The Bridgeman Archive has an array of footage/stills that document alternative and underground culture courtesy of the London Community Video Archive (LCVA) based at Goldsmiths, University of London. New portable video recording made available in the 1970s allowed communities and individuals to record their own life experiences that existed or appeared different from mainstream society and media at the time. Under-represented people faced the camera and spoke out against the lack of equality, homophobia and racism that they had faced in 1970/80s Britain, particularly in London and the South East of the country. Clips in this collections have various themes including homelessness, the LGBTQ community, the Irish in 1980s England, the joy and burdens of housing estates and young disadvantaged communities. The majority of these issues still reside over our society today. In this article we will look at a few spotlighted clips made by alternative and minority filmmakers who made the most of a new and groundbreaking platform which many of us can now replicate freely using our mobile phones.
This video consists of a series of interviews with several young black people who struggle to find housing. They all express the lack of support they received from their local councils. This film was made for the UJIMAA Housing Association at the West London Media Workshop. Opening scenes show a nineteen year old homeless girl who had lived in her friend's overcrowded flat due to the arrival of a baby. She tells us how she has tried to look for a home but the council had told her that she was ‘too young’. A young man is also interviewed and tells us that he has lived in hostels and derelict squats as he has ‘never been given the opportunity to have a flat’ of his own. The conditions of which these young people live in are described to be awful and oppressive - and would not have been the focus of documentaries and programmes of the day.
Black Homelessness, 1978 / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
This short five minute clip, recorded in Murcheson, Layton, East London shows tenants giving their views on the constructions of new housing estates around them for which they were not consulted beforehand. One resident complains that where their children once had space to play, piles of bricks and rubble now make the area dangerous as there is no sufficient playground. Another makes the statement that people identify more with streets and not big estates! The estates are said to have caused the residents to feel a loss of heritage in the area and their views from their windows have become awful sites of rubble to look at. The questionable quality of flats is discussed alongside questions as to why were they not consulted. Housing Estates and speedily constructed city blocks are just as prevalent, if not more so in our modern society today - this film reinforces a communities' hesitation for new developments, correlated to negative factors perceived out of housing estates today such as lack of identity and soulless environments. London is a city now characterised by tall housing estates.
Murcheson Tenants / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
Irish in England (Part 1) (1983)
'The Irish in England’ is a two part series first broadcast on Channel 4 in 1983. The programme tells the story of the generations of Irish women and men who came to England in the 1950s and 60s. Part 1 explores the factors that pulled people towards England due to Ireland’s stagnating economy. English corporations at the time were advertising various companies that needed recruitment in Irish newspapers. The programme tells us how the Irish became the first wave of immigrants to meet England’s demand for labour. Doris Daly tells her story as an Irish girl who trained as a nurse and she recalls the terrible treatment of her and other girls on arrival in England. She states in the programme that the girls' skins were examined for parasites and presumably other infectious diseases as well as being examined for pregnancy.
Irish in England (Part 1), 1983 / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
Irish in England (Part 2) (1983)
Part 2 explores issues of Irish Identity, particularly for those of Irish descent born in England. The history of anti-Irish racism is explored. Anne-Collins in her interview tells us that her Irish background was very different to that of her neighbours who were predominantly English. Anne attended a catholic school, a tradition amongst Irish families. She makes the audience aware of the stereotypical portrayal of Irish people in England and its damaging effects. She felt that she had to manage without her Irish identity during her teen years.
Irish in England (Part 2), 1983 / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
Framed Youth — Revenge of the Teenage Perverts (1982)
The Lesbian and Gay Youth Video Project was formed in 1982 and roughly 25 young gay men and lesbians created this film about themselves. Contrary to what one might expect, the film was recognised and in 1983 it was selected as the BFI winner of the Grierson Award for Best Documentary. The video directly challenges the stereotypical ways that lesbians and gay men on conventional television were being represented - which would continue into the 21st century. The new VHS and Betamax cameras were used and experimented with, such as the freezing of frames in what they say as ‘helping disguise some dodgily shot interviews but had the great effect of helping the viewer to concentrate on what was being said’. The documentary presents a raw view of life amongst the young gay and lesbian community with their experiences of love and relationships united as outsiders in society. The production is immediately arresting: as the tape begins to roll, a photograph of a young man in a mirror is presented, declaring 'If you're making this tape you should show your camera! Show your mic! You are presenting this documentary to be the absolute truth!'
Framed Youth — Revenge of the Teenage Perverts, 1986 / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
Watch Out - There’s a Queer About! (1980)
This spoof film presents actors reconstructing the scenes of a police investigation concerning the harassment of gay men from the polices' point of view. Humour is used within the clip but the message is deeper and undoubtedly more serious in meaning. Information on the law and the acts of parliament that affect gay men are portrayed. As the clip opens, dramatic high pitched music accompanies the title ‘Police Training Film 69’. One of the first stages in the training, number 6 is ‘Stop Organised Corruption’, wherein the narrator tells us of police duties to look into conspiracies that corrupt public morals. This statement relates to the absurdity around the legal system. Oppressive behaviour has affected the gay community throughout the decades and this film highlights the cruel, contradictory and sometimes ludicrously heavy handed treatment of the police force against people who identify as gay.
Watch Out - There's a Queer About! / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
This short tape was created by a group of unemployed young white men in Newhaven who wanted to show the council that they were being productive. The men have few qualifications and left school early for a variety of reasons and express the lack of opportunities they have to find and keep work. They sit in a room at the Newhaven Boys Club which they describe to be the only place that steers away the boredom of unemployment. One man says his interests lie in photography and would love to become self employed and make some money from the profession one day.
Newhaven 1982, 1982 (C20th) / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
Punk is in itself deeply politically and socially motivated, and is by definition an alternative culture. Its ethos in the 1970s - with a concept that 'anyone can do it' lead women to make significant contributions to Punk Culture. This 'Punk Tape' documentary focuses on young people in London associated with the culture during the 1970s, which to many is simply the culture associated with Punk Rock type music. This clip shows young people experimenting with punk makeup which is wacky, seen to be fun and fashionable. One young man wears square glasses with googly eyes pasted on the lenses. One girl paints numbers ‘C41’ onto a white coat and some other clothing is shown with explicit language painted all over. Punk is seen as being a way of life or an attitude as much as it is about supporting a musical genre, and is distinctly dadaist in its attitude to the status quo.
IEC Punk Tape, 1974 / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
IEC Letters for Write-On! (Date unknown)
This video presents a youth group committee who voiced their concerns about the lack of social activities for young people on housing estates in East London. The session is led by an adult coordinator. A young boy tells the camera that he visited many clubs for social activity but they have since closed down. One of the clubs called ‘The Burner Club’ used to hold discos, but this has ended - the club now consists of a social space and a pool table, with the boy quipping 'after a few games of pool, you just get fed up!' After an in-depth discussion, the group decide to raise money by running a four-day-a-week disco at the youth club they are chairing. The money would be put forward for a go-karting event in the summer. This documentary is based in Shadwell, Tower Hamlets, London, Stepney.
IEC Letters for Write-On! / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
Downham - A Home in the Country (1987)
The Downham Estate housed 29,000 people in 6071 homes over 522 acres of farmland. The estate was built between 1924 to 1930, each house costing £450 pounds to build. This is a community video showing different residents that lived on the estate but had grown up in the slum buildings of Deptford where there was no running water. The residents describe their experiences of moving to Downham as young people, telling stories of a ‘utopia’. One woman recalls her first impressions of Downham, describing different aspects of the village such as the little railway for the workers, large extending fields and grass. She looks back on to the move with happiness and relaxation. Another resident associates Downham with space and light: ‘it was like coming to paradise!’.
Downham - A Home in the Country, 1987 / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
This video was filmed over three months exploring the use of video with drama therapy amongst a group of disabled adults at Montague House, a Day Centre in Brighton. The film reinforces how disabled people are often victims of prejudice, but these clips ultimately set out to show audiences their potential. The video camera was left on in one of the groups drama sessions whilst they took part in their usual social activities. Activities amongst the group as mentioned in the video include simple structured games of musical chairs combined with more imaginative work. The group are presented full of promise as they engage in singing, dancing and drama. Their willingness and excitement towards the camera is evidently seen. The film was fortunate to receive a screening and was first screened at the Video Roma festival and the ICA in 1983.
Whose Disability?, 1982 / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
To round off this article, I think it is important for us to look at this video titled ‘Remote Control’, a programme by Jon Dovey , Tony Dowmunt & Andy Porter arguing the case for Community Media in the context of current broadcasting legislation. The programme informs us of Television’s emergence in 1936. ‘The medium was carefully controlled and used to educate as well as to entertain.’ ‘The government wanted to initiate rules whereby a small number of people would dictate what we see and hear in the interest of their own particular economic goals’. A man argues that ordinary people should have ‘access to the airwaves!’.
Remote Control, 1989 / LCVA / Bridgeman Images
Bridgeman is excited to collaborate with LCVA and to hold these exceptional videos in the archive. Find our current selection of LCVA clips here.
Please do contact us for more information on licensing and research as we always love to hear about your projects.