We are so excited about our involvement with the New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival this year. This will be the 5th year running that we have had the pleasure of running our Big Bicycle Powered Cinema with them and this April we are showing two amazing films.
The first event will be the screening of Slam City Skates first skateboard documentry, City of Rats, in Deptford and the second will take place on top of Telegraph hill with a screening of classic fantasy adventure film, Labyrinth.
Last years event on Telegraph hill was truly a night to remember, so here is a look back at the amazing article Boneshaker Magazine wrote about it.
Hope to see you all this year.
The Dynamic Future of Community Cinema
‘Cause the power, you’re supplying...,it’s electrifying!’
It’s the weekend, and the sun is setting over Telegraph Hill, South East London, as the local community flocks to an unusual outdoor screening of Grease. They bring their children and the camping chairs, their vintage glad rags and those woolly jumpers, their sparklers, their flasks and the bottle-openers. And of course, they bring their bikes. Yes, welcome to bicycle-powered cinema.
The atmosphere is charged. Children play on bikes as Pink Ladies gather, swirling around with champagne flutes and blond curls, unpacking picnic hampers to celebrate the night in style. Couples pedal side-by-side as the T-Birds arrive. In grunge black leather they ready themselves with beers and blankets. Father and son discuss gear-changes as the BBQ smokes-up, the city lights up, cameras flash and movers and shakers dance to Motown. Still the cyclists pedal, for tonight, they are the stars. They are the batteries generating the electricity to power our Saturday night entertainment. Welcome to Electric Pedals.
Electric Pedals (www.electricpedals.com) was founded by Colin Flash Tonks over five years ago as a way of harnessing human power to generate energy from cycling. Since then, the possibilities of where bicycle power can lead us have radically developed. In Malawi, a young man sets up a backpack cinema in his village, surrounded by fascinated faces. In Berlin, the lights dim in Katie Mitchell’s pedal-powered production of Atmen as the actors momentarily pause to wipe the sweat from their brows. While back in London, it is breaktime at Horniman Primary School and in the Radio Station Shed the young eco-DJs mix with renewable energy. Electric Pedals has become the forefront of bicycle power innovation.
But it’s more than that, Electric Pedals is about communication. It’s about connecting people together, whether through outdoor entertainment or classroom education, the focus is on community. Electric Pedals’ collaboration with Newcross and Deptford Free Film Festival (www.freefilmfestivals.org) meant that more than 700 people came together to sing-along to ‘Greased Lightning’ and swoon over John Travolta (in fact, a female chorus erupted through the night with Danny’s first cheeky smile). As Jacqui Shimidzu, Community Volunteer and Founder of NXDFFF explains, ‘we could have just had a generator powering this outdoor performance, but Electric Pedals brings added value. People don’t quite believe that cinema can be completely powered by themselves; it’s a spectacle.’ The how of cinema is redefining the extent of what cinema can now be. Dynamic and communal, active participation transforms cinema into an immersive and unpredictable performance where escapism becomes a team-effort - a shared experience - rather than the solitariness of a dark auditorium. As Tonks makes his directorial last adjustments on the 20 bicycles that will power tonight’s screening of Grease, he excitedly admits the ever-present ‘fear of jeopardy’ in producing this kind of live cinema: ‘It could still all go wrong.’
And it did.
Relying solely on constant, real-time pedal power throughout the screening meant that when the human batteries stopped pedalling, the film stopped reeling. Blackout. There was no back-up. With adrenaline surging to resolve the situation, the atmosphere was electrified. The boundaries between picnicking neighbours broke down over joking concerns and lipsticked-enthusiasts sang-along regardless, sending a wave of encouragement back to the cyclists in their collective rendition of ‘Summer Nights’. Suddenly, the screen lit up and the music continued, cheers of appreciation resounded for the cyclists; the stars of the show were back on their bikes.
‘It’s like a little festival’, remarks one Goldsmiths graduate. ‘This is healthy cinema’, exclaims the other. ‘There’s a beauty to it’, wistfully states the last. There is. In the means that brings people together, there is always a beauty; and a world away from South East London, Electric Pedals uses bicycle-powered cinema to bring African communities together in just the same way.
Back in 2009, in association with The Great Apes Film Initiative (www.gafi4apes.org), Tonks engineered a basic pedal-powered cinema for a hilltop village on the edge of Mgahinga National Park, Uganda, consisting of just two mountain bikes that wheeled into bicycle generators and powered a projector and guitar amp sound system. This conservation project needed to bring greater awareness to the local communities of the endangered mountain gorillas that lived alongside them. Through Electric Pedals’ sustainable, lightweight and eco-friendly innovation, even the most remote villages could be educated and entertained through film. Isolated from mainstream communication, the bikes brought communication to them; the bikes brought knowledge to them. For most, bicycle-powered cinema was their first experience of cinema.
Similarly, last year Electric Pedals developed a pedal-powered cinema backpack kit trialled in Malawi. Malawi is 80% rural, and so while film is recognised as a powerful social tool, it is only applicable if it can reach (be carried to) the inaccessible communities. Being able to cross rivers and walk long distances through dense undergrowth, Electric Pedals provided a portal answer with their 20kg backpack cinema. Simple, the effect cannot be understated. The backpack kit brought the outside world to some of the most far-removed places, installing aspirations, stirring debates and igniting ideas through the luxury of film. For most, it was a miracle.
When the finale song, ‘We Go Together’, rang out across Telegraph Hill, it seemed like the most natural thing to do to stand up and dance. Within moments, the entire audience was laughing and dancing, together. Without the constraints of auditorium seats, the cinema became a moonlit disco and Saturday Night Fever began. There is a beauty to it, because how often do we let our hair down and share that moment with our neighbours? How often do we go together? Film, as seen, brings every community together to have fun and be inspired. And whether here in the UK, where doors so often remain closed, or in the depths of rural Africa, where technology is minimal, Electric Pedals is pedalling the dynamic future of community cinema and beyond.