ActiveEnergy is a project promoting citizen-led innovation led by artist Loraine Leeson in collaboration with The Geezers, a group of senior men in Bow East London, and engineer Toby Borland. Also supporting the project at different times have been social scientist Ann Light, ex-rocket scientist Stephen Dodds, SPACE Studios and Middlesex University.
The project is being realised through a participatory arts process that facilitates technological expertise in the creation and application of prototype renewable energy devices, which are used as a means of disseminating knowledge at community level while influencing wider practice and policy.
GeezerPower from Loraine Leeson on Vimeo. Camerawork © Jim Prevett, SPACE 2007.
Work so far by this group has involved a practical proposal for installing tidal turbines at the Thames Barrier. Also a renewable energy project at a local school, a wind-driven public light-work for the roof of an Age UK centre and prototyping workshops at University of East London organised by SPACE. In 2013 we created a turbine for installation on a barge opposite the Houses of Parliament to prompt national debate on use of the River Thames as a source of energy for the city. In 2017, working with the university research project Hydrocitizenship we installed a floating water wheel in the Thames tidal basin at Three Mills, which drove an aerator to keep fish alive when pollution levels rise.
The effectiveness of this project has lain in its use of art as a means of creative facilitation, production and collaboration that harnesses community initiative. Most importantly, the experience of community elders has provided a foundation for new ideas that have addressed real need and enabled specific local knowledge to create innovative solutions that could impact on all our futures.