Urban Subversion and Mobile Cinema

This paper introduces our bicycle-based cinema device—the “kino-cinebomber”—
as a vehicle to re-imagine disused buildings and obsolete urban
infrastructure for re-activated public leisure spaces.

Introducing the city, the river, and the “kino-cine-bomber”

In Coventry, the River Sherbourne is missing. Approaching the city from the west along Meadow Street at the perimeter of Coventry’s ring road, the Sherbourne unceremoniously disappears—underground. About a mile away, on the eastern edge of the city center, the Sherbourne re-emerges from a tunnel near where the ring road meets Sky Blue Way. Between these points, the Sherbourne transects Coventry, but invisibly; there is no sense of the river in its dense streets and pedestrianized central district. Here the Sherbourne is lost, hidden within a culvert system constructed after World War II. The once bucolic Pool Meadow adjacent to the Sherbourne was drained and now serves as Coventry’s central bus station and car park. Like numerous other urban watercourses, capping the Sherbourne had once been championed as visionary modern city planning—but no more.

This paper discusses our participation in efforts to re-expose the Sherbourne as a part of wider calls for urban leisure spaces via “daylighting” schemes for hidden urban waterways (Cox, 2007). Cox (2017) spotlighted campaigns to uncover hidden urban rivers and create pocket parks in Sheffield, New York City, Seoul, Auckland, Zurich and London, among other cities. These river daylighting schemes are widely celebrated for creating green corridors through cities, acting as flood-relief channels, restoring natural habitat, providing public parks and paths, promoting passive cooling to help combat the urban “heat island” effect, and complementing urban architecture. Where once city planners sought to cover urban rivers, it is increasingly fashionable to uncover them. They have become foci for intense debates about urban leisure spaces and architecture.

Although there is longstanding interest in urban spaces (e.g., Johnson & Glover, 2013), there has been almost no leisure scholarship on the relations between leisure and architecture (for exceptions, see Gilchrist & Ravenscroft, 2013; Walters, 2017). Where scholarship has focused on architecture and leisure spaces—e.g., skateboarding (Borden, 2001; Borden, Rendell, Kerr & Pivaro, 2001; Jones, 2016; Shirtcliff, 2015)—it has taken place largely outside of leisure studies. Others, have written of “social architecture” (Jones, 2009) that shapes, and is shaped by social, historical and political forces (see also Jones & Card, 2011). Yet, here too leisure takes a back seat to the political economy of urban space. Our research foregrounds leisure in urban spaces and architecture as activist politics.

We collaborated with postgraduate architecture students in the (Re)Activist studio at Sheffield University to design and build a mobile bicycle cinema apparatus we call the “kino-cine-bomber” (see Figure 1). The kino-cine-bomber consists of a Danish (“Christiana”) freight bicycle with an added wooden tower to elevate a 2000-lumen projector; a car battery powers the projector, 50-watt sound system, and radio transmitter (for anyone wishing to listen in via radio). In a series of Situationist-inspired interventions (e.g.,détournement,dérive, constructed situation), (Re)Activist students pedaled the kino-cine-bomber through Coventry, first to suggest locations where the Sherbourne might be rediscovered. Then, in a second excursion, they projected architectural designs for (re)new(ed) communal spaces centralizing civic leisure spaces to counter the consumer-driven “zombification” of urban living (Lashua, 2016; Maak, 2015).

Figure 1. Kino-cine-bomber. Courtesy of (Re)Activist Studio

Figure 2. The kino-cine-bomber during its first dérive. December 7th 2016. Courtesy of (Re)Activist Studio

Figure 3. Projecting designsonto obsolete architecture with the kino-cine-bomber in Coventry

Figure 5. Detail from Urban Beach Corridor Manifesto (Wong, 2017, pp. 84-85). Courtesy of Wanqing Wong.