People crack up when they see me on 50cc Vespa, admits Brent

Caroline Crawford

BRENT POPE may be a towering figure in the world of rugby -- but that doesn't stop him getting sniggered at as he zips around Dublin on his tiny Vespa.

The RTE pundit and Herald columnist has found a novel way to keep costs down during the recession and travels around the city in the 50cc bike.

Brent bought it two years ago from a Polish worker who was going back home -- and insists it's the best buy he's ever made.

"I wear a balaclava when I'm driving and I'm a big guy, so people tend to be a little unnerved when they see me," he laughed.

"People crack up when they pull up alongside me in their jeeps or BMWs. It's especially embarrassing if there's a group of young rugby guys in the back. It's not a Harley- Davidson I'm driving. It costs €10 to fill every two weeks and about €49 in tax. It's only 50cc," he added.

Brent is spending most of his time these days on his charity ventures. His Outside In Art Gallery, in the Stillorgan Shopping Centre, is particularly close to his heart.

"I'm trying to do my bit. I suppose it goes a long way back for me. My father was a very empathetic man and helped people his whole life. He got a Queen's Medal for his community service. I guess it rubbed off on me.

"In the last five years I sat back and took a look at life and possibilities to do things for other people. I decided to spend the next couple of years working with charities," he explained.

Mental health is a topic which Brent is passionate about and he hopes his gallery will help focus more attention on the subject.

"The gallery is 100pc my charity and I run it myself. We promote art with a difference, by people with mental health issues. or prisoners' art. People who are using art to better themselves," he said.

His next ambition is to bring a group of Irish artists to New York next year for the Outside Art exhibition.

"It's my dream to do that. Just to show the expat community there what we are doing here."

He has also just finished another children's book, Hip Hop Optomus, about a shy hippo that wins the jungle X Factor, and is currently chosing the next charity to benefit from the book. He will also travel to Zambia in June with a group from his Rugby Legends Foundation.