Dalston’s Rio Cinema launches £40,000 eco-bid to become the UK’s first solar-powered picturehouse

PUBLISHED: 11:12 14 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:14 14 March 2018

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland.

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland.


The Rio Cinema could become the first in the UK to run on sustainable energy, if a £40,000 fund raiser to install solar panels hits its target.

"We’ve been changing the lighting and putting in insulation, and technology has improved a lot since work was done on the Rio in the 90s, but this would be terrific"

Oliver Meek

Bosses at the iconic independent picturehouse in Kingsland High Street have teamed up with campaign group Hackney Energy, and will launch the campaign on Saturday with a stall outside.

The cinema’s last fundraiser in 2017 to pay for a second screen smashed its target, with £125,000 donations. It spurred on “all sorts of people” to get in touch, “offering different things,” according to executive director Oliver Meek – including Upper Clapton firm Athena Electrical, which donated some of their disused solar panels.

A battery storage system is needed to make them work, and money raised will also pay for scaffolding and labour to install 55 panels on the roof. Solar energy generated during the day will be stored in the batteries to power the cinema’s projector at night.

The eco-drive could save about 8,000 tonnes of carbon every year.

“One of the difficulties with a building of this age and size is it’s hard to reduce that impact on the environment,” Mr Meek told the Gazette.

“We’ve been changing the lighting and putting in insulation, and technology has improved a lot since work was done on the Rio in the 90s, but this would be terrific.”

The project will be the third for Hackney Energy, which helped install a 140 kilowatt solar farm on the rooftops of Homerton’s Bannister House estate, and is now working on a similar scheme on Dalston’s Wilton Estate.

Its chair Philip Pearson will manning a stall outside the cinema at 11am Saturday.

“We will be meeting passers-by and cinema-goers, handing out flyers about the proposed project, and inviting people to donate to the fundraising effort or support the project in any way they can,” he said.

“It’s the first stage of a public engagement drive, and we want to gauge the level of support. It could lead to some interesting findings about what people are thinking about the whole question of climate change.”

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