Keele researchers investigate - how many people does it take to power a theatre?
- Researchers at Keele University have teamed up with a local theatre to study how much “pedal power” it takes to power a theatre.
- The New Vic Theatre presented researchers with a unique opportunity to study the question thanks to a play they were producing in conjunction with Headlong Theatre Company and The Barbican, where cyclists provided the power for stage lighting and audio using bikes.
- Using kinetic and human power to reduce the environmental impact of live shows is something that has been trialled in the past, with these results providing interesting insights for other theatre and public events organisers arranging similar events.
A unique research opportunity
Researchers at Keele University have teamed up with a local theatre to study how much “pedal power” it takes to power a theatre.
The New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme presented researchers with a unique opportunity to study the question thanks to a play they were producing in conjunction with Headlong Theatre Company and The Barbican, looking at climate change and sustainability.
“A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction”, a dark comedy with a serious message about climate change and the environment, was staged at the New Vic as part of its tour of the UK, with all of the power for stage lighting and audio provided by four members of the Newcastle Triathlon club using l bikes mounted on turbo trainers to generate the electricity during the performance.
Lighting a theatre with pedal power
At the same time, researchers from Keele’s School of Allied Health Professions monitored their physiological responses, to learn more about the amount of muscle power and heart work required to create enough electricity for the lighting and sound for the performance.
They found that to produce the electricity for the show, the cyclists had to pedal with twice as much power compared to the electrical power requirements. For the four fit cyclists, this was no problem as it amounted to a light to moderate physiological strain lasting for 50 minutes.
Professor Buckley said: “In the future if we want to get more non-athletic people involved in pedalling for theatre power, as a means of health promotion alongside a cleaner environment, then we simply need to add more cyclists to reduce the individual efforts. Our study goes some way to giving us a formula of working out how many cyclists we need depending on their levels of fitness.”
Partnership in action
Using kinetic and human power to reduce the environmental impact of live shows is something that bands like Coldplay have experimented with in the past, with Professor John Buckley saying these results provide interesting insights for other theatre and public events organisers arranging similar events.
Fiona Wallace, Managing Director of the New Vic, added: “This study is a really good demonstration of how Keele University and the New Vic Theatre are working in partnership. Our production was part of a ground-breaking experiment looking at ways to reimagine touring theatre more sustainably. It offered a perfect opportunity to work with Keele’s Institute of Sustainable Futures, and with Professor Buckley and his team on this interesting investigation around powering theatre performances.”
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