Pedal power is turning the silver screen green

A pedal-powered collective plans to showcase its innovative cinema experience across Europe next summer.

A pedal-powered collective plans to showcase its innovative cinema experience across Europe next summer.

Magnificent Revolution is a group of artists, engineers and ecologists who use bicycle-powered generators to create a variety of entertainment events and workshops.

Its roots can be traced back to Cambridge where Barbara Patkova came up with the idea as a way of providing a “physical manifestation of energy creation” and showcased a bicycle-powered cinema at the Big Chill Festival in 2007.

It was a great success and other festival invitations followed — and, as interest grew, so did the organisation.

It has three paid staff supported by a team of volunteers and this year moved into a new base, a converted shipping container at Hackney City Farm. So far, it has replaced conventional power at more than 60 different events.

Juliet Chard, who joined as an intern, finds that democracy is key to the collective’s ethos. “We work in a very flexible way and there’s no hierarchy within the organisation,” she said. “All decisions are made collectively, whether that’s through face-to-face discussion or by email.”

The Cycle-in Cinema remains one of the collective’s most popular projects. It has the feel of a drive-in cinema, but without cars, and can be set up in any suitable location. The audience, rather than passively watching the film, connect their bicycles to a 20-cycle generator to power the film.

The generator is capable of producing enough energy to run the projector and sound system. For a non-cyclist, the idea of nine hours pedalling to help screen the Godfather trilogy might seem a bit daunting, but Ms Chard says it’s not much of a challenge for an experienced cyclist.

“The whole process depends on people taking part to create their own entertainment,” she says. “Not only do people work together to produce something, they also appreciate the amount of energy required.”

The collective uses a large 20-cycle generator, which requires the transport assistance of a biofuel-powered van, and a more mobile four-bike “guerrilla” cinema which can be transported by bike and was recently deployed to the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

Magnificent Revolution also organises the Pedal Sessions, a series of video performances showcasing music and other arts with an environmental theme.

Environmentalism and good business ethics are central to the organisation. “We’ve been asked to do quite a few corporate events but have said ‘no’ if the business’ ethics are considered unsuitable,” explains Ms Chard.

The group also runs workshops and builds pedal-powered generators, usually for environmental groups.

Adult workshops mix theory and hands-on experience as participants work on three different types of pedal-powered systems. While it is usually impractical for participants to walk away with their own generator at the end of the session, they are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to create their own micro-power station, capable of powering their own small household appliances.

Workshops for schools are also proving popular and the collective has worked with thousands of children and young people. The novelty and participative nature of bicycle-powered energy helps pupils and students to understand complex issues and also appreciate the importance of their own contribution.

Ms Chard says that school work will be a priority for 2012. “Awareness of energy use needs to start really young and after the workshops children are a lot more aware of the importance of using energy efficiently,” she said. “They go home and start switching things off when they’re not using them — it’s a small contribution but an important one.”

School workshops tie in with the curriculum and deal with issues surrounding energy production, consumption, climate change and creating a more sustainable future.

Another priority for 2012 is the proposed European tour, taking in major cities across the continent, and showcasing the collective’s work.

“As far as we know there’s nothing like Magnificent Revolution out there so we want to spread the word.”

While most of the collective’s work is in London, it has run a cycle cinema in Glasgow, and aims to inspire people to set up their own projects when it does do work elsewhere.

• Further information on Magnificent Revolution can be found online at:

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