This twelve-year project commenced as a SPACE commission in response to Queen Mary University research into older people’s experience failing to inform development of new technologies. In 2007 artist Loraine Leeson met The Geezers, a men’s group at AgeUK Bow, who wished to work with tidal power. With the help of engineers and further fundraising they developed and tested a prototype turbine for the Thames, held two exhibitions, worked with young people to produce a wind turbine for an AgeUK roof, contributed to three university research projects, conducted numerous joint presentations, collaborated with a seniors’ group in Pittsburgh, and produced floating water wheels to provide aeration for rivers, the last installed in 2019 in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
from Loraine Leeson
. Camerawork © Jim Prevett, SPACE 2007.
The project was realised through a participatory arts process that led to the creation and application of prototype renewable energy devices, used as a means of disseminating knowledge at community level while aiming to influence wider practice and policy.
The effectiveness of the project lay in its use of art as a means of creative facilitation, production and collaboration, which set out to harness community initiative. Through this process the experience of community elders created a foundation for new ideas that addressed real need and enabled specific local knowledge to create innovative solutions that could also impact the future.