Mrs Claus.”
They sold for £10 each which Alison may increase this year. “So many fans said they would have paid more and sent extra donations,” she says. “Everyone was just so pleased to be helping such a fantastic charity – a charity that has great resonance with those of us that cycle. It’s also a little souvenir of the much loved grand tours and a bit of Carlton too, so it works as a great combination.”
To follow Alison’s latest news or find out more about her tea towels, connect with her on Twitter.