Bicycle Powered Cinema

For over five years, Electric Pedals has developed the art of human power in Bicycle Powered Cinema. The idea is simple: the energy generated from members of the audience cycling together on bicycle generators is combined and used to power a projector, speaker, mixer and DVD player. The cyclists thus become the batteries generating the electricity to power an innovative experience of cinema.

People love to cycle; whether to keep fit, to socialise or to relax, you will find children and adults queuing up to watch the film from the executive bicycle seats...there is rarely a bicycle free. This cinematic experience relies completely on real-time pedal power; there aren't any back-up generators. So when the human batteries stop pedalling, the film stops reeling. Dynamic and communal, audience participation transforms cinema into an immersive and unpredictable performance where the atmosphere is electric. This is the closest thing to live cinema.

We currently offer three configurations of Bicycle Powered Cinema that you can hire:

Bicycle Zoetropes, Tate Modern

As part of the Tate Modern's festival Undercurrent: Young People's Programme, we worked with the artist Jacqueline Passmore to develop bicycle powered Zoetropes and projections in The Tanks. Undercurrent was a series of events, installations and interventions by audio, visual, digital and performance artists. Over eleven days Undercurrent used the experimental space of The Tanks to explore the relationship and influences of subcultures upon dominant or mainstream culture. At the core was the exploration of the ‘underground’ and the under-represented. We contributed to this discussion by inviting the public to pedal to project their own views onto the walls of the Tanks, allowing young people to express their ideas and concerns through an immediate, empirical exchange.

Backpack Cinema, Malawi

In 2013 Electric Pedals developed a pedal-powered cinema backpack kit, which in collaboration with UK charity Purple Field Productions (PFP) and their partner Temwa, we used to show educational films in remote areas of Malawi. PFP makes educational and humanitarian films for, and with, people across the world in their local languages. However, screening these films can be problematic in remote areas which have no electricity or even the fuel to power a generator. Electric Pedals therefore pioneered a portable answer. Backpack Cinema uses human energy to generate the electricity needed to project a film. The entire kit, including the projector, fits into a rucksack and can easily be carried across rivers and through dense undergrowth to be set up on site in minutes. Through constant but relaxed pedalling a full length film can be projected for the whole community to enjoy. 

PFP showed the film ULIMI MCHUMA CHATHU (Farming Our Wealth), an agricultural film made with and for Malawian farmers which demonstrated new techniques for combating the effects of increasing droughts brought about by climate change. It featured local farmers demonstrating effective ways of improving productivity and sustainability, thereby improving the quality of life in the poorest rural communities. Backpack Cinema brings the outside world to some of the most far-removed places, igniting ideas and stirring debate through the luxury of film. 

Electric Pedals now has 16 Backpack Cinemas around the world.

First TransPennine Express

In May 2014 we worked with First TransPennine Express Trains and Manc Frank to support the launching of a new fleet of electric trains between Manchester and Scotland. Electric Pedals created a customer engagement installation that used bicycle power to illuminate the sign, 'ignite the spark that signals change', activating the beginning of this new fleet. Gold medal cyclist Jason Kenny was on hand to power the installation and support the event as it moved from Manchester Piccadilly Railway Station, to Leeds, Sheffield and finally Liverpool. This project was so successful that we will continue working with First TransPennine Express at further stations.

This was another successful collaboration with the amazing Vivid Design Works.

At The End of Everything Else, Unicorn Theatre

At the End of Everything Else, a captivating childrens' theatre performance written and directed by award-winning Mark Arends, was performed with puppetry, animation, music, sound and only the performers' collective energy to generate all the power needed for the show. Electric Pedals engineered the bicycle generators for the production at Unicorn Theatre, collaborating with animator John Horabin and the talented cast to create a unique theatre experience, which received rave reviews across the UK.

"Engineer Colin Tonks and Electric Pedals bring new meaning to the term physical theatre by having an on-stage team pedalling static bikes generating the electricity to power this production for over-eights. A bright idea, indeed, to spark enthusiasm in an audience..." Ronnie Haydon, The Stage

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Light Installations

From festivals to museums, Electric Pedals has experimented with bold light installations to bring people together through creating energy and spark public interest in innovative ideas of energy. Electric Pedals has previously worked at the Big Chill Festival and in Einstein's Garden at Greenman Festival. This summer, Electric Pedals will be returning to Greenman and displaying at The Wishing Tree Field at Bestival .

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Atmen (Lungs), Schaubühne Theatre

Atmen (or 'Lungs' in English) was directed by Katie Mitchell OBE, at the Schaubühne International Theatre, Berlin.  Concerned with population growth and climate change, Atmen looked at how these factors make it difficult when you're young and thinking about the potential carbon footprint of your baby. The central concept of Mitchell’s production was that the actors, and stage crew, were on bicycles in the shallow concrete cyclorama, generating the power for the entire show by pedalling throughout.  As journalist Summer Banks states, 'this principle of human-generated energy is more than just flimsy greenwashing, it shapes everything about the production, from the lighting to the blocking to the sound design.' Electric Pedals' engineering therefore became a fundamental part of this cutting-edge, eco-theatre experience.


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Tree of Light, London Cultural Olympiad

The London Cultural Olympiad 2012 was designed to inspire creativity and bring communities together alongside the Olympics. The 'Tree of Light' was commission as one of Legacy Trust UK's Community Celebrations, a series of large-scale outdoor theatre performances to bring community performers together to create an incredible contribution towards the Olympiad. This project brought together 1,200 performers and a choir of 450 around a gigantic industrial 50ft structure. The 'Tree of Light' was designed by a creative team, working under the artistic direction of Henley Festival's Stewart Collins, including set designers Block9, composer Orlando Gough, performance director/choreographer Charlie Morrissey and Electric Pedals. Electric Pedals powered the Tree's LED lights with 28 bicycle and rowing generators from within the structure. 

The 'Tree of Light' was the culmination of a wider project exploring the science and art of trees.The purpose of the project was to use performance arts to highlight mankind's relationship with the natural world in our technical age. This piece triumphed as a grand community celebration and a very moving human spectacle highlighting the rich and fragile relationship between people and their environment.

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Ape Conservation, Uganda

In late 2009, The Great Apes Film Initiative was struggling in its efforts to bring conservation education to communities located on the edge of the Mgahinga National Park, Uganda. It was a victim of its own success, all too often turning people away from screenings due to overcrowding, with some children having to walk more than 20 miles back to their homes without seeing a single image of the mountain gorillas that live unseen alongside them. What was needed was an affordable, sustainable and eco-friendly way of bringing film to even the smallest of villages. The solution: The Pedal-Powered Cinema Project

With just two children's mountain bikes generating the energy for the screening, this meant that the cinema could be set up and dismantled by a team of two in a matter of minutes. Moreover, it's lightweight enough to be carried up to most hilltop villages, yet sufficiently robust to withstand the bumps and potholes of a typical road in rural Uganda. Its carbon footprint and running costs are minimal.

Electric Pedals is constantly at the forefront of bicycle-powered innovation, but at it's core remains community. Consequently, since this project was launched, around 150,000 children and adults have been able to attend a screening, have fun and enjoy learning. 

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Christmas Trees, Southbank Centre

As part of London Southbank Centre's Winter Festival 2013-14, Electric Pedals and Vivid Design Works were commissioned to created bicycle-powered trees on Riverside Terrace. These Christmas Trees used the energy from the bicycles to light the Christmas lights and turn fans that blew snow all over the tree creating a large snow globe. Moreover, the energy from hand cranks were used to power poems via speakers integrated into the structure. All in all, Electric Pedals contributed to a delightful, festive spirit on the Southbank. 

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Energy School Workshops

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Human Power Station, BBC Bang Goes The Theory

'So how many cyclists does it take to make a cup of tea? About 100, if you run your home on pedal power.' Will Hodgkinson, The Guardian.

 In 2009, a 'Bang Goes The Theory' special event showed how much electricity we use and abuse without even thinking about it. This massive experiment attempted to power a house for an entire day solely through Electric Pedals' human pedal power station while the unsuspecting family inside went about their normal weekend routine. Hanging on the wall in front of the 100 cyclists volunteers was a screen displaying a continual live feed from the house, which meant that the knackered cyclists gasped with horror and desperately called for more people to leap in the saddle and help each time a family member approached a household appliance.

'This is where the fun comes in: it's basically like an episode of Big Brother with a sternly philanthropic sense of purpose and a curious emphasis on household appliances.' Charlie Brooker, The Guardian.

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School Radio Shed

It's been a year and a half since we met Julia Clark, the Head Teacher of Horniman Primary School at Greenman Festival. Julia had this idea to build a bicycle-powered radio station in the school playground. A few months after winning one of three £5,000 prize funds, up for grabs in The Guardian 'Schools We'd Like' competition, Julia's dream came true and the Horniman Primary School Bicycle Power Radio Station was launched!

This is an almost real-time system, so there are no batteries. Instead the pupils have to work together to provide a constant energy supply for the DJ by either pedalling the bicycles or turning the hand crank inside the shed. There is a little amount of storage in the shape of an ultra capacitor inside the shed before the energy is turned into mains power. The teachers plan to use the equipment for science classes and for engaging the children about renewable energy. 

The project was a collaboration between artist Randy Klein, Horniman Primary School Students, Parents and Electric Pedals.

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Talisker Atlantic Challenge

To celebrate the launch of the Talisker Atlantic Challenge in 2013, Electric Pedals was commissioned by Story PR to convert rowing machines for London's first ever rowing machine powered cinema. The electricity generated powered the film 'Through Hell & High Water', following James Cracknell and Ben Fogle as they attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a rowing boat. British rowing champion and double Olympic gold medalist and adventurer James Cracknell thus took part and rowed our electricity generating rowing machines to signify the beginning of the Talisker Atalntic Challenge, which is largely considered as one of the toughest challenges in the world, a race of 2,549 nautical miles (2,933 regular miles).

We also broke the Guinness World Record for the most energy generated by rowing in one hour, a staggering 1kilo-watt hour.

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School Presentation, Sevenoaks School

The success of the Sevenoaks School Science Week has been dramatic over the last five years with 5,000 local students visiting in 2011, over 10,000 in 2012 and in excess of 12,000 for 2013. So we were really pleased to have been involved this year, by supporting a Bicycle Powered Skype session with the school's 'twin' in the Maldives. During the session the Maldives' school was able to communicate first-hand the dramatic effect of climate change on their island. 

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WWF Earth Hour

From London to Sydney, Toronto and Singapore, people all across the world switch off their lights once a year for WWF’s Earth Hour to show their support for tackling climate change and protecting the natural world. It’s a reminder to us all that we only have one planet Earth and we need to look after it. In 2011, Electric Pedals took part by installing 60 bicycle generators to power high spec projectors, which beamed a message from WWF onto the side of the Royal Albert Hall about endangered species. Television presenter Kirsty Gallacher led the WWF-UK team of 60 cyclists in one of the largest human-powered projections ever attempted in the UK.

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The festival atmosphere is one of Electric Pedals' natural habitats. With light installations, pedal phone chargers, childrens' energy activities and large bicycle-powered music and cinema events, Electric Pedals is suitably designed to the alternative and experimental vibe of UK festivals. Electric Pedals has previously worked at the Big Chill Festival and in Einstein's Garden at Greenman Festival. This summer, Electric Pedals will be returning to Greenman and displaying at The Wishing Tree Field at Bestival . Hope to see you there!

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