It all started with the Democratising Technology research project at Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with SPACE studios, where Professor Ann Light was working through a combination of social and computer science to investigate the gap between the extensive life experience of older generations and the development of new technologies. The project culminated in an exhibition at SPACE called The Not Quite Yet, asking how older people could engage with the future design process of technology and showing a series of artist commissions responding to the finding of the research.

One of the artists was Loraine Leeson, whose practice centred on engagement with communities. In The Not Quite Yet, she worked with The Geezers, a group based at Age UK in Bow, East London, whose meetings help combat the loneliness and isolation that can be a particular issue for older men.

Following her question: “What new technology do you feel would most benefit yourselves or your community?”, the group arrived at tidal power. Within six weeks they had produced an exhibition and conference presentation, then established Active Energy as a sustainable energy initiative. Their next activity was an intergenerational project with Bow Boys School, commissioned and managed by SPACE and led by Loraine with University of East London engineer Toby Borland. The Geezers took part in the school workshops and mentored the young participants, who produced a wind turbine for the roof of the Geezers’ meeting place at the Appian Court centre. this was subsequently installed on The White Building, SPACE’s centre for art, technology and sustainability in Hackney Wick.

At the same time the Geezers were pursuing their interest in tidal power with Toby Borland and Professor Stephen Dodds at a university prototyping workshop. Other activities intervened including participation at a workshop at University of Central Lancashire, organised by Ann Light, and Skype communication with Northside Seniors in Pittsburgh as part of an extension to the Active Energy project undertaken by Loraine in 2012. At the same time the group began to realise their dream of the Thames once again providing power for London, and commenced work with Toby and Loraine on the development of a small-scale low-cost turbine to test their idea on the Tamesis Dock barge opposite the Houses of Parliament.

In 2015 a further phase of the project began in collaboration with Hydrocitizenship, a university research project using creative means to explore the ways in which citizens and communities live with each other and their environment in relation to water in a range of UK neighbourhoods. Out of this, and with financial input from Big Lottery, and support from the environmental group Thames21 a floating water wheel was developed to aerate water and support the survival of fish and wildlife in the Lower Lea. The wheel, which was driven by the run-off from the House Mill tidal pool, was launched in May 2017.

Further events followed whereby Loraine Leeson and The Geezers participated in a virtual symposium with University of Highlands and Islands and a networking event on a canal trip in Leeds to discuss further development of activities. Meanwhile the team created another wheel for the Queen Elisabeth Olympic Park, which was installed in 2019. Its making was accompanied by further workshops with Bow School, whereby pupils mentored by the Geezers made their own working models of turbines. 

Similar workshops were held with students from City and Islington College, both institutions subsequently incorporating the workshop materials and process into their curricula. The young people viewed the stream wheel in situ and were introduced to the environmental issues it addressed by a member of Canal and River Trust, which had facilitated the wheel's installation. In September 2019, marking the commencement of a week of global climate action, a public event was held in the Park attended by the participants. Speakers included the GLA Senior Manager for Energy and Climate Change and attendees were able to participate in a question-and-answer session focusing on the future sustainability of the capital, and what each could do to address the pressing issue of climate change.