A British filmmaker and festival director from County Durham is strengthening ties with the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao by taking a pedal-powered cinema to the capital, Vientiane, along with a selection of Wallace and Gromit films for Christmas screenings at the British Embassy.  Helen Ward of Jack Drum Arts and Kids For Kids UK has been developing a relationship with communities in Lao PDR over the past 2 years and this initiative is set to be the most ambitious yet.  
No less than three North East businesses joined forces earlier this year to develop the innovative compact pedal-powered cinema which can easily be transported to rural communities in north east England as well as the remote borderlands of Lao, a developing nation which is the most heavily bombed country in the world. 
County-Durham-based co-operative Jack Drum Arts came up with the idea of commissioning the pedal-powered cinema in order to combine the creativity of the cultural industries with the innovation of sustainable design.  
“We are based in a rural area,” says co-founder Paddy Burton, “and we needed to come up with new solutions to provide services in an age of diminishing resources.  We are also international in our outlook, so this initiative makes a lot of sense to us.” 
Whilst Jack Drum Arts provided the creative inspiration for the project an engineering expert was also needed to help design and produce a proto-type.  Luckily local company Fountain Design were on hand to bring a wealth of experience in the field of renewable energy. 
Mike Galbraith founding director of Fountain Design says, “I am proud to have been involved in the development of Helen's wonderful idea. It was a great opportunity to help teach people about electrical power whilst allowing them to have fun. Engineering and the Arts coming together to inform and entertain.”

Jack Drum’s film and media director, Helen Ward, oversaw the building and development of the proto-type pedal-powered cinema kit, taking it into local communities to test it out on children and adults, teachers and community workers.  At a recent event at the Redhills Miners Hall to celebrate the opening of the Unite Durham Community Support Centre, Labour MEP Stephen Hughes jumped on the machine and pedalled enthusiastically for the benefit of invited guests. Now the British Embassy in Lao PDR and the Vientianale International Film Festival have taken an interest in the project along with Aardman Animations who are supporting Helen’s trip. 
Helen says,  “I first visited Laos in 2012 as part of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. It is a very poor country with enormous problems but the people are really welcoming and desperately want to make connections with the wider world. The medium of film can provide a bridge between cultures so I am delighted that we can provide not only the means for communities to watch films but also some of the best-loved films the UK has produced.” 
Helen established a young people’s film festival called Kids For Kids UK in 2010 whilst undertaking a Digital Media Fellowship at Teesside University’s Digital City Innovation.  Since then she has worked across the globe, building links with community filmmakers in some of the poorest and most marginalised communities including South Africa and Lao. 
Helene Ouvrard of the Vientianale International Film Festival says, “Our community-based film festival has just started a mobile cinema tour in the rural provinces and we will use the pedal-powered cinema to screen films in more remote areas of the country. We are very excited to have the opportunity to use this kit as it is a very unique and fun way for people to discover the world of film." 
Paddy Burton and Mike Galbraith, CEO of Fountain Design, recently attended a UK Trade and Industry export event focussed on developing links with South Africa, showcasing the pedal-powered cinema to a wide range of business and community interests, but it is the small independent state of Laos that will take delivery of the first pedal-powered cinema from the north east of England as part of a British government sponsored project.

British Ambassador in Laos, Philip Malone, says, “I am pleased and excited about our new cooperation with Helen Ward. This project is an excellent example of how UK-based excellence can travel across the globe. This mobile screening unit, built with the joint forces of three businesses is a great way to showcase the strength of British innovation.”

Notes to Editors:

Funding for Jack Drum Arts to develop a pedal-powered cinema came from Durham County Council via the Three Towns Area Action Partnership. 
In the new year Jack Drum Arts Pedal Power Cinema will be delivering arts and wellbeing film screenings using the Ping Pong Cinema “Never Too Old For Gold” in partnership with Britdoc. 
Kids for Kids UK runs an international children and young people’s film festival annually from the BFI Southbank alongside a year round programme of outreach and is a BFI Network Academy.