Last Years NXD Free Film Festival Article by Boneshaker Magazine

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.


Electric Pedals
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 ( 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 ( 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 (, 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.

Key Stage 2 Science with Eleanor Palmer Primary School


A lot of the work we do here at Electric Pedals is based around community and education. We do a lot of school workshops and young engineers fairs and regularly get invited to showcase our equipment and ideas. Having only recently joined the team in early February, I was keen to experience some of this and learn a little more about how we communicate science in a fun and interactive way to school children.

So when we were approached a few weeks ago by Eleanor Palmer Primary school in Camden, North London, I jumped at the chance to get involved. As part of the year 4 science curriculum, the pupils were learning about electricity, forces and energy and we were invited along to the school to demonstrate a few basic principles. This was the perfect opportunity for me to experience my first Electric Pedals school workshop.

But first I had a bit of homework to do.

While Colin got busy in the workshop, I swotted up on Key Stage 2 science and the basics of electricity, magnetism, friction and energy. We built a large but simple circuit board with four switches, four light-bulbs and a couple of watt meters connected between two bikes. The idea was to demonstrate just how much human energy needs to be generated to light four 60 Watt light-bulbs.

First we discussed energy and its different forms. In the words of Albert Einstein; “Energy can never be created or destroyed, it can be changed from one form to another”. We set out to put this to the test and with hub generators on the back wheels of the bikes, we traced the transfer of energy from the pupil to the light-bulbs on the circuit board. We taught how the stored potential energy in our breakfast was converted into kinetic energy in our legs and that by pedalling we could create electric energy in the hub generator. The kids learned that the electricity generated was then sent down a wire from the bicycle, through the watt meters, into our homemade circuit board and into the light bulbs to create new forms of energy; light energy and heat energy.

The cyclists experience more resistance as each switch goes down while we read from the Watt meters.

The cyclists experience more resistance as each switch goes down while we read from the Watt meters.

The large switches we used on the board effectively demonstrated the increased resistance as the electricity was shared and the pupils were able to experience its effects directly. We discussed the importance of conductors for efficiency and insulators for safety and the kids took it in turn to throw the switches one by one and feel the effect it had on pedalling the bikes. As each switch went down and a bulb lit up, the cyclists had to push a bit harder against the resistance.

The class came to the conclusion that humans are actually not very efficient at converting food energy into electricity. Powering a few lightbulbs was not as easy as first thought and in turn we raised questions on how much pedalling and energy would be required to power everyday items that we take for granted; the TV at home, an X-Box, a toaster or the whole house itself (which we had actually put to the test!).

To put all this into context, we unrolled our “You Watt?” banner.

Our banner with common household appliances next to the amount of Watts required to power them.

Our banner with common household appliances next to the amount of Watts required to power them.

Our banner displays a Watt scale ranging from 10-9000 Watts, with household appliances at each increment and is a great way of demonstrating how much energy we would need to generate to power everyday items we regularly take for granted.

As a fun experiment, we encouraged the pupils to briefly pedal as hard as they could and see how many watts they could generate and using the banner as a leaderboard, we logged their names and peak watts next to the household appliance they would be able to power for that short period of time.

We had covered a lot of the curriculum in the few hours, but after a quick question and answer session about what the kids had learned it was obvious we had missed out another important energy form; sound energy. And what better way to cover our last energy form by throwing a pedal-powered disco. We hooked up some small speakers to our custom built voltage regulator to manage the power and it was time to get pedalling again.

Our custom built voltage regulator handles the electricity generated from the bikes using a ultra capacitor and resistor and ensures a steady and safe flow of electricity.

Our custom built voltage regulator handles the electricity generated from the bikes using a ultra capacitor and resistor and ensures a steady and safe flow of electricity.

Using a mobile phone with Spotify, we let the pupils take it in turns to act as DJ and pick their own music while two others pedalled to keep the sound system going.

Everyone else had a boogie!

Money Supermarket Positive Energy Challenge

We've always wondered if it's possible to cook food using just the energy from people generating their own power, so no batteries, no stored supplemental power, just good old human energy!

Well, with the help of Money Supermarket and Michelin-starred Chef Pratap Chahal the possibility became a culinary reality.

The setup was quite simple. We connector four of our super efficient hub motor bicycles to a 12volt DC / 150Watt travel frying pan. We also included our Watt Meter, which communicated to the cyclists how many Watts they were generating realtime and also to ensure they were generating the required 150Watts.

As the guests pedalled, their energy was transferred to the element of the frying pan - the harder they pedalled the hotter the frying pan got. And to make sure they all got their dinner, they had to pedal together to ensure the pan would stay hot enough for the 5.2 minutes needed to cook it. 

5.2 minutes is also the time it takes to to switch energy tariff with MoneySuperMarket!

Pratap Chahal, to create a special bicycle powered menu, just for the event. Great evening, great food and a pedal powered first for us.... #PositiveEnergy

A French Connection

Since the birth of Electric Pedals and formation of the first kit in a small garage in SE London in 2007, we have been lucky to meet fellow-minded bike lovers and enthusiasts from across the world who share our appreciation of pedal power. 

One of these international partnerships is with a fantastic French energy company Ludik Énergie. Their mission is to provide ateliers et animations sur le développement durable et les économies d’énergie (workshops and activities on sustainable development and energy savings). 

Le Challenge Energétique! (Energy Challenge, similar to our Power Challenge) © Ludik Énergie

Le Challenge Energétique! (Energy Challenge, similar to our Power Challenge) © Ludik Énergie

When looking at the similarities between the bike-powered activities they have been offering people in France & the pedal power challenges & events we have been doing in the UK, it only seemed natural to strike up a partnership with our French amis across the channel. 

Ludik Énergie are quite an inspiration for bike-powered activities and we can learn a lot from them. They have an endless variety of interactive & pedal-powered workshops for children & adults that fit under three main sustainability themes: 

  • Mobilité (mobility): Workshops to help participants understand how to use the everyday bike through their bike school & to promote carpool options. 
  • Carbone (carbon): Workshops to help participants understand and reduce their own carbon footprint and assess their CO2 emissions.
  • Énergie (energy): Workshops to help participants to understand the daily energy consumption and to produce energy ourselves during the activity. 

As an organisation, education is their main focus and this is why their workshops and activities are so important, however, as France has a history of being a nation filled to the brim with cycle enthusiasts, using pedal power for entertainment seemed like the natural next step and one we were keen to be involved in. 

Our conversations began in November 2014. By May, everything was signed, sealed & almost delivered when Matthieu & Vincent set off from Rennes en France, arriving 700km later in Peckham with very little sleep but ready to test the Big Bicycle kit we had built them.

Fixing our Hub Motor Generators to Ludik Énergie's bikes © Electric Pedals

Fixing our Hub Motor Generators to Ludik Énergie's bikes © Electric Pedals

We provided the Hub Generators, a specialised Power Station (that looks much more high-tech than our own trusty but slightly bashed Power Station in a wheelie bin) and a LED Voltage Tower which represents the amount of voltage cyclists are generating in order to power the system. We worked together to fit our Hub Generator Wheels to their bikes and after electrical hiccups, the test was complete and away they went back to France, but we hoped with excitement about the expansion of pedal-powered opportunities ahead of them. 

Team work! Testing the LED Voltage Tower at our workshop in Peckham © Electric Pedals

Team work! Testing the LED Voltage Tower at our workshop in Peckham © Electric Pedals

Almost a month later and it seems they are speeding ahead with bike-powered music stages (we were able to attend one concert in Lille, more on our Facebook), cinemas and who knows what else! And this is all alongside their normal offerings of Energy workshops and lessons. Incroyable! 

Bike-powered music in Lille from folk band Orage Sur La Plaine. Who can spot our logo?! © Electric Pedals

Bike-powered music in Lille from folk band Orage Sur La Plaine. Who can spot our logo?! © Electric Pedals

Bike-powered DJ set in Ile-De-France using our equipment © Ludik Énergie

Bike-powered DJ set in Ile-De-France using our equipment © Ludik Énergie

Phoenix Festival 2015

Over the years we have had the pleasure of working with the housing association Phoenix Community Housing and have seen the amazing work they're doing within the community in Lewisham and across SE London.

Managing more than 6,000 properties across SE London, Phoenix Community Housing is "a community gateway housing association - the first in London and one of four in the UK. That means residents can become shareholding members and play a central role in decision making." Source: Phoenix Community Housing

Not only do they offer the opportunity for people to have their voice heard on their development of their community but they also offer guidance & training for improving employability and the life skills for local residents. All of their work is complemented by a brilliant events schedule throughout the year which aims to bring people together in a fun & sociable way.

This is where our pedal power fits in! 

Assembling our Friction Motor Stands © Phoenix Community Housing

Assembling our Friction Motor Stands © Phoenix Community Housing

We've been to their annual Phoenix Festival for the past few years putting on workshops for children. We work together to assemble the kit and explain how our equipment works to generate electricity to power all sorts of things!  

Phoenix Festival has been running for 8 years, and we were in for a treat when we pitched up in Forster Memorial Park as we learnt we were surrounded by a circus tent, delicious food stalls and a live music stage where the famous reggae band Aswad were playing that afternoon!

We hoped our workshops added a little bit of fun to the day teaching kids how to put together a bike-powered sound-system. We split into groups to build a mini Power-Station with speaker included and our Friction Motor Stands. All our equipment is safe to use and is closely monitored by the team as kids love getting their hands on all the tools we bring with us.

Sarah Wickens of Phoenix Community Housing, who was managing the tent we were in had these kind words to share about us: 

"The engagement work with the young people from Electric Pedals. I was particularly pleased to see how well some of the teenage girls engaged with the building."
Building our mini Power Station with built-in speaker © Electric Pedals 

Building our mini Power Station with built-in speaker © Electric Pedals 

After all that hard work and a mini science lesson on electricity, we came together to have a party! As the kids cycled, the back wheels spun the motors on our Friction Motor Stands to transform the kinetic energy from the children into electrical energy to power our Mini Power Station & music. It's really fun seeing the joyful but surprised looks on their faces as the kit starts to work and the music starts to play! 

Providing the pedal power for the party! © Phoenix Community Housing

Providing the pedal power for the party! © Phoenix Community Housing

ALL of our helpers that day were given an Electric Pedals Pedal Power Champion certificate, whether they assisted in setting up the equipment or they provided the power for the music, which included a few facts we learnt on the day. Naturally we think anything involving bikes is fun but the educational elements are just as important. The more we can do to encourage focus & enthusiasm for alternative & greener sources of energy, the better our planet will be for it. 

Pedal Power Champions! © Electric Pedals

Pedal Power Champions! © Electric Pedals