Older people are often marginalised by technology. Younger people are not. Active Energy is a project developed by SPACE which uses imagination, digital technology, engineering and the spirit of invention to bridge rather than divide a group of older men and younger boys.
Students at Bow Boys Secondary School worked alongside a group of East London senior men, The Geezer Club, with support from an artist, engineer and ex-rocket scientist, to create designs for wind and water turbines. Small scale working prototypes were developed under expert guidance through a series of workshops. The most successful design was chosen to power a temporary public artwork aimed at drawing attention to potential applications of renewable energy sources. ‘Geezer Power’, a wind powered light installation, was exhibited on the roof of Age Concern in Tower Hamlets for three weeks and will tour Tower Hamlets, going next to Bow Boys Secondary School.
The Geezers are currently developing ideas they have for a water turbine that will drive another temporary lightwork, harnessing the tidal power of the Thames and using facilities at University of East London’s MAGICbox.
In addition to its technological and artistic outputs, the Active Energy project takes an intergenerational approach to addressing a number of key issues facing local communities in one of London’s poorest boroughs. Underachievement amongst boys has been addressed in two ways that would otherwise not be on offer through the school curriculum. Firstly, participating young people were mentored by senior men from their own community, who were keen for their voices to be heard on issues that mattered to them, using their lifetime experiences to feed back into society. At the same time master classes at the university with one of the country’s leading control engineers and an artist provided inspiration and fostered skills, creativity and innovation.
Renewable energy is often seen as the remit of statutory institutions or those wealthy enough to afford the significant cost of the equipment involved. However, there is growing interest in the technologies involved amongst ordinary people living in East London. In focusing public attention on these issues, Active Energy aims to address local authorities and housing developers to encourage greater incorporation of renewable energy into residential accommodation in this area.
Part of SPACE’s Learning and Participation programme, Active Energy has involved a multi-discipline collaboration between artist Loraine Leeson, Stephen Dodds, Professor of Control Engineering and Toby Borland, design engineer and manager of the MAGICbox prototype lab at the University of East London.
Phase 1 – Wind powered temporary public light-work
April 2010 Appian Court, Parnell Road, Bow, London E3 2RS
May – June 2010 Bow Boys Secondary School, Paton Close, London E3 2QE
Phase 2 – Tidal powered temporary public light-work
Active Energy is funded by:
Arts Council, England
Leaside Regeneration Ltd
The Woodland Trust.
With thanks for their kind support:
Gateway Housing Association
Age Concern Tower Hamlets
University of East London SMARTlab
Environmental Sustainability Team, London Borough of Tower Hamlets
129 — 131 Mare Street
London E 8 3RH
SPACE supports over 600 artists in 17 studio buildings across London as well as providing dynamic environments where individuals and communities can engage in creative processes. SPACE provides ‘space to create’: supporting the creation of art through the provision of creative environments; ‘space to engage’: programmes that widen engagement in artistic practices; and ‘space to develop’: supporting the development of creative individuals and communities.