Riv’s Riders – Meet the Team!

Riv’s Riders is made up of 11 ‘core’ team members, who are cycling the 410 miles from Penzance to Warrington next week. But the team is much bigger than that – we have incredible support around us, including additional riders joining us for one or more legs of the challenge, support car drivers driving a relay along the route, friends who have offered food and accommodation along the way and not to mention the press office and people involved at the finish line!

We couldn’t do it without everyone here – thank you. And thank you to all of our friends, family, colleagues and contacts who have helped spread the message about this challenge and hugely supported the fundraising effort!

So without further ado I’d like to introduce you to the Riv’s Riders 2016 team…

The Core Team:


Fin Reeves 

“My name is Fin and I’m River’s older brother. I am taking part in the Riv’s Riders cycle challenge to see how far I can push myself for my brother and for such an imperative cause. As long as that’s 410 miles and 21,959 ft of climbing then everything will be ok!!”


Gabe Reeves

“I’m Riv’s younger brother so naturally, when the idea came up, I was never gonna say no… It’s a challenge for us, but we are all ready to do it for my brother.”


Stella Judson

“I’m Riv’s big sister and eldest sibling. This challenge was my crazy idea! I can’t believe how far the team has come in the last 3 months or so. We’ve had the most incredible support and have raised our fundraising target twice! I never imagined it would go like this, it’s amazing. I’m so pleased we have built something that will make a big impact on the launch of the RRF and young people like my brother and his friends

I have a picture of River on my crossbar which keeps me going during the training low points. I know he’s having a good laugh about his sis doing this much exercise in his name – but I make sure I raise a few glasses along the way as well… Cheers!”


  Mark Judson

“My name is Mark Judson and River was my bother-in-law. When my wife suggested we cycle from Penzance to Warrington in River’s name my immediate thought was ‘that’s actually quite a long way!’ But I also thought what a great way to raise some money whilst doing something positive and worthwhile. Something that can bring all of River’s family and friends together under the banner of one challenge.  Little did I know that so many people would lend their support, money and time to this amazing project.” 

Ben Dunne

 “My name is Ben Dunne and I am River’s father.  We have all been devastated by River’s tragic loss but immensely proud of everything that he achieved in his short but beautiful life. I am very excited to be a Riv Rider this year and slightly terrified about the challenge that lies ahead cycling the small roads linking Penzance and Warrington!
Please give generously and help make our journey from Penzance to Warrington as successful as that same journey River took as a small boy. Thank you, Ben”

 Tilly Holton

“If someone had told me in the spring that 6 months later I would be cycling 400 miles in a week I probably would have laughed in their face, so it’s with unending thanks to River, Kris, Tom, Jack and Craig for motivating me every day to get on my bike to raise money for the River Reeves Foundation. 
Thank you to each and every person who has donated and supported this team of lunatic amateurs as we embark on a journey only a smidge as inspiring as Viola Beach’s. With your help let’s make rock and roll live forever!”

Lindsay Cansdale

“Hi i’m Lindsay! So I used to love cycling and running half marathons for fun, that ended about 2 years ago when I met my now husband, and when I also met Stella & Mark! Loved them so much we decided to pack up and move to move Haywards Heath and have not looked back since! So when Stella first start talking about doing something for Riv’s foundation I knew I wanted to be part of it, even when Stella said ‘lets cycle 410 miles’ I agreed with excitement! Now having not done enough training by far, I’m looking forward to competing this challenge as a team! And raising LOTS of money for Riv’s foundation.” 

  Jamie Prisk

 “I’m Jamie Prisk, River was my cousin-in-law. I’m doing the bike ride because River was such a top lad and I wanted to do my part to raise money for his legacy to live on.”

  Dave Darwood 

 “I’m Davey D.   I am a good friend of Stella & Mark’s, having known Stella for almost 20 years, during which time my wife and two daughters have got to know Stella’s brothers & sister, shared family holidays, weekends and the occasional beer!  Team Darwood were deeply moved by the tragic loss of River and I am honoured to be one of the Rivers Riders and to help contribute to this amazing foundation.”

  Jodi Darwood

 “I’ve known Stella for 20 years, since she baby-sat me aged 0. I love spending time with Stella and her family, and have great memories of canyoning, water rafting, mountain biking and pubbing! River’s energy, enthusiasm and ability to make anyone feel welcome struck me, and I am proud to be a part of raising money for the River Reeves Foundation.” 

 Sam Middleton

“Hey, I’m Sam. I live right by the race’s starting point in a village called Mousehole. I met River a few times through his brother Gabriel before driving up to Brighton with Gabe to see Viola Beach perform in December 2015. I feel privileged to have seen them play live when so few had the chance. I don’t think a more fitting challenge and cause could be devised and I know the money raised will be worth way more than not being able to sit down for a week.”

 The Part Riders:


Jon Sole

(Penzance to Camelford: Leg 1)

“I’ve known Mark [Jezza ] for some time,never met Riv but given the tragedy wanted to do something. The ride is a great idea and I am sure Riv’s legacy will live on through his foundation. ‘Aki Aki Kia kaha ‘ [forever and ever be strong]”


Josh Tearney 

(Clevedon to Tewkesbury: Leg 3)

“I was asked by Stella, River’s sister, to join the ride for one leg after we did the London to Brighton together. Having seen my performance that day, I suspect she’s invited me as she knows I’ll keep the average speed down. I’m joining from Bristol, where I grew up, and we’re passing Gloucester where I was born, so if nothing else, at least I’ll be able to act as tour guide!”


Dave Lowe

(Tewkesbury to Warrington: Legs 4,5 & 6)

“I knew River as I was the manager at Morrisons when he came knocking on the door for a job, little did I know how much of effect he would have on my life. I am now part of his extended family and friends but could always see he was destined for bigger things and yes – he was a pain in the arse and still will be after this ride !!!! However it was just River world.”


Vicky Lawton & Nikki Kenyon

(Stone to Warrington: Leg 6)

“Vicky Lawton and Nicola Kenyon are joining the team for the final stretch. Nicky is  Marketing Manager at Warren Partners and Vicky is the  Managing Director, an organisation which closely partners with Stella and her organisation. Pleased to be supporting Stella and all the team to raise money for such a special cause in memory of Riv and his talented band, Viola Beach. Good luck to everyone doing the ride, we look forward to joining you on the final leg.”

The Support Team:


Jez Mylward

Support Driver (Penzance to Tiverton: Legs 1 & 2)

“Hi, i’m Jez Mylward, Rivers Uncle. I am very proud to be involved in this event as a support driver and have huge admiration for the riders. As a Penzance local and where River spent a lot of his childhood, I wanted to take part in this momentous challenge. I know that River would be delighted that his family and friends are raising money for such a worthy cause.”


Martin Scolding

Support Driver (Tiverton to Bristol: Leg 3)

“I’m Stella’s Dad. The River Reeves Foundation is a fantastic idea : helping new musicians and bands get on the stage where we can all enjoy them.  Good luck to the Riv’s Riders Team!”


Chris Clarke

Support Driver (Bristol to Tewkesbury: Leg 4)

AND putting us all up on Wednesday!

“I’m an old pal of Ben, River’s dad.  I think the River Reeves Foundation is a brilliant idea and I’m just grateful that I’m able to play a small part in supporting Ben and Sharon, the family and the Riv’s Riders  Team.”


Steve & Julie Cooper

Support Drivers (Tewkesbury to Warrington: Legs 5 & 6)

“We are the support vehicle on the Friday and Saturday for Rivs Riders. We just wanted to be part of an amazing fund raising event in memory of River. River was part of lives for many years and we miss him; he would have been so proud of all his family and friends who are working so hard for the charity.”


Adam & Billy Joe

Warringtonian Adam Garner & the River Reeves Foundation touring press office, christened Billy Joe (frontman of Riv’s Favourite band Green Day) will be rolling into town behind the ride team – all the way from Penzance to Warrington!

Say hello… To Adam and Billy Joe…


“Our youngest daughter Lexie is in the same class at school as River’s youngest brother Dylan and my wife, Loretta is friends with Sharon. We were all naturally devastated at the news back in February and the whole community has rallied round and supported the incredible Reeves / Dunne family. Ben and Sharon have been truly inspirational during such a terrible time for them and their family.

I am a last minute call up and am delighted to be here and help in any way I can. I am really looking forward to meeting all the team and supporting this fantastic feat they are undertaking. The River Reeves Foundation is such a worthy cause and has achieved so much in such a short time. Good luck everyone xx”


Sharon Dunne

Warrington Team Leader!

“Hi I’m Sharon Dunne and I’m River’s step-mum. I am so proud to be part of this epic challenge. My job is to make sure the team have an arrival they deserve! No pressure! This is not just a physical journey but an emotional one which we will all remember!

Please support this challenge and help the River Reeves Foundation to enable young performers to realise their dreams!”

You can sponsor Riv’s Riders here

August – Smash It & Relax It

number one

Days to ride: 14 / Miles: loads / Panic level: high / Money spent on kit we’d never heard of before and can’t afford: squillions / Donations raised: £6,447!!!!!

Hmm… 2 blog posts to date. Not good enough, not good enough at all. And now I’m so behind and there’s so much to say! Although you’ll know most of it anyway so I won’t beat myself up too badly and I won’t go into the granular detail either.

Like many people I took a holiday in August – two weeks away in the sunshine for the first time in a long time. It was actually quite hectic with 2 trips back to back, but it was so nice to get away from work, home and routine. I couldn’t relax though unsurprisingly and the things I take for granted on holiday – like instantly getting into a crap paperback and reading one every couple of days, just didn’t happen. I couldn’t switch my brain off, I was too anxious, I felt guilty (I’d booked the holidays last year and it had all seemed a good idea at the time). I wanted to be away from it all but I also wanted to be at home with my brothers and sister, and I certainly wasn’t doing any bike training either! Needless to say it was a backwards trajectory for the fitness!

Almost in the middle of that holiday we had the run-up and then the news that Viola Beach had hit the Number 1 spot with their self-titled album. Social media and the press went nuts, as did the message groups. We all toasted from our various locations around the world and it was fantastic, and another completely surreal moment. It felt wrong and right in equal measure. I wanted it but didn’t want it. I’m actually pleased I was away when it happened. I was in a beautiful place with some good friends and whilst I really missed home that night, that toast on the balcony in Greece will stay with me forever.

I think it was an amazing collective achievement – starting with River and the VB boys and Craig, and lifted up on the shoulders of the family and friends who have pushed relentlessly to get them there. It was a (an?) historic moment for music too… the first posthumous new release to reach No. 1…


Then to Riv’s Riders… in August we hit our initial target of £5,000!!! This really is amazing! We decided to raise the target to £7,500 and I’m quietly confident we might get there. We’ve had such fantastic support from so many people – from family doing all manner of fundraising activities, to complete strangers who have been touched by the story. A donation came in from ‘a young musician’s mum’ and that just shows that this fundraising resonates with people and is important – the River Reeves Foundation can give a boost to so many people for years to come.

Training has been going OK-ish…

Me and a few of the Riv’s Riders team (including brothers Fin & Gabe) did a mid-length road sportive in Brighton during August (60 miles) which was pretty tough but also great fun.

We’ve also just done a 90-mile training weekend which included yours truly taking a slow-motion wheel-locked, feet-clipped-in, downhill slide into a wall and bramble bush. Styling that one out wasn’t possible and my legs now look, well, like I’ve skidded into a large bramble bush.

All in all August was another roller-coaster, with a much-needed break and some time away, some huge achievements and some good training and preparation for the ride. We are now in the final straight. I am panicking about the logistics and prep… it’s coming together but it’s stressful and I feel responsible for the 11 people in our team, including some of my closest family, cycling such a long way. It’s challenging and it’s tiring and I hope it’s OK.

Here’s to reaching goals *cheers*

RR x


You can sponsor Riv’s Riders here

RivFest and Viola Beach: The Album

Days to ride: 51 / Donations: £3,611 / Miles: 0 (Eek!) Ahem… doing 50 tomorrow!

Not a huge amount of training to speak of, oops. That was quick I hear you say! Well I say this… been ruddy busy! That’s no excuse with over 400 miles to chew in September I know.

There’s a few reasons for writing this blog. One of course is to talk about the Riv’s Riders challenge, to raise awareness of what we are doing and enable people who are interested to track our progress etc. Another reason though, is some form of online diary. Not in the bare-all, outpouring of cringe-laden moments (maybe later), but as a record of what I, and many of us in the family, are experiencing, feeling and taking part in.

At many times over the past 5 months there have been intense periods of activity;  with high-profile events going on, social media, national press – the whole lot. Some of this has been awful to bear, such as the press coverage of the accident and tabloids conducting their own ‘investigations’ into what happened. Pictures and headlines popping up on twitter when you don’t expect it, photographs of Riv you can’t face seeing yet hitting the top of your facebook feed and catching you unaware. In this day and age you literally cannot escape it. Other times, more recently, it has been mainly positive: social media campaigns to get the boys to number one of course, the coverage of Chris Martin and Coldplay (amazing, if totally overwhelming… still can’t believe they did it and that we were there!), and as I’ll come on to, the tremendous support for the Viola Beach album.

So when it’s like this, I want to try and record it. Put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, so that I can revisit it later, and also so that people who read this can hear more of the story from one of Riv’s family, and get a feeling of what it’s like with more detail than I could just share on FB.

Plus I want to give Gwyneth a run for her money. Goop. Pah. As I said to Sharon on our way to Glastonbury after our 3rd G&T (before midday); I can’t bring myself to iron a pillowcase, let alone steam my…

So here’s an update on the last week:

Last weekend the first RivFest took place. Organised by Team Warrington this was the first, of what we hope to be annual, festivals in River’s name. It was a fantastic achievement from Ben, Sharon and so many of their family and friends in the local area, who in a matter of weeks pulled together a line-up of brilliant music acts, festival staging, bar and hospitality tents, not to mention the River Reeves Foundation (RRF) touring office – a multi-coloured caravan (again done with the kindness of a local body-shop in W) fully kitted out with press material and all manner of bits and pieces. Absolutely in Riv’s style – he would love it!


Video messages from Chris Martin, Billy Bragg and The Vaccines were the icing on the cake. Chris Martin said ‘RivFest’… I saw him at Glastonbury last month before he headlined in front of 100,000 people. And he just said… “RivFest”. Out loud. To a camera… I love him.

One of the bands was PinkLady, with our brother Gabe on guitar. Seeing him open RivFest and play on stage (the first time I had seen him perform) with the backdrop of what is now the iconic image of Riv in black and white, was one of the proudest, saddest moments I’ve ever experienced. All of the family had a moment on stage – either performing or introducing acts. I found it absolutely terrifying going up to introduce River’s montage and had to have a serious word with myself when Jasmine, aged 6, sang Swings & Waterslides unaccompanied… what a star!

PinkLady were brilliant – Gabe is a huge talent and did all of us, and River especially, proud up there on stage. And he won’t mind me saying… he looked bloody cool:


We danced, cried, watched, hugged, danced and cried some more and generally had a happy, sad, fun, awful, lovely, emotional, terrifying, overwhelming day. The new normal.

I am so impressed with the organisation of this first RivFest and I’m hoping to be part of the planning team now for the ongoing project. Everyone came back brimming with ideas and one thing is certain – it’s only going to get bigger and better and is another wonderful bitter-sweet legacy for River which will feed into the RRF and put others like him and like Gabe up on stage, in front of his image.

On from RivFest and the week until now has been the run-up to the release of Viola Beach’s self-titled debut and last album. It is, of course, fantastic. I’m typing this in my garden listening to Radio 1 where ‘Boys That Sing’ is track of the day. Every DJ is playing it and talking about them. Messages are pouring in from fans who love the music. Our brother Fin was interviewed on BBC Breakfast this morning – he was excellent. So calm and articulate. He nailed it.

Fin TV

Fin’s interview is being reproduced everywhere. It’s on the radio during every news item, Radio 1 and 5live and he’s being quoted in the press

Viola Beach are currently number 2 in the iTunes chart. Warrington HMV has sold 6 times as many copies as any other new album on the day of release. They are the highest-selling album on pre-order.

With the incredible sadness which I can’t see ever waning, the overarching feeling right now is pride. I am so incredibly proud of River. Gut-wrenchingly, heart-stoppingly proud of what he and his friends achieved in such a short-time. How their music has touched people around the world and the certainty that they would have reached the peak of their profession. That doesn’t make it easier. Does it make it harder in fact? Who can say. What it does do is give us something to latch onto and focus on. It helps us keep Riv alive in our hearts and minds so that he can never be gone. Delaying the inevitable – maybe. But what else could we do?

I am proud of my family. I’m so proud of Fin, stoically going on national TV with just a few hours warning, saying everything right, in the right way. I’m proud of Gabe, performing on the most difficult stage, opening a festival in honour of his beloved brother. I am proud of Molly, pulling us all together and being my rock, living with me here in Sussex and navigating the treacherous waters of grief with me. I’m proud of Ben and Sharon and their focus on having River and his friends in the public eye as much as possible, to make sure his dreams are realised by the team around him, despite what’s happened. I’m proud of my gran and our family in Cornwall – not a day goes past without another fundraising initiative being talked about. River was one of the physical bonds between our families and when it is harder than you can imagine, I concentrate on how happy he would be to see that he has brought everyone together as friends and allies and how our support for each other will get us through.

Next to me is a stack of NME magazines – a Viola Beach tribute. I haven’t read it yet. Today has been a bit much and I am drained. The cover is brilliant and surreal.


We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams…



Riv’s Riders: The Story So Far…

Week ending 17th July – Days until ride: 64

Miles: 90 / Weight… Alcohol units… you get the picture (both higher than they should be incidentally but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to change).

So, with a prompt from a friend and Riv’s Riders support team-mate (that’s the Queen of the North to you) I have set out to write a blog about the Riv’s Riders 2016 Cycle Challenge.

A bit of housekeeping. Firstly – thanks for looking. I am not a professional writer or blogger, nor am I professional cyclist. So if I say things about the training or challenge that are stating the obvious (like, one of those 5 touch-points really hurts 4 hours into a ride) then please forgive me. Likewise the typos, the short posts that I am sure will follow as I try and do this regularly, during the highs and lows.

Secondly – do comment. It’s good to hear feedback, good and bad… interaction is nice.

So here goes – read on if you’re interested, are bored at work, have insomnia etc. Or don’t, just follow it – I won’t be able to tell.

Let me go back first, but I won’t go back all the way. If you have found your way to this blog post then you probably know me, or River, or one of the team. You’ll know, then, about February and you’ll know about Viola Beach and my brother River. I won’t write about that again here. I’ll focus on the bike challenge, what we set out to do and why, and where we are.

After the events of February and March, which included River’s celebration and a week later a Viola Beach memorial concert up in Warrington, our families had to disperse again. Me to Sussex, my brother and sister to Cornwall, other brother over to Ireland. Others scattered across Cornwall, London, Brighton, Warrington. It was a huge crash that layered on top of the grief – we had all pulled together and focused on these events which were of course incredibly draining. Being apart again and in many cases alone, was awful.

Ideas were ongoing about various fundraising challenges that people were embarking on to support the Viola Beach Memorial and later, the River Reeves Foundation (more on this below). I decided I wanted to do something – I wanted to raise money and awareness of course, but importantly at that time I wanted something positive I could channel energy into and focus on. Something I could talk about that was to do with River, but wasn’t directly talking about River, which is still too difficult, if that makes sense. I also wanted a team-based challenge that could pull the family together as a focal point. Where we could be a team regardless of where we lived, share training tips and ideas, and have a common goal we could all celebrate together again.

An A-to-B challenge seemed the right idea. Linking Penzance, where Riv and our siblings lived with mum before she died in 2006, to Warrington where he moved to live with his dad and step-mum in 2007 and where he embarked fully on the performing arts and music, studying drama at Priestley College and then joining Viola Beach.

So – let’s cycle it! Quick look at google maps – 410 miles – doable! How long? A week! Less than a week…(5.5 days was decided). I conferred with friend and ‘proper’ cyclist Dave and he said it was a good idea. And it needed to be around 75 miles a day to be suitably difficult and attract sponsorship, and the dates work with a weekend departure and arrival. So that was the start… next step was to scope the idea with my brother Fin in Ireland. I wanted his buy-in before doing anything. I knew if he was up for it it was a goer. And I particularly wanted him to be on the team as I felt he was quite isolated in Ireland, working antisocial hours and not able to come back very often to see other family.

When I told Fin he was visibly buoyed by the idea. National Cycle Route maps arrived at my house 2 days later – he’d got stuck into the planning and training straight away. That made the whole thing worthwhile already.

Over the following weeks we built a team, which is now 9 in total. Me and my husband Mark, Fin and our youngest brother Gabe, friends Lindsay and Dave and Dave’s daughter Jodi, cousin Tilly and cousin-in-law (is that a thing?) Jamie.

Being my hair-brained idea I’ve taken on the mantle of planning and logistics. Which is pretty stressful! Having to cross-reference the route – GPS and distance, with accommodation stops for 9 people, bike security, support vehicle and kit, sponsorship marketing and everything else is difficult. But we’re getting there.


  1. I’m fitter than I thought. Not healthy necessarily, but I’ve managed to get to a half-decent cycling ability fairly quickly. (Insert cliche here about finding inner strength… you can do anything you put your mind to… etc) I do have a  huge way to go though – we all do.
  2. People are kind. Not just the sponsorship and messages of support, which has been amazing, but the other offers of help. Designing posters, giving ride and route advice, suppliers going the extra mile to give discounts
  3. Cycling gets boring after a while. Mark and I got 90 miles under our belts at the weekend and as it’s not safe to have headphones you end up talking to yourself a lot and in my case, making up song lyrics (Kings of Leon: My ass is on fire, being one example)
  4. Tesco delivery drivers…! I’ve had 3 close encounters so far

Am off to a spinning class. Pedal on… pedal on…

The River Reeves Foundation has been set up by River’s family to support young musicians and those involved in the performing arts, to help them overcome some of the financial challenges that can be major barriers to achieving their dreams. River and his band-mates were on the brink of huge success and had received support from the likes of BBC Introducing, significant airplay and online track downloads, but this hadn’t converted into money yet. They self-funded everything and they worked tirelessly. They were enjoying the journey and knew they were about to make it but they were taken before we got to see them realise their full potential. Testament to that was the wonderful tribute from Coldplay during their closing set at Glastonbury this year – Viola Beach headlining the Pyramid Stage, where they would have undoubtedly been in a few years.

It’s an appropriate legacy for River to help others like him so that they are not forced to give up on their ambitions. He and his friends can live on through the support the foundation will offer.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far – you are making a huge difference and could well be helping to create some future stars…

Sponsor Riv’s Riders here