I started writing this a year ago and never clicked Publish. As we are coming up on the one year anniversary of this amazing project, it’s about time to do so.
I wanted to share a bit of backstory on my recent video projects. Back in December of 2018 I got a voice message from my friend Emma. This was about a week after the sudden passing of cyclist and commentator Paul Sherwen, who was Emma’s godfather. Emma asked me if I could come to Manchester and help her with a family project. She wanted to create a tribute video around Paul’s memorial service which would be held in February. What the project ultimately became though, was far greater than that.
Emma was a staff colleague of mine at Wiggle High5. She had the unenviable job of making the travel and lodging bookings for the whole team and staff during the year. We were two of the only ones left after the mass staff exodus at the start of the 2018 season. During that very turbulent 2018 season, Emma and I talked each other out of quitting the team on pretty much a weekly basis. She was my rock and we propped each other up. 2018 turned out to be the team’s last year. We shared a certain bond after this, and there’s basically nothing we wouldn’t do for each other.
I slowly learned of the project details during the month of January 2019. The memorial service would be held in Manchester Cathedral on February 6. Attendees would be members of the UCI, ASO, and many former pros and friends who raced with Paul. The announcement of the memorial service went out over twitter. There was a huge outpouring of responses. Many hundreds wanted to attend the service. Even more asked about viewing the service remotely.
We decided that one video would not be enough. In addition to the personal tribute Emma had envisioned, we wanted to make the whole service available online to those who could not attend in person. And so Secret Mission Manchester was born!
— Coreen Mazzocchi (@mazzok) February 5, 2019
The time on site in Manchester was only two days, and they’d be full-on schedule wise. The day before the memorial service we had 4-5 interviews scheduled for the tribute video. We also had the camera/sound/lighting check inside Manchester Cathedral.
It was obvious that we needed another logistical hand. So we asked help from Ben Atkins, longtime press officer for Wiggle High5. The Wiggle staff “band” was back together!
Even if the circumstances around our mini staff reunion were melancholy, it was great for the three of us to spend this time together.
I knew virtually nothing of Paul Sherwen’s character, his path to becoming a pro cyclist, or his life in general beyond his being a cycling commentator. I had never met Paul personally. But through the stories told by his lifelong friends and teammates, a beautiful picture slowly emerged in my mind.
Hearing Sean Yates, Allan Peiper, Sean Kelly, Phil Liggett, Ian Binder and John Herety tell stories of his creaky knees, wry smile, his sarcasm, his generosity, and his insane toughness and determination were extraordinary. It was plain to see that Paul was a deeply loved and special person.
The day of the memorial service was equally as full. We filmed 4 interviews more interviews in the morning. Afterwards we walked to the cathedral, set up, filmed the 90 minute service. After the service we did another 5 interviews in a little side room of the cathedral.
Exhausted but still buzzing emotionally, and with all camera memory cards full, we walked back to our rental apartment to chill and reflect on the day. Ben and I got some take out pizza, hung out, and discussed old times together. He also found me many of the awesome vintage images that ended up in the closing credits of the tribute video. Then Ben caught his train home with 5 minutes to spare.
Our goal was to have Part 1 of Secret Mission Manchester, the full memorial service, online within 24 hours. Editing went until 2:00 am. At 4:00 am, Emma and I shared a taxi to the airport with Allan Peiper.
The tribute video, eventually titled Paul Sherwen, A Cyclist’s Journey, took a week more of editing. From the outset of this project, my main goal was to create something that fulfilled Emma’s dream and concept, and something that would honour Paul’s life.
I said to Emma countless times, “I hope I don’t let you down.” Emma, incredibly brilliant and strong throughout this whole project, would always say, “Coreen you could never let me down.”
Even one year later, we have both been so proud of Secret Mission Manchester.