Pedal-powered Christmas trees - highlight of the Southbank Centre's Winter Festival

These 2 illuminated pedal-powered Christmas trees were built by Electric Pedals and Vivid Design Works as one of the highlights of the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival.  Both are situated just outside Royal Festival Hall on the banks of the River Thames in London, they are now open freely to the public and will remain in place as part of the Winter Festival until the 7th January 2013.


PHOTO CREDIT: Electric Pedals/Colin Tonks

The Southbank Centre approached Electric Pedals after seeing a tree at Winter Wonderland in 2011 that Electric Pedals had created with VInspired, a charity dedicated to getting young people to volunteer for good causes.  Planning this time was tight, with only about 4 weeks from brief to the beginning of the build.  The two trees are 8 metres tall with all surrounding fixtures built by Vivid in the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival colour scheme (of cyan, magenta and yellow).


Over a kilometre of strung LED tree-lights are powered solely by ten pairs of pedals (5 pairs per tree) - if the human power station stops pedalling then the lights don’t illuminate. In order to allow for maximum accessibility we included two kids BMXes (for little legs), and 2 hand-bikes for those unable to pedal a conventional cycle (wheel-chair bound, less-able bodied or elderly).  To illuminate the tree fully, everyone has to work together to light all of the LED lights.  Bicycles were kindly supplied by Rutland Cycling.


A real fusion of art, science and human effort - we have been blown away by the public’s response to the install.  At the weekend there was not a bike free for most of the afternoon, with children mesmerised by the fact that they were making the lights work themselves.  And when people aren’t around to engage and appreciate?  The lights aren’t lit and power isn't going to waste.

If those same lights had been plugged into the mains for forty days they would have consumed 192 kWh of electricity, equal to making over 5 million cups of tea, or 11.5 million pieces of toast, or 1.5 million hours of laptop use..  That's a lot of tea.


The only elements that weren't pedal-powered were the LED light tubes and 2 sets of LEDs that light the large bulb at the top of the tree.  It could have all been pedal-powered but the client opted to have part of the tree lit constantly for impact and effect.  Both these elements were LED technology and were selected based on their efficient power consumption.

Not only have we had great engagement from the public at Southbank but we've had media interest in the trees globally, with pick-up by The Discovery Channel amongst others!