Fridges recycled to make outdoor cinema

A renewable outdoor cinema in London’s East End has shown the benefits of recycling in the run up to the Olympics

As the 2012 Olympic Park nears completion, Hackney is the talk of the town. Once an important industrial region, the area has been the scene of extensive redevelopment in recent years, with major improvements to infrastructure and housing expected in the future.

A team of enthusiastic individuals however, have taken their own approach to making use of vacant areas. Creative urban designers Scout Limited were determined to celebrate the creative heritage of Hackney, while promoting the sustainable use of resources.

In July and August 2011, their project Films on Fridges, showcased a variety of sports films in an outdoor venue made almost entirely of discarded refrigerators.

“The concept for the project emerged from a year-long case study of the area,” explains co-founder of Scout Ltd, Matthew Triebner. “We heard time and time again about the fridge mountain, an enormous collection of discarded refrigerators on the site of the Aquatic Centre that amassed in the early 2000’s when the UK had little capacity to recycle them. When London won the Olympic bid, the mountain was removed, but it has maintained an almost mythical status in the community.

“The idea was to resurrect the fridge mountain, juxtaposing the area’s industrial history, the existing creative energy of Hackney Wick and Fish Island, and the Olympics’ athletic legacy to follow.”

The Films on Fridges team entered a variety of partnerships to make the project possible, including with Forman & Son who provided the site for the venue, and Sims Recycling, which loaned 150 refrigerators to the cause. The team received no official financial backing for the project, relying on donations generated by crowd-funding website Kickstarter, raising around £4,500.

“It’s been such a wonderful learning experience for everyone involved,” says Matthew. “I think it’s made us better designers, better strategists and better businesspeople. We’ve met so many wonderful people in the process, it would be incredible to work with them again.”

The venue was a popular summer attraction in Hackney, which saw a particularly successful first week. Three of the four nights sold out in advance, while the opening night began with a performance by Massive Violins before a screening of the classic boxing film Rocky.

In the wake of the London riots in August, Matthew confessed that the team was anxious that the disruption would prevent the event from continuing, but after two nights visitors were once again venturing outdoors.

“One interesting footnote on the entire episode was the messages that were generated due to the rioting,” says Matthew. The thousands of fridge magnets on site acted as a form of temporary graffiti from our audience.”

Above all, Films on Fridges stood out for its fresh and innovative take on recycling. The cinema incorporated every refrigerator part that it could, such as doors, which were used to form part of the seating.

Matthew’s aim was to celebrate the cultural and creative diversity of Hackney’s past and present, with the area currently claiming to have the largest concentration of artists in Europe. “What better way to do that,” he says, “than by showing a clear desire to examine opportunities to reuse and reinterpret waste in creative ways.”

With their first project over, Scout Ltd is now looking for more creative opportunities across the world where underused spaces can be transformed for the better. For now though, the 100 volunteers who comprised the Films on Fridges team can take pride in their contribution to Hackney’s illustrious heritage and bright future.