Blast from the past to show things to come

News editor
Motion control specialist Parker Hannifin is using an historic mobile cinema unit to show promotional films at this year’s Offshore Europe exhibition.

Offshore Europe 2015 is still a few weeks away but pre-show news is filtering through, including that of a nostalgic revival from Parker Hannifin.

For those of you that don’t know, Parker – a manufacturer of motion and control technologies that recorded 2015 sales of $13bn – got off to a shaky start when a vehicle carrying the company’s inventory crashed on a sales trip to Boston in 1919.

The contents of the vehicle were destroyed, leaving company founder Art Parker having to regroup and start his business over again.

It seems fitting to hear that Parker will be effecting another revival at Offshore Europe 2015 that will strike a chord with readers of a certain vintage, and help to impart knowledge to today’s engineers.

The revival in question revolves around ‘Audrey’, the last of seven custom mobile cinema units operated by the Production Engineering Research Association (PERA), which toured factories to promote modern production techniques to British industry.

Engineers boarding the mobile cinema in the 1960s
Engineers boarding the mobile cinema in the 1960s

The seven Bedford vehicles were built in the late 1960s to play films and show displays using remote control projection equipment housed in the steel-framed, Perspex-glazed dome above the cab.

Parker tracked down Bill Dick, a former engineering apprentice who’d undergone training in one of the vehicles, who said: “We were all so proud to be British as the UK really was a leader in so many fields; the mobile cinema and its trailer seemed to be a glimpse into the future.”

The government sold the vehicles in 1974 and Audrey – registered as KJU 267E - was bought and donated to the Transport Trust, then sold to a new owner in 1990, where it remained off-road for almost 13 years.

A look at the original projection housing
A look at the original projection housing

Audrey was rescued from a field in 2003 and restored to her original condition, then gained a new lease of life as a vintage mobile cinema. In 2015 the vehicle was put up for auction on eBay, where she was bought for £110,000 and moved to Oxfordshire.

Parker say that when they heard about Audrey’s heritage they put her back to her original working use and will take her to Offshore Europe to show a series of specialist oil and gas training presentations from the vehicle on each day of the conference.

Speakers including Prof Brian Cox, Liz Rogers, vice president Environment, Social Responsibility and HSSE Compliance, BP, Keisuki Sadamori, director, Energy Markets and Security, International Energy Agency, and Matt Corbin, managing director, Aker Solutions will deliver the conference’s opening plenary, which is titled How to Inspire the Next Generation.

Inside the mobile cinema today
Inside the mobile cinema today

In early July the Student Engineer asked Offshore Europe exhibitor EnerMech to argue the case for an engineering graduate entering their sector, and Phil Bentley, technical director at EnerMech said: “The energy industry is a global industry and enables personnel to pursue international assignments throughout their career.

“In addition to this, given the challenges the industry faces currently, the demand for cutting edge technology and solutions is always at the forefront, making this an attractive opportunity for individuals who wish to push boundaries.

“The dynamic, ever evolving, nature of the industry provides a career that is always interesting.”

Parker will release details of its Offshore Europe sessions on 13 August. From that date, delegates can visit to pre-book places at the cinema lectures. Offshore Europe 2015 takes place on Sept 8-11.