Chapter 1

Activism and Access

Art is not a mirror but a hammer. John Grierson

The key to the dissemination of any kind of information is access to production and an efficient means of distribution.” [Joan Hugo, of the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, in her essay “Museum Without Walls” in the catalogue to Artist's Books/Bookworks travelling exhibition.]

There is a curiously long trail leading to video art in Australia. This trail stems from activist and artistsí work in the US, Britain, Europe, Japan and many other parts of the world. It probably began (supposing one ignores the development of the technology itself) after the Great Depression of 1929 with a Scotsman named John Grierson (b.1989 – d.1972), who had been brought up in a family steeped in (“small l”) liberal politics. For his parents, education was invaluable and hard work was necessary to achieve anything. He studied English and Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow and “spent a good part of his [undergraduate] career enmeshed in impassioned political discussion and leftist political activism”.[1] He received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1925 which allowed him to write a PhD on the psychology of propaganda at the University of Chicago. In this research he explored the influence of the popular press on the education of new immigrants to the US.

Grierson then worked in New York, writing reviews for the New York Sun and the Herald Tribune, and articles for Motion Picture News. He more or less invented the word 'documentary' in a review of Robert Flaherty's Moana [2] for the New York Sun (8 February, 1926), noting that “Moana, being a visual account of events in the daily life of a Polynesian youth, has documentary value”. Ironically the film was not documentary at all but rather a largely constructed version of life in Samoa as it was imagined to have been before the small island nation became “a corrupt New Zealand mandate lorded over by a Kurtz-like German chieftain who called himself “King of Savai’i”.” [3] As a more recent reviewer has said of the film it “is in fact a fictional film in many of its particulars; even the members of the central “family” are not all related to one another, having been selected for their photogenic qualities and thespian talents rather than their blood ties.” [4]

Grierson returned to Great Britain in 1927 and joined the Empire Marketing Board where he began making documentary film. His first production was Drifters, a film about herring fishing off the coast of Scotland. [5] Other film-makers joined him, attracted to his faith in film as a new way of teaching citizenship” and he “built the documentary movement in Britain with public money”. [6] Then in 1933 he took a leading role in the British Post Office's GPO Film Unit which was intended to produce short films on the role of various British government departments and to inform the British public about matters of public interest. Thus Grierson, and the stable of film-makers that gathered around him, regarded “his time there as the moment when documentary filmmaking entered the field of social problems, and keyed it to the task of describing not only industrial and commercial spectacle but social truth as well'.” [7]

He had previously argued, in his First Principles of Documentary (1932), that

“(1) We believe that the cinema’s capacity for getting around, for observing and selecting from life itself, can be exploited in a new and vital art form. [Where, as opposed to the studio film,] Documentary would photograph the living scene and the living story.

(2) We believe that the original (or native) actor, and the original (or native) scene, are better guides to a screen interpretation of the modern world. … They give [cinema] power of interpretation over more complex and astonishing happenings in the real world than the studio mind can conjure up.

(3) We believe that the materials and the stories thus taken from the raw can be finer (more real in the philosophic sense) than the acted article. … documentary can achieve an intimacy of knowledge and effect impossible to the shim-sham mechanics of the studio.” [8]

And as he wrote in his diaries:

“Beware the ends of the earth and the exotic: the drama is on your doorstep wherever the slums are, wherever there is malnutrition, wherever there is exploitation and cruelty.” [9]

In 1934, while at the GPO Film Unit, Grierson commissioned a young New Zealander, Len Lye, to produce a series of 3 minute “abstract hand-painted” or “direct film” animations to be used as cinema advertising for the Post Office. These films promoted such things as the Post Office's Parcel Post or the Post Office Savings Account and more broadly the industry and commerce keeping Britain running on a day-to-day basis. They included A Colour Box (1936), and Trade Tattoo (1937), all of which Lye described as being “kind of propaganda”. [10] He also made other advertising films such as Kaleidoscope (1935) for Churchman's Cigarettes and, with a British Council grant, produced Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1939) in which lines down the screen vibrate like guitar strings, lines across the screen dance like piano notes and various geometric shapes and colours provide accents for the popular 1930's dance tune.

Lye grew up in New Zealand and while at school became fascinated by the problem of composing motion (e.g., the motions of clouds) in his drawings and early attempts at sculpture. Then while living in Sydney, Australia, around 1923 [11] he saw Frank Hurley’s documentary With the Headhunters in Papua and realised that film offered a solution. Seeing what film could do he joined Filmads Ltd, a local advertising company that specialised in animated film and, through making short animated advertising films for the cinema in 1923 [12] and experimenting on his own time, he learned the techniques of animation and editing. [13] In 1924 he moved to Samoa, then got himself deported in 1925, and returned to Sydney where he stayed for two years before working his passage to London, Great Britain in 1927. There he focussed on animation and by 1929 had already produced one important animated film, Tusalava, which he made using First Australians' (Arrernte nation) motifs based on a totemic creature: the witchetty grub. [14]

Thus, not only is the British Post Office's GPO Film Unit (1934-1937) relevant to the history of independent video production through being a progenitor of activist film-making, but Lye himself is relevant to the history of experimental film and video because he more-or-less single-handedly invented the handmade film, anticipating, in his films for the GPO Film Unit, the techniques of colourising, rhythmical editing, multilayered images, synthetic and geometric forms, and collage that were used in experimental video through the late 1970s and 1980s. He also used scratching and other direct impression techniques such as painting on the film stock which, in the 1960s, appeared in the films of Albie Thoms and David Perry, among others, when they worked together as Ubu Films whom I will discuss below in the section on Experimental Film (Chapter 2).

Grierson's notion of documentary had a teleological aspect. His view was that film should transcend “actuality by outlining a set of norms and instructions that would allow controlling and shaping vision and by extension subjectivity and agency” [15] and his method can be summed up in his statement that “If you dramatized things, if you brought things into dramatic form, if you brought them alive as distinct from gave information you might find a way of illumining the modern world.” [16] Thus, as Lars Weckbecker notes in his recent study of New Zealand's National Film Unit, film-makers should “intervene in, strategically interact with, model, “creatively treat” and optimize actual events towards a set of socio- and psycho-political purposes.” [17]

What we're seeing here is a kind of positive propaganda in favour of the working people where Grierson's intentions seem to have been to invert the “proper” order of society so that the working class might have a say in how they are governed. Thus he worked to produce a medium that allowed the people to say what they should be able to say without the inevitable censorship or condemnation, seeing documentary as a means for breaking the stereotypes that had been laid upon the working classes. It was important to show that they were as human and could be hurt as much as any 'wealthier' class of people might be. He appears to have felt that the role of the documentary was not simply to report, à la television journalism (supposing objectivity there is at all possible), but to “function as a source of civic enlightenment” [18] and assist the subject(s) of the documentary achieve some political purpose, such as communicating with their 'government', communicating about social and local environmental problems and arguing against conditions imposed from outside or above (say, by developers or by the local council). [19] This of course is a means to participatory documentary.

While studying in the U.S. during the mid-1920s, Grierson had become “profoundly concerned about what he perceived to be clear threats to democracy. ... [having] encountered a marked tendency toward political reaction, anti-democratic sentiments, and political apathy.” [20] In 1922 “journalist and political philosopher Walter Lippmann [21] ”had argued that the blame for “the erosion of democracy [lay] in part on the fact that the political and social complexities of contemporary society made it difficult if not impossible for the public to comprehend and respond to issues vital to the maintenance of democratic society.” [22]

As Lippman reminds us,

“we can see how indirectly we know the environment in which nevertheless we live.... [23] In [this] same way we can best understand the furies of war and politics by remembering that almost the whole of each party believes absolutely in its picture of the opposition, that it takes as fact, not what is, but what it supposes [my (SJ) emphasis] to be the fact.” [24] … “ Our first concern with [these] fictions and symbols is to forget their value to the existing social order, and to think of them simply as an important part of the machinery of human communication. [25] … The only feeling that anyone can have about an event he does not experience is the feeling aroused by his mental image of that event. That is why until we know what others think they know, we cannot truly understand their acts.” [26]

For Lippman the operating principle

“is the insertion between man [sic] and his environment [sick] of a pseudo-environment [the press, a movie]. To that pseudo-environment his behavior is a response. But because it is behavior, the consequences, if they are acts, operate not in the pseudo-environment [whence] the behavior is stimulated, but in the real environment where action eventuates.” [27]

“Such behaviour then may best be described by Herbert Spencer's witnessing “of the murder of a Beautiful Theory by a Gang of Brutal Facts, ... For certainly, at the level of social life, what is called the adjustment of man to his environment takes place through the medium of fictions.” [28]

'Fictions', as Lippman notes, that are

“a representation of the environment which is in lesser or greater degree made by man himself. [29] ... For the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. [30] We are not equipped to deal with so much subtlety, so much variety, so many permutations and combinations.” [31]

“The argument here is that the construction of the counter-factual is not simply a disturbance of mind, it is the fundamental process by which society is controlled. This process might also be thought of as the construction of propaganda, be it in favour of those against whom you are arrayed or in favour of those whom you consider your allies in the debate. Each side has their own beliefs and their own notions of what is the truth, what is good and kind, and what is anathema. Each will approach the other with its own propaganda and reproach the other for its apparent propaganda. As Lippman asks “But what is propaganda, if not the effort to alter the picture to which men (sic)respond, to substitute one social pattern for another?” [32]

“In Grierson's view, [the] way to counter these problems was to involve citizens in their government [using] the kind of engaging excitement generated by [media similar to] the popular press, which simplified and dramatized public affairs.” [33]

For Grierson the solution was not the press but motion pictures and he became convinced that they “could play a central role in promoting this process.” [34] Thus Grierson's approach at the GPO Film Unit, which made documentaries showing “British working class people as individuals possessing human dignity”. [35] He sought to get “the working class on the screen for the first time” and his film about the North Sea and Scottish herring fisheries was the first English film that put “a working man on the screen as other than a comic figure” [36]

Grierson's interest was in the decentralisation of communication. In a National Film Board of Canada documentary on him, he comments on his later work in India, arguing that communication should be set up as a process of self-determined planning, creating … “a belief in a future not imposed from the top but assumed from the bottom, so that the leaders of the villages are themselves the forefront of the whole exercise in persuasion” [37] These included “the fishermen in 'Drifters', the craftsmen in 'Industrial Britain', and the post-office and railway men in 'Night Mail'.” [38]

After Grierson left the GPO Film Unit in 1937 he was invited to advise on the establishment of film units in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. On behalf of the Imperial Relations Trust Grierson visited Canada in 1938, where he advised on the establishment of the Canadian National Film Commission in 1939. In Canada he was especially able to advance his socio-political views when he was asked on his initial visit “to study the state of the government's film production. Up to that date, the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau, established in 1918, had been the major Canadian film producer. The results of Grierson's report were included in the National Film Act of 1939, which led to the establishment of the National Film Commission. ... In part, it was founded to create propaganda in support of the Second World War.” [39]

Later in 1939 the Commission was renamed the National Film Board (NFB). Grierson was appointed as the Canadian Government Film Commissioner, (a position he held until 1945) and thus got the opportunity to implement his ideals as a film-maker. As Grierson noted later, the work of the NFB was “to bring Canada alive to itself and to the rest of the world.”[40] However he was accused of showing Communist sympathies in “several of the films the Board had produced during the war”[41], and he was dismissed as Film Commissioner in 1945. He then returned to Scotland, but continued to make community documentary in numerous places around the world.


Grierson was a radical, but not a revolutionary.

Meanwhile, in 1940 he had visited Australia, to “advise the Commonwealth Government on the establishment of a national film board to produce documentary films in the national interest.” [42] He made “a series of recommendations” to the then Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies [43] “that would eventually contribute to the subsequent Chifley government's decision to form the Australian National Film Board (ANFB) in 1945”. [44] This, in effect, brought Grierson's definition of documentary to bear in Australian documentary film-making. In 1946 Stanley Hawes, who had worked in Britain and Canada and had worked for Grierson, was appointed Producer-in-Chief. [45]

Of documentary Hawes had said,

“a documentary film is made in the service of the community, in the belief that the responsible spread of information ... cannot but improve the human condition.” [46]

and of Grierson:

“[He] was a communications man with a social conscience and he believed that painters, poets, writers and musicians should use their skills in the service of the community and project social problems into the national consciousness… (documentary) is film in the service of humanity.” [47]

Hawes' comment is important if for one reason only. It makes for an ideology which places art-making – in its widest ramifications – at the forefront of a social policy driven by the people themselves, not by the market and those with the greatest financial resources. Grierson's view being that:

“The documentary film movement was from the beginning an adventure in public observation... The basic force behind it was social, not aesthetic...We were, I confess, sociologists a little worried about the way the world was going....” [48]

While Stephen Tallents of the (British) Empire Marketing Board commented, in echoing Grierson's view of the role of the documentary, that

“Films could and should be employed to bring alive, with a penetrating vividness that should touch the imaginations of us all, the lives and the daily work of ordinary men and women in the new world that was growing up around us.” [49]

Thus “If you brought things alive you might stand a chance of making an impact” [needs reference, probably “Grierson”]

The NFB was firmly rooted in Grierson's views of documentary and in 1967 it set up the Challenge For Change project which “became a global model for the use of film and portable video technology to create community-based participatory documentary films to promote dialogue on local issues and promote social change.” [50]

The following section is an excursion into theory after which I return to film practice in the discussion of the Canadian Challenge for Change project.

On Communication

Complex communication – of ideas and desires, needs and passions, offerings and orders – is one of the primary processes that not only makes us human but also makes us civilised. The original work on a theory of communication was done by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver in 1949. They proposed that communication operated on three levels: the technical, the semantic, and its effectiveness. [51] However communication is a two-way street. Supposing that the technical level is functioning and the message is actually getting down the telephone line (in their particular analysis), then one expresses something and another listens, hears and understands what has been expressed (the semantic level) and may (or may not) make a verbal response, or take some action or have some effect in the world. The listener will tend to adapt their response [feedback] according to some combination of the sender's communication and their own intentions. Thus that response can then continue the communication, broaden it or perhaps stop it in its tracks. Assuming any further response does not shut the interaction down the communication will gain an internal stability and continue. These are the processes that make up conversation, and are a major factor in what it is that renders humans “self-organizing”.[52]

It may also be the case that the to-and-fro sequential nature of conversation is opened out over time so that one side of a discussion can be recorded with the other side subsequently listening to it in playback, recording its own responses in turn, and then making that recording available to the initiating side of the loop. Thus the mediation, that is the means by which conversation is carried between people, may be through directly speaking to another and hearing them speak to us (thus requiring proximity) or indirectly, speaking and listening through a telephone or (the) radio or television.

Of course the problem with some non-proximal media, viz., radio and television, is that it is only when there is a two-way connection that they entail the possibility of a conversation. If the connection is not two-way then they really amount to little more then one person putting their point across while the listener has no capacity to return with any comments, ideas or critique. This is the natural extension of Grierson's critique of the media. It was this critique – in the wider societal sense subsequently developed in Paulo Freire's sociology [53] or Ivan Illich's critique of schooling [54] that led media researchers and activists in the late 1960s to attempt to develop two-way communication using (portable) videotape recording and playback within small, local, groups of people.

Thus, for that particular type of conversation, viz., political interaction, in which people are able to air grievances, develop local policy, deal with bureaucracies and similar activities, there must be a two-way process: with each contributor to, or agent in, the conversation being willing and able to allow modification of their thinking and position in the ongoing to-and-fro of thoughts (that is, “on the fly”).

Ultimately, conversation is a feedback process and is singularly important in maintaining human groupings: families, friends, and societies, as functional operating processes. How you respond to what I say has an effect on what I might say next and by extension, the way in which what you say affects me will itself effect changes in what I and then you might say next. [Fig.1] Conversation is usually made through sound with the support of vision for reading gesture and for developing empathy, (although for some it may be restricted to one of these perceptual modalities only, e.g.with deaf sign language).

Conversation flow diagram
Fig. 1: Conversation is an interactive feedback process.
The maintenance of the conversation is determined by what
one says to another and how they respond to that.

There are multiple forms of mediation that can be carriers for communication. These vary in their degree of interaction, from the non-proximal one-way media such as newspapers, broadcast radio and television, through to the fully two-way feedback-integrating media of direct proximal conversation and other non-proximal forms such as the telephone. The one-way media are what our governors, politicians, overseers, bosses, and any other individuals of varying importance to us use in various ways, e.g., to get us to vote for them and to do what they want us to do once a decision has been made (in this situation: without our consultation). In a democratic society the conversation as consultation (particularly between the people and the bureaucrats) is of great importance in developing the cases for and against when a decision is to be made.

The carriers for conversation may be sound, writing or (moving) image-making and, in that larger grouping known as 'society', the carrier is generally 'the media', be that electronic or print or carved sticks. It is image-making that I will discuss in his work, in particular video-making as well as certain types of film-making. However film-making as we are used to it these days is not a conversational tool or medium but a medium of entertainment (or mass distraction). Video has become somewhat similar (especially if we only think of it as television), but in its earlier stages it was at least proposed that it could have an important role in developing two-way conversation between members of and sections of society, i.e. say, between the people and their politicians or local council members or similar individuals with similar roles in various organised structures.

Communication through the media

It is in attempts to facilitate 'conversation' (in the politico/sociological rather than simply the everyday social sense) between the different strata of society that this kind of interaction became one of the earliest uses of video in Australia and elsewhere. At the end of the 1960s, it had been recognised among the socio-politically active (i.e., the “left wing”) and the idealistic, in several places (Canada, London, New York and Australia) that the one-way medium of television could potentially become two-way, initially with the use of portable video recorders. This first occurred in Canada (1968) through the Challenge For Change (CFC) project, which attempted to improve communication between the people (particularly those in economically depressed sectors of Montreal and in widely dispersed rural localities) and their local councillors, or representatives of various State and Federal government bodies.

The CFC project was originally film-based however it was quick to take up the promise and apparent simplicity of video production [55] and became a primary model for independent video makers in other locations (usually as variations of the basic model). The transmission of the model beyond Canada began with the Challenge for Change Newsletter (no.1 Spring 1968 – no.14 Spring 1975) [56], and continued with Dorothy Todd Henaut and Bonnie Klein's 1970 article “In the Hands of Citizens: A Video Report” on the VTR St Jacques project in Vol.1, No.1 of Radical Software, published by the Raindance Corporation in New York [57]. It was then reworked in London in 1969 by a group of squatters (led by John “Hoppy” Hopkins) in the Camden district of London, who formed TVX, a collective which at times took particularly political roles in video making [TVX is described in greater detail below].

TVX then re-transmitted the model with the publication of Video in Community Development a report commissioned in 1972 for the British Home Office Community Development Project in London. [58] The CFC model then reached Australia through the importation of Radical Software via radical bookshops in Melbourne and Sydney. It was available at the Source Bookshop in Melbourne by at least 1971, and it also became available through Bob Gould's bookshop in Sydney a little later.

In Australia (from about 1971) there began to be a good deal of independent use of portable video, partly through a few experimental film-makers involved in the Melbourne and Sydney Film-makers Co-ops (including Fred Harden, the Cantrills, Robin Laurie, Bert Deling and John Hughes in Melbourne and David Perry, Albie Thoms and, a bit later, Tom Zubrycki and Warwick Robbins, Megan McMurchy and Jeune Pritchard, in Sydney and otherwise through independent community activists. Several activists sought to apply the CFC approach to communities in low-income and poorly serviced urban areas which were (and still are) regularly over-run by large developers and city and state politicians wanting to increase their influence,e.g., through 'slum clearance' or highway building. [59]

Some of this community activist activity led to the establishment of a 'video communication centre' at the Nimbin Aquarius Festival of May 1973. Many of the group of people who assembled around that project later became Bush Video. Meanwhile lobbying for government support of independent and activist video led to the Video Access Centres.

Subsequently projects like community television and community radio, which were at least semi-two- way, became a further proposed (but, in Australia, ultimately unsuccessful) means of expanding the communicative role of the media. I shall detail much of this activist approach, and the video access project in Australia, in what follows.

Challenge For Change

The primary model for a two-way communication media structure that would operate directly with and for the people was the Challenge for Change / Societé Nouvelle (CFC) project set up by the National Film Board of Canada in 1967. It was based on a recognition that the [publicly owned, i.e., government supported] media, primarily film-making (in 1967 [60]) and then from 1969 [61] community activist video-making [62], might not simply “document social issues, but [might] play an active [and positive] role in them as well.” [63] In the 1970 Henaut and Klein article mentioned above, Henaut writes that

“Challenge for Change is a program designed to promote understanding and provoke social change. In a nutshell, we feel that the technology of communications should be understood and used by the people who are trying to find solutions to their problems, and who normally have no access to the media. The program originally started three years ago with film only, but has integrated the special usefulness of video and its projects. Half-inch video allows complete control of the media by the people of a community. They can use the camera to view themselves and their neighborhood with a new and more perceptive eye; they can do interviews and ask the questions more pertinent to them; they can record discussions; they can edit tapes designed to carry a particular message to a particular audience – an audience they have chosen and invited themselves. The processes these steps involve can make significant changes in the development of a community organization, and video can become an important tool.”

And as Bob Summers noted in a 1970 article for Cineaste,

“the [CFC] filmmakers are not working for the people or doing something to the people but rather are working with the people in the best possible way so that together they are accomplishing something.” [64]

Thus, “[t]he impetus for the program was the belief that film and video were useful tools for initiating social change and eliminating poverty” [65], and so they became an organising tool. For many people on the local level, especially in the poorer parts of the city and the countryside it was immensely difficult for them to get their voice heard by even the local council, let alone state bureaucrats and politicians. So the idea promoted by CFC was that originally film and, when it became available, portable video could be used to give these people their voice. As Colin Low (then a CFC director) wrote in 1972:

“The means of communication – real two-way communication – must be made accessible to ordinary people for dialogue in meaningful local debate. In this way, we could generate a much more vigorous problem-solving capacity based upon local initiative and creativity.” [66]

George Stoney, then an Executive Producer at CFC, notes in his article “The Mirror Machine” written for Sight and Sound in 1972: [67]

“I first met half-inch videotape at the National Film Board of Canada in 1968, when I left the U.S. for a two-year stint as guest Executive Producer for Challenge for Change, a programme designed to use film as a catalyst in various social programmes to improve the lot of Indians, poor fishermen, mothers on welfare. John Kemeny, the programme's founder, and Colin Low, a brilliant film-maker and social philosopher long at the Board, had already done enough by the time I was on the scene to prove that, with care and patience and the right choice of film-makers plus the expenditure of a great deal of money, film could and did have a considerable effect 'as an agent for social change'. What was needed, obviously, was a faster, cheaper means to do the job if the technique was to be applied on a broad scale. Most important, we had to find some way for the people to take more of a hand in the film-making themselves.

“The two women who persuaded us to launch our first community videotape project were no ordinary film-makers. Dorothy Henaut and Bonnie Klein brought to the task a philosophy about democratic participation that shaped every aspect of the work, from the way to run training classes to the way editorial decisions are made. It is largely their concept, their way of working, which guides social animators, teachers and community leaders generally who are now applying Challenge for Change techniques across Canada. The advantages of videotape for immediate playback to small groups were soon obvious to even the most resistant filmmaker at NFB”.

Importantly, in the Canadian program it was expected that a person with experience in community organising would already be working with a particular local community, so that through that contact they should have already formed a fairly organic relationship with them. The overall function of the CFC projects would then be to give the people concerned some power over their own choices and lives. The community organiser's role was to find out what the people's needs actually were, what kind of political environment they were operating in and how they might make some sort of input to or gain some sort of control over those political processes. [68] Having done that it was felt that it might then be possible to avail the community of the opportunity to document their particular problems and grievances using film or video, and thereby develop a more effective level of interaction among them, and between them and the government. But there was more to it than that: the film/video making projects were intended “to be [an integral] part of an ongoing process.” [69] The film-makers and/or the community organiser were not intended to come to the community/location/region without staying there long enough to see the project through to its completion, at least in terms of getting the film seen by local or appropriate politicians, and then to assist the community to implement any results that came from the video-making activity.

At first introducing film or portable video into a community served to get people talking. Nearly everybody would be familiar with film through the movies, and television through local broadcast media, but in many ways many of them may never have heard anything from their neighbours about what issues and social problems their community might be facing. While there was already some experience with film, video became the most useful format because of its fast turnaround. Also it was easy for the citizens to learn how to use, whereas film was generally far more complicated (until the arrival of Super 8). But video had one great difficulty at the early stage: it was immensely difficult to edit into a coherent programme/documentary.

With video you could record someone talking and then you could immediately play it back to them so that they could edit and add to what they had said. Once people had had their chance to air their opinions and ideas those recordings could be edited or compiled and screened back to the community so that they might all know what the thoughts and suggestions were and, subsequently, further edit and add to the program. Thus consensus, and the opportunity to modify it, was made possible. Ultimately this produces layers of feedback in an evolving conversation operating within the immediate community that might then be projected into the wider community or shown to those bureaucrats and politicians concerned directly with the issues being addressed. As George Stoney, the director of Challenge for Change in 1968, said in a later interview

“[I]t was a social contract between the people who were in charge of a government program – an agency or a social service – and the people who were the recipients of that program or service, designed to find out how they felt about what was being done and what they would like to see changed. … [However] in my experience it [was] limited to places where the people who are in power are willing to listen and respond. You see … If you tell me what you think, it is my obligation as the intermediary to go to the authorities, get them to look at it, and respond. If I can’t persuade either party to live up to their part of the contract, it won’t work.

“Now the advantage we had at the [Canadian National] Film Board is that we worked through a highly respected government agency, cooperating with eight leading government departments, so we could pretty well guarantee some kind of response. People have misunderstood the Challenge for Change approach because they don’t understand that a response is part of the bargain.” [70]

Again the operating principle is feedback. CFC was intended to be an organising tool, designed to promote self-management within a community. But the important thing about the project was that the people in the relevant government agencies were required to respond. The communication had to be two-way, although it was by no means always possible to guarantee a response. While direct involvement with the community by the film-makers in that community was an important aspect, it also required a direct engagement with the target; be they politicians, academics or developers.

Meanwhile in other pats of the world, mostly Anglophone, other models for activist video were developing. In the US, along with the Video Freex …, there was a move towards community cable television fostered by the Federal Communication Committee (FCC) and in Britain video fell into the hands of squatters and radical political activists, some of whom managed to talk their way into some small involvement with the BBC and the Home Office (the British Ministry of the Interior).


The British community activist video model, developed by squatters and artists in London in 1969, was a truly grass-roots bottom-up development that led to an entirely different model of video access.

The very-much in-demand photographer of the rock music scene in Britain, John “Hoppy” Hopkins, had been told about video by his friend and colleague, Jim Haynes, while visiting Italy in February 1969. [71] Haynes had started the Arts Lab in Drury Lane in London with Jack Henry Moore [72] and the underground newspaper International Times (IT) with Hoppy, Haynes, Moore and Barry Miles. [73] When Hoppy returned to London he went to Sony's UK headquarters and persuaded them to loan him a Porta-pak. [74] After learning how to use it his first video project was to

“take part in the Camden Arts Festival, where we ... shot some video in Notting Hill … on the street, on a Saturday afternoon, a housing demonstration, street theatre and some other stuff ... and brought it back to Camden to show it. … [This] was in about April of 1969. … Because it was the first one there were no rules at all. That’s a significant tape.” [75]

He later remarked that

“With video you got instant feedback, you could see what you were getting and videotape, although it was relatively expensive it was basically cheap, and of course you could use it again and again. And it [the pictures] moved.” [76]

In 1969 the Arts Lab outgrew its Drury Lane home and the Camden Council made a dis-used local fire station available to them. The new space opened as the New Arts Lab in October that year. [77] It became the home of the Institute for Research in Art and Technology (IRAT) – so named to make it bureaucratically acceptable – and included a cinema used by the London Filmmakers Co-op, a film processing lab, a photographic darkroom, an electronics workshop, a screen printing workshop, a gallery, a theatre and rehearsal space, a plastics workshop, music space, macrobiotic cafe and a video co-operative coordinated by “Hoppy” Hopkins. The video co-op became TVX and was established through “an anonymous donation from an off-shore investment corporation.” [78] Hoppy was initially joined by “Til Romer [and] the son of an American Indian, JoeBear Webb, who was training to be a solicitor and drew up a constitution for [an] Institute for Research into Art and Technology (IRAT)” [79] which served as an umbrella organisation that made it easier to apply for grants and otherwise deal with local bureaucracies.

According to Sue Hall, TVX “was a subset of IRAT”. [80] They

“were originally a gang of four, “Hoppy” Hopkins, Cliff Evans who was a brilliant cameraman, … Steve Herman who … had rather poor eyesight, but he compensated for this by being very interested in film and John Kirk [81], who came from Australia. … We weren’t a closed group, we were an open group and we did some theoretical thinking.” ...

As soon as we started using video and going around the country really, we analysed our perception of where we’d been, what people were doing and we came up with the concept of the ‘Social Matrix’ being an idea into which one could put any piece of society, with lots of little bits and communicating with each other. We then came up with the idea of interface and the ‘Communication Matrix’, which was made up of pieces of the Social Matrix communicating with each other via this conceptual thing called ‘The Interface’.” [82]

Meanwhile, in June 1969 in a column in International Times (IT) Hoppy, under the pen-name Bradley Martin, had described the simplicity of using a video portapak while taking a strong political position regarding its use within the community:

“Tonight's topic is VIDEO. That is jargon for television, except that one usually thinks of TV as being a box in the living room you turn on when you want to receive the BBC or ITV's transmissions, and nothing more. In fact there's a whole scene waiting for the taking and only some of it lies behind the frozen faces of Frost, Braden [83]and President Wilson.

“So here I am walking down the street, a Sony portable videorecorder over my shoulder … in my hand the TV camera attached to the videorecorder by 6ft of cable.[84] The camera's well balanced, weighs a few pounds. [See something I want to record.] Switch on. 20 seconds warm up, picture comes up on a miniature TV screen on the back of the camera. Eye fits snugly into eyepiece. Twist the aperture ring to get a decent contrast. Focus … squeeze the trigger and zoom in. Follow [the movement], Zoom out a bit, get part of the street in. … Pan up and down the road. Ladbroke Grove Saturday lunchtime. Move through the crowds, pick out a face here … Cop car screams by. Follow it. Nice soundtrack. Mike mounted on camera picks it up automatically and adjusts sound level by itself. Hey this is fun...…

“Later back at the pad. Shot a whole 20 minute take without taking my finger off the trigger. Take the tape off the portable – it's record only – thread it onto the playback machine. Rewind in 2 minutes, throw lever to play. And there it all is, … cop car, street people, ...

“So I got down to thinking. Here it is at last: you can make your own TV and it's so easy to operate anyone can do it. All that crap about directors, producers, camera crews – forget it. If there’s a groovy movie on TV you can tape it. Copyright ends here, as Castro pointed out some years ago, though with books rather than TV.

“Well, how much does it cost? Close to a grand. For those who need to buy it. For those who don't, well we have imagination... Although personally I'd borrow from a friend...

[Comparing video with film, he notes that] “For the same cost you can make a 10 minute videotape with soundtrack, and the playback equipment costs no more than a good 16mm projector. …

“2 groups are currently using Sony video gear in London at the moment: the Arts Lab and TVX. Arts lab has a video viewing space, and TVX is constantly moving. They exchange material. Videotape is in short supply, but somehow they manage to get a hold of it. And this is the beginning. Don't say I didn’t warn you.” [85]

It is at that moment, as Julia Knight observes in Diverse Practices, that “The simple equation of video within alternative hands was established” [86] and then, with the disruption of the David Frost show (see below), it became clear to TVX that “Broadcast television was being exposed as the phoney charade they knew it to be, and they had the tools to provide an alternative view. As with other independent video operations in North America, the conceptual leap – from having an approximation of television's technology to being an equivalent, opposing force – was irresistible.” [87]

Thus TVX's remit, as Hoppy announced, was to “operate in with thru electronic media … to relate to TV rather like the Film Co-op to cinema in general” and they (TVX) could be found “bopping about with portable video grooving on whatever happens (media-hungry revolutionaries please note). It's really a fun trip”[88] TVX inherited equipment from the Beatles, including a Sony Video Rover and a 1” Ampex recorder that was semi-portable (i.e., as John Kirk commented in a conversation with the author, you could put it in the car and move it from place to place). [89]

In a letter to Andrew Page of the Arts Council of Great Britain (dated 12 December 1969) [90] Hoppy more or less outlines how video could be used within and by the community, and how IRAT/TVX could be funded and the work it would be doing. Noting that

“Thanks to Mr John Lennon, who has made his portable video available to us for the duration, we have been making a visual record of events in various towns and regions throughout the country. We now have a growing library of this type of material which we make available in answer to numerous requests.”

Hoppy goes on to describe some of the proposed work they would be doing. This included

Recording of Regional Festivals up to March 31st 1970

“We have already been invited to make a visual record of the main festivals to be held in the Midland, East Anglia and Yorkshire regions, starting this coming weekend with Birmingham Gathering No.1. Informal contacts with other regions suggest that there will be more requests, of this nature. We feel it would be possible, with some support from you, to present a more or less complete record of these events and activities. I do not wish to compare videotape with film because it is a different medium; but you should be aware that there are no processing costs and that stock once used can be reused if the events recorded are deemed not worth keeping a record of (or any other reason), and continues by discussing the value of video as a communications medium.

“Considering the attention given to video by all groups who have asked us to visit them we feel that this constitutes a very good communications channel to and from these groups. The Arts Council and the New Activities Committee may think that they could avail themselves of this medium perhaps by making the occasional programme themselves. As we are all aware there does seem to be a considerable lack of communication between artists and administrators. We are also aware that few people, if any, are asking where and how this lack of communication occurs. The attribution of dissatisfaction resulting from this communication breakdown to “political activists” is an insult to the majority of young creative people, and what is more does nothing to try and understand how it happens.

In short, “we” feel we can help in bridging this gap: a gap of generations, of language, of concepts and of activities and that television is one of the ways to do it.”

There is a hint of the Canadian CFC model of community video production here. TVX “had been making their own tapes continually, playing them back first on a stall in the Portobello Road market, then at regular screenings at the successive Arts Labs.” [91]

In 1969, Hopkins visited the US and met with Brice Howard of the National Centre for Experiments in Television (at KQED in San Francisco, California). [92] He came away from that realising “that access to broadcasting did not necessarily entail conforming to its conventions and returned to London inspired by the possibilities of a counter-cultural television” [93], and this led (in 1970) to TVX's Videospace experimental pilot programme at the BBC with Tom Corcoran [94] (see below). Howard later wrote a manifesto on experimental television called Videospace [95 in which he described the characteristics of video as an electronic medium and its use in a process he called “the mix” for making video from multiple sources (cameras and videotape) in a studio. [96]

Then in 1971, Hoppy went to North America again:

“[W]e were commissioned via the University of Southampton to do some research work for the Home Office about video in community development. There was a small amount of money available but it was enough for me to go to New York and to Montreal, collecting information. In New York from independent video makers [particularly the Alternate Media Center (AMC) in New York, run by Red Burns and George Stoney,] and from Montreal [Videographe and] the Challenge for Change project run by the National Film Board of Canada. I picked up a lot of ideas, both artistic and social, from that visit, which later we wrote up, and became a standard work, called ‘Video in Community Development'.

The idea [was to show] how to use video or film to help people develop their own communities, and it’s quite a difficult puzzle to work out how to do it without parachuting in from somewhere up there an advisor to say this is how you must do it. It has to be done on a more interactive level, and I think that was the meta-message that I heard, particularly from the National Film Board of Canada, and also from George Stoney, who worked in New England somewhere.” [97]

This research resulted in the publication Video in Community Development, [98] a handbook for establishing community access video projects. Initially published as a very limited edition of 75 copies for the University it was later reprinted as the first issue of the Journal of the Centre for Advanced Television Studies. It describes the main portable video technology of the time (the Sony Porta-pak), the process of making community video and the reasons for producing it, as well as the range of experiments in communities video in Britain, Canada and the US. [99 And it emphasised that it was more important to use video at the interactive level rather than send in a development officer to tell people how to build their own communities. [100]

That period (from 1969 to about 1974) was an exciting time for my generation. So many new ideas were afoot as many of us tried to keep up with what was happening across the world. Importantly from 1972 to 1975 we had a left-leaning government in Australia that saw its role as supporting and helping the Australian community and recovering national control over our social, medical and resources capacities.

The Australian member of TVX, John Kirk, was living in Sydney in 1969. He had done a teaching Diploma at what was then the Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education (CAE) [101] and had been running the film society there. He found out about community video through the local Canadian Embassy which had a collection of films produced by Challenge For Change, which they would lend to local film societies and which he screened to his students. As Kirk described it Challenge For Change, “was using film and later, video, as a tool for intervening in and facilitating community processes” [102] He also “had a standard 8 film camera which [he] was shooting bits of stuff on.” [103] and had been getting copies of International Times from a local radical bookshop. [104]

“And in that there was a whole bunch of stuff. One was a column by Hoppy about using video as a journalistic tool, and so on. And I thought, well, okay, that’s interesting. … But the Institute for Research in Art and Technology [at] the Arts Lab, had an electronic section as well, that was doing stuff. And having an arts background, I was interested in interactive environments, basically. So I was interested in the electronic side of that, and so I just went to London on spec, but that’s why I went.

“Checked it out when I got there.[The electronic side of IRAT didn't work out, but] the door was open on the video thing, so I was, bang, straight into that. And they had inherited a bunch of gear from John Lennon, I think, or one of the Beatles, which was a 405 line video rover, and a 1-inch Ampex home video recorder, which just fitted in the back seat of the mini, if you took the seats out of the back, right.

“And then what was happening was that they [TVX] were preparing for shooting Video Space, and there was a deal done with the BBC” [105]

Kirk arrived in London just after the OZ magazine “Schoolkids” issue (#28, May, 1970) that led to the trial (somewhat later, over June to August, 1971) of the editors, Richard Neville, Felix Dennis and Jim Anderson for obscenity. [106]. He hooked up with TVX just before the recording of VideoSpace (1970) the concept for which was based on experiments by Brice Howard at the National Centre for Experiments in Television in San Francisco in 1970. Howard's process was “to lay down the basic mix on videotape and to re-mix with other image tracks once only. This he calls making a pass of the original mix, and can be done again and again (like different final audio mixes) until a pass is made that seems to be satisfying.” [107] A similar technique is probably the basis for the experimental work done in the studio at the Futron Building in Glebe by Bush Video in 1973 (to which I shall return later).

Four frames from VideoSpace
Fig.2: Four frames from the VideoSpace experimantal braodcast at the BBC.
[Courtesy, John Kirk and TVX]

TVX's Videospace (1970) was a commissioned video event for “Late Night Line Up” on BBC2 television. It was perhaps the video project of greatest impact (and from my point of view, the most extraordinary) from this period. Tom Corcoran, a BBC producer at the time, offered TVX some time in one of the production studios to see what they could do. So they gathered

“a bunch of people together, including Richard Neville who was editor of Oz” [108] and treated it like a 'happening'. “[They] 'roughed out', not a script but who would do what and when. … They did one take which lasted 20 minutes and played it back … then [they] did another take that lasted 20 minutes.” [109] ... The production included “visual feedback. There was a light show there, … a studio discussion, [and they] also experimented in the control room with a vision mixer and ... an elementary colour synthesiser and stuff like that. ...” [110]

And then, supposing one looks at this notion of 'impact' from the perspective of media politics, the disruption of the David Frost interview with Jerry Rubin takes the cake. Rubin was a leading voice in the Yippies and the hippie revolution that was taking place in the U.S. and the U.K. He was booked to appear as a guest on the David Frost Show on the BBC for November 7, 1970. It would be a live-to-air interview. Rubin invited a number of friends – all “luminaries of the British Underground scene” [111] such as Richard Neville of OZ and a couple of TVX video people including John Kirk (who came with a Porta-pak) and Cliff Evans – to accompany him. After an initial conversation with Frost, Rubin invited his fiends, who were in the audience, to join him on-stage where “they crowded into camera-shot, armed with water-pistols” [112] and joints and proceeded to break up the show until a commercial break. The whole event outraged Frost, some of the audience and the British press. However its impact was probably of greatest benefit to Frost himself.

Four frames from FrostBite
Fig.2: Four frames from FrostBite in which the Yippies, encouraged by Jerry Rubin took over the David Frost Show on the BBC.
[Courtesy, John Kirk and TVX]

Kirk comments:

“I was videoing it. I started rolling as I walked down to sit down in front of the set, there were two versions. There was the edited version which the [BBC had] done, because they’re shooting it on a multi camera setup, and somebody’s directing the vision; and the single camera coverage which I shot, which is from the participants’ point of view back to David Frost, who was frothing ... at the mouth. [113]

Between them, Kirk and Evans ended up with a spectacular, if not readily watchable, video called FrostBite [114]

Then on a different note, other tape that John Kirk shot included the recording, to Ampex 1” video, of the Bath music Festival (1970) [115] and a spontaneous portapak video recording of a drug bust at:

“the old Arts Lab, and there was a big drug bust there, right. So there was an art gallery on the bottom floor. Stuart Brisley was showing some sort of medical installation down there, of bandages oozing all sorts of slime. The Filmmakers Coop was on the first floor. We had a telephone switchboard. The thing came through on the intercom to say: the cops are busting the theatre downstairs, what are you going to do? So monitors open, bags of dope went into the monitors, some went out the window, all that sort of thing.

“And what happened, the police came up to search TVX. So I can remember changing out of my clothes, my jeans, into a three-piece suit in front of them, and picking up the portable and walking out the door that led onto the fire escape, going up onto the top of the building, back of the building, coming down, coming out onto the back lane. And they said, No, no, no, you can’t go in there, blah, blah, blah. So that was shot, so we sold that to the BBC, right.

“So that was taken and edited with a razorblade, and played back on a J-series mains deck, I think, onto a black and white monitor that had a broadcast camera locked off on it. So that was the first piece of half inch tape to air, sort of thing.” [116]

TVX had started in 1969 and by 1974 had more or less morphed into Fantasy Factory, an independent video post-production facility run by Hoppy and his partner and colleague Sue Hall. They had been squatting in Camden and were re-housed [117] in a Victorian era office building in Theobald's Road, (West Central) London in 1974. They were also running the Centre for Advanced Television Studies which by 1976 had become a library, the journal J-CATS (of which Video In Community Development (above) was the first issue), and Sue Hall had established her video production agency called Graft-on which trained people in how to use Porta-paks and small editing facilities like the one at Fantasy Factory. [118] They concentrated on editing and post-production for community and low-level corporate video-makers, while also producing their own work along lines they had established as TVX; recording various aspects of then contemporary English culture including the Bungay May Horse Fair (1976). Other videos they made at Fantasy Factory included: Com Com Alternative Commercial (1978), for late-night transmission on London Weekend Television; Slow Scan is a Slow Scam a video art piece; Stop the Blitz (1978), a community activist video on housing in London; Trigger Happy, a demonstration tape of their custom built editing controller, and Xerox TV (1977) for RAI Italy. [119]

Much of the Fantasy Factory video work was on community self-organisation and squatters' rights. One tape, Ben's Arrest (1974), was used in court as evidence against the police prosecution of a young squatter. [120]

Ben's Arrest serves as a prime example of the difference in approach taken by the English video makers and the Canadian Challenge For Change. The TVX video was shot virtually on the run, i.e., it was shot live (in real-time) as the arrest was happening. Whereas with the CFC work, usually, a more considered approach was taken, although more considered is a relative term. Much of the CFC video involved seeking out the concerned people, recording, playing back, responding to and editing it and only then sending it on to whatever bureaucracy was involved. In other word things were 'finished', not shot in real time and more or less immediately played back.

But, looping back: late in 1972, during the period at IRAT, Kirk mentions that

“I got this message from Johnny Allen [in Australia], about the Aquarius Festival at Nimbin, and I thought, Well, that’s interesting. And it was an incentive [to come back], because I just felt if I stayed there for too long I’d become part of the furniture, sort of thing.”

In the day-to-day one didn't notice it, but all this activity was going on pretty much in parallel, between countries (particularly Canada, Britain, the US and Australia), across the country and among activist groups, with each person and/or group feeding off the work of the others in one great network of ideas.

TVX had been talking with (and providing local video material to) Tom Corcoran at the BBC and others were no doubt noticing all these things going on so that, as Kirk notes:

“out of what we were trying to do, Rowan Ayres [then a producer at the BBC] [121] picked up on that. Like, I’d come back to Sydney, and in the intervening six months, Rowan had [set up a program called Open Door [122] where the BBC had offered community groups or individuals access to tools and production expertise so that they would drive the content, and the Beeb would make the program for them.” [123]

Not long after that (1974) Ayres came to Australia. Kirk continues:

He’d blown backwards out of the Beeb, and was advising the Whitlam Government on media policy. … This is now post-Nimbin where we had set up Australia’s first cable TV network, and access centre, right. And there’s a whole bunch of politicking came out of that, and Tom Uren and the Department of Urban and Regional Development found the funding to set up the Community Access Centres. So Rowan was one of the key advisors in that process.” [124]

Now, remember; all this is going on more-or-less in parallel. The period was humming and lots of experiments and models for community access to the media were being broached and tried out. I will come to the Australian aspect of this in due course.

But here I should note that there are two distinctly different models of community activist video operating. While the Canadian (CFC) approach was to arrange with a local community worker to send a video crew into a particular community, TVX and subsequently Hopkins and Hall were actually living as members of the community that they were making videos about. They lived and breathed the squatters' situation more or less full time for several years while the CFC crews could actually see a pending endpoint and return to their own homes (although it would have been rather different for the community workers who had the job of co-ordinating between the local people and the video-makers).

I have covered the early developmental period of activist video at some length so as to show where the video access idea came from. These processes that were happening in Canada and Britain were then brought to Australia through several paths so that, both deliberately and incidentally, the ideas behind video access got to Australia and moves to make it happen here began.


1 See “John Grierson” in Wikipedia. Retrieved 07/12/2016 from

2 See “ Moana (1926 film)”

3 Jonathan Rosenbaum, Moana (1975 review). Retrieved from 8/12/2016

4 Ibid.

5 Desley Deacon, 'Films as foreign offices' in Ann Curthoys, Marilyn Lake, (eds), Connected worlds: history in transnational perspective, Volume 2004, Australian National University Press, p.151. Available through [Retrieved 7/12/2016]

6 Desley Deacon, 20004, op cit.

7 Des O'Rawe, Regarding the real: Cinema, documentary, and the visual arts, Oxford University Press, 2016, Chapter 1: Suspended Animation, n.p.

8 Forsyth Hardy, ed, Grierson on Documentary, Faber and Faber; London, 1946. The article originally appeared in Cinema Quarterly in three parts between 1932 and I934.

9 From Grierson's diaries as quoted in “John Grierson” in Wikipedia. op cit.

10 Ray Thorburn interviews Len Lye', Art International, XIX (April), 64-68, 1975, p.66.

11 The date is a guess drawn from Horrocks' mention of the period that Lye was in Sydney from c.1921 and returned to New Zealand in 1924.

12 Horrocks, Roger, Len Lye: A Biography, (2001) Auckland, New Zealand, Auckland University Press, p.55.

13 Ibid, pp.54-56.

14 Which he learnt about on reading Spencer and Gillen's Native Tribes of Central Australia. See Stephen Jones, “Figure of Motion”, Art Asia Pacific, Sept/Oct 2016, #100, pp.110-119.

15 Lars Weckbecker, Governing Visions of the Real: The National Film Unit and Griersonian Documentary Film in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Intellect Books, 2015, p.6.

16 John Grierson in Grierson, The National Film Board of Canada, video, at 08:30.

17 Ibid.

18 O'Rawe, op cit.

19 There is a lot of literature on these notions, but it is surprisingly difficult to penetrate. A lot of assumptions that you already know the story have been made. Some help will come from the works listed here.

John Grierson, “Memo to Michelle about Decentralizing the Means of Production” (1972), in Thomas Waugh, Michael Brendan Baker and Ezra Winton, Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada, McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal, 2010

George C. Stoney, “The Mirror Machine”, Sight & Sound International Film Quarterly, Winter 1971/72, vol.41, no.1, pp.9-11.

Dorothy Todd Henaut, “A Report from Canada: Television As Town Meeting”, Radical Software, vol.1, no.2. 1970, p.17.

James F LeMaistre, Community Television as an aid for citizen involvement in the planning process, (1972), The University of British Columbia. See Chapter 6.

20 “John Grierson” in Wikipedia. op cit.

21 Walter Lippman, Public Opinion (1922). New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. Available at

22 John Grierson” in Wikipedia. op cit.

23 Lippman, Public opiniom, (1922), Public Opinion, (1922), op cit [p.5 of the pdf download.]

24 Ibid, [p.6 of the pdf download]

25 Ibid., [p.10 of the pdf download]

26 Ibid., [p.11 of the pdf download]

27 Ibid., [p.12 of the pdf download]

28 Ibid. On investigation of this quote it is also attributed to several other authors including Thomas Huxley and Benjamin Franklin. There is also an article: “Lasswell & Lippmann on Propaganda”, by an unknown author on the site Cultural Apparatus: at regarding this quote.

29 “John Grierson” in Wikipedia. op cit.

30 Is this not what the physicists tell us of the nano (nay, pico)-scopic world of quanta that change their states according to our way of viewing them?

31 Lippman, Public Opinion (1922), op cit [p.13 of the pdf download]

32 Lippman, Public Opinion (1922), op cit [p.19 of the pdf download]

33 “John Grierson” in Wikipedia. op cit.

34 “John Grierson” in Wikipedia. op cit.

35 Review of Elizabeth Sussex, The Rise and Fall of British Documentary, University of California Press, 1975, in Cantrills Filmnotes, nos.23/24, July 1976, pp.54-55. See also:

36 John Grierson in Grierson, The National Film Board of Canada, video, at 13min 30sec.

37 John Grierson in Grierson, The National Film Board of Canada, video, at 53min 00sec

38 Ibid.

39 “National Film Board of Canada”, Wikipedia, Retrieved 6/12.2016 from The particular quote references what is said in Deacon, op cit. p.152. See also Low, Colin (1984). "Grierson and 'Challenge for Change,'" in The John Grierson Project, John Grierson and the NFB. Toronto: ECW Press, pp.111-119.

40 John Grierson in Grierson, The National Film Board of Canada, video, at 25min 30sec.

41 “National Film Board of Canada”, From Wikipedia, op.cit.

42 Australian Centre for the Moving Image, “Australian Documentary Collection.” Available from refer_q=subject_value_resolved=John%20Grierson/rows=15/sort=list_title_sort%20asc/class=collection/q=/ (Retrieved 13/12/16.]

43 This was Menzies first term as PM (1939-41). He lost to the Labor Party of Ben Chifley in 1941 and became PM again only in 1949 when the so-called Menzies era began, running until 1966.

44 John Grierson, 'Memorandum to The Right Honourable, the Prime Minister', in Albert Moran and Tom O'Regan (eds), An Australian Film Reader, Currency Press, Sydney, 1985, pp. 72-78. Drawn from Jenny Allen “Australian Visions. The Films of Dahl and Geoffrey Collings.” ERAS Journal, Monash University. Available at [Retrieved: 11/12/16]

45 Ina Bertrand, “Theory into practice: Stanley Hawes and the Commonwealth Film Unit”, Screening the Past, The Screening The Past Publications Group, La Trobe University and the Cinema Studies program in the School of Communications, Arts, and Critical Enquiry, 1999. Available at

46 Hawes, quoted by Judy Adamson, “Stanley Hawes 1905-1991” (obituary), Cinema Papers, 84 (August 1991), p.64. Drawn from Ina Bertrand, “Theory into practice:... “ op cit.

47Hawes, interviewed by Andrew Pike & Joan Long, 14-15 February 1980, transcript (page no. unreadable – p.21?), Hawes Papers, box 52. Drawn from Ina Bertrand, “Theory into practice:... “ op cit

48 John Grierson quoted in Bob Summers “Challenge For Change”, Cineaste, Vol.3, No.4 (Spring 1970), pp.16-18.

49 Stephen Tallents, (EMB) in Grierson, The National Film Board of Canada, video, at 12min 30sec

50 “ National Film Board of Canada”, From Wikipedia, op.cit.

51 See Jackie Hatfield, “Artists' Video in the 70s & 80s”, interview for Rewind with John Hopkins and Sue Hall (of the British video activist group Fantasy Factory). p.2. Retrieved from Hall, John Hopkins/SHJH506.pdf 18/12/16. The original source of this notion of three levels is Warren Weaver, “Recent Contributions to the Mathematical Theory of Communication”, in Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, Urbana, The University of Illinois Press, 1949, p.96.

52 Gordon Pask, An Approach to Cybernetics, London, Hutchinson Science Library, 1961.

53 Freire, Paulo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1996, London, Penguin.

54 Illich, Ivan, Deschooling Society, 1971, Harmondsworth, UK, Penguin.

55 I say “apparent simplicity” because with video it was not necessary to wait for film processing to see the results of the day's recording – in fact it could be seen live, as it was being recorded. However there was a real problem with the quality of its editing which, initially, was incredibly difficult.

57 Dorothy Todd Henaut and Bonnie Klein, “In the Hands of Citizens: A Video Report”, Radical Software, Vol.1, No.1, Spring 1970. Raindance Corporation, New York,

58 John Hopkins, Cliff Evans, Steve Herman, John Kirk, “Video In Community Development”, JCATS, vol.1, no.1. 1973. 2nd edition, revised, November 1972, Ovum Limited. It was originally written as a research report for a Home Office Community Development Project commissioned by Southampton University (1972). It includes Dorothy Todd Henaut's article “Powerful Catalyst” which describes various Challenge for Change projects, see pp.17-22.

59 From the Preface to Part 4 of Thomas Waugh, Michael Brendan Baker, Ezra Winton, Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2010 McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP.

“Contemporary incarnations of Challenge for Change's aspiration to embed media in marginalized communities have both been inspired by the NFB’s innovative fostering of community media and been carried out with a more developed critical acumen (see Miller, chapter 37, this volume). Challenge for Change needs to be situated within an archaeology of the media radicalism of the 1960s, which includes the solipsistic process-oriented films of Andy Warhol alongside the McLuhanesque visions of media democracy found at Expo ’67 – the multi-screen architecture of the NFB's In the Labyrinth project, which Colin Low had conceptualized in the early 1960s, is perhaps the ultimate expression of this optimism. From this perspective, we can see that Challenge for Change’s experiments with media democracy and social justice activism are important precursors to the diy {do it yourself) aesthetic and the networked cultures of digital media around the world. Such networks are grounded in localized circuits of communication and action that in turn have a global effect. In the context of networked, locative, and distributed media, we can appreciate the importance of the feedback loop that was the basis of the Challenge for Change methodology. Although the critique of liberal ideology found in this chapter continues to be a vital one, the very logic of the feedback loop encompasses a conceptualization of production as always already intrinsically tied to consumption and circulation. That is, as Walter Benjamin put it in 1934, the use of the apparatus in this manner proposes the “author as producer”, which is then the challenge for change.”
“Once the dispossessed and powerless have access to the means of information they can no longer be misled by Establishment bullshit. And that is in itself a revolution. - Patrick Watson 1970.”
This was retrieved from Google Books so its direct referencing will be unreliable but that it is in Part 4 of the above book is undoubted. See

60 This was what became known as the Fogo Process run by Colin Low for the Challenge for Change project. See Williamson, T. (1989). The Fogo process : development support communications in Canada and the developing world. In AMIC-NCDC-BHU Seminar on Media and the Environment : Varanasi, Feb 26-Mar 1, 1989. Singapore: Asian Mass Communication Research and Information Centre. 1989. < > accessed September 2018.

61 With the VTR St Jacques project run by Dorothy Henaut and Naomi Klein. See National Film Board, “Societé Nouvelle/Challenge For Change: A Design”, Medium Media, 1971, in Hopkins, Evans, Herman, Kirk (eds), “Video in Community Development”, JCATS, Vol.1 no.1, January 1973, p.119.

62 For example: VTR St-Jacques (Bonnie Sherr Klein) <> and the Drumheller (Alberta) VTR project, both in 1969.

63 Potter, Martin, Review of Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada < >

64 Bob Summers, “Challenge For Change”, op.cit. p.16. [See endnote 42]

65 Schugurensky, Daniel (2005). "Challenge for Change launched, a participatory media approach to citizenship education". History of Education. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). Appears to be no longer available on the internet. Quoted in “Challenge for Change” . Retrieved 31/07/2016.

66 Quoted in Memorial University of Newfoundland Extension Service (1972). An ever so slightly different version of this quote appears in Video in Community Development, Hopkins, et al, JCATS Vol.1, no.1, Jan 1973, p.22.

67 Stoney, George, “The Mirror Machine” Sight and Sound International Film Quarterly, Winter 71/72, vol.41, no.1, pp.9-11.

68 Kennedy, Tim, “The Skyriver Project” in Access: Challenge for Change / Societé Nouvelle Number Twelve. Available at Accessed 1/8/16.

69 Bob Summers, “Challenge For Change”, op.cit.

70 Sturken, Marita, &lquo;An Interview with George Stoney&rquo;, Afterimage, Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY (1984) <>. Accessed 31/07/2016

71 John “Hoppy” Hopkins, Edited LCVA interview, Interviewer: Heinz Nigg. <>

72 Knight, Julia, (ed.) (1996) Diverse Practices: A Critical Reader on British Video Art, Luton, UK, University of Luton Press, p.26

74 “John Hopkins - Hoppy, Video Pioneer“ Interview with Hoppy Hopkins by ??? <> at c.13mins in. See also Knight, Julia, (ed.) (1996) op cit. p.26.

75 This quote is a pastiche of two comments from Hopkins in which he more or less says the same thing in two different ways. From the interview with Jackie Hatfield, “Artists' Video in the 70s & 80s”, op.cit. p.13.

76 Hopkins in the interview with Jackie Hatfield, “Artists' Video in the 70s &80s”, op.cit. p.13.

77 Knight, Julia, (ed.) (1996)op cit., p.27.

78 Knight, Julia, (ed.) (1996) op cit., p.27. I have not found any indication as to who the investment corporation were.

79 Knight, Julia, (ed.) (1996) op cit., p.27.

80 Sue Hall in an interview with Chris Meigh-Andrews, at

81 In 1973 Kirk returned to Australia to join up with the group of local media activists who were about to set up a video resource centre at the May 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival and whom later became Bush Video.

82 Hatfield, Jackie, Interview with Sue Hall, John Hopkins, “Rewind: Artists' Video in the 70's & 80s”, p.13. <,%20John%20Hopkins/SHJH506.pdf>

83 According to Tony Dowmunt, “Su Braden, who was starting this video project on the Aylesbury Estate in South East London, but she didn’t have any video gear, and by that time I’d got the Portapak. So we teamed up and started working on the Aylesbury Estate. … it was a community arts project, not just a video project – and the fundamental sort of rationale of the project was that we were going to occupy spaces on the estate, which we’d got council permission to do, which were originally designed as possible places where people would have laundrettes, or community spaces. But none of them were used, so we said ‘well, OK, we’ll go in there and we’ll start opening them up and using them’.
See: Heinz Nigg, Channels of Resistance, Portrait of Tony Dowmunt. Community Video Activist. <>

84 This would have been the record only Sony "Video Rover", model DV-2400. It “was the very first portable video tape recorder available to the general public. The DV-2400 portapack VTR and DVC-2400 vidicon camera, was introduced in 1967.” [] For playback you had to rewind the tape and play it on a Sony CV-2000D. []

85 John Hopkins, “Bradley Martin reporting date line June 3 1969, London”. International Times, Issue: 58, pp 6-7. href="">

86 Knight, Julia, (ed.) (1996) op cit., p.27.

87 Ibid.

88 Hopkins in International Times (quoted in Knight, Julia, Diverse Practices, Luton. U.K, University of Luton Press, 1996.) Actual IT volume/issue number yet to be determined.

89 John Kirk in conversation with Stephen Jones – March 20, 2010.

90 Letter dated 12 Dec 69 to Andrew Page, Arts Council of Great Britain. MEMORANDUM RE: VISUAL RECORD OF EVENTS [from a photocopy of the original typescript that is not clearly readable.] <,%20John%20Hopkins/SHJH009.pdf >

91 Knight, Julia, (ed.) (1996) op cit., p.27.

92 Brice Howard, Videospace, (1972), National Center for Experiments in Television, San Francisco, Calif.

93 Knight, Julia, (ed.) (1996) op cit., p.27.

94 Hatfield, Jackie, Interview with Sue Hall, John Hopkins, op cit., p.5.

95 Brice Howard, Videospace, (1972) op cit.

96 Ibid, p.120.

97 John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, “A Song of Long Ago”, Hoppy Hopkins on Video in community development (11:59), interview by Heinz Nigg, edited, London Community Video Archive,

98 John Hopkins, Cliff Evans, Steve Herman, John Kirk (eds.), Video in Community Development, (1972), London, Centre For Advanced Television Studies.

99 John Hopkins, Cliff Evans, Steve Herman, John Kirk, Video in Community Development, Centre for Advanced Television Studies, Journal of the Centre for Advanced Television Studies, vol, 1, no.1, January 1973.

100 Hopkins “Song of Long Ago”

101 It then became the City Art Institute, then The College of Fine Arts at the UNSW and now UNSW Art and Design.

102 John Kirk in conversation with Stephen Jones – March 20, 2010.
[See doc: John Kirk_interview_2009_edit.doc]

103 Ibid.

104 Gould's Book Arcade in Liverpool St. Sydney.

105 John Kirk in conversation with Stephen Jones – March 20, 2010.

106 Schoolkids OZ was No.28 of OZ magazine. The issue was, on a special occasion, edited by 5th and 6th-form children. It was the subject of a high-profile obscenity case in the United Kingdom from June 1971 to 5 August 1971,[1] the longest trial under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act

107 John “Hoppy” Hopkins, “Real Time Television”, International Times 74, February 27, 1970.

108 Hopkins in the interview with Jackie Hatfield, “Artists' Video in the 70s & 80s”, op.cit. p.5.

109 Ibid.

110 Ibid., p.6.

111 Knight, Julia, Diverse Practices, op cit.

112 Knight, Julia, Diverse Practices, op cit.

113 John Kirk in conversation with Stephen Jones – March 20, 2010.

114 Frostbite 1970 <>

115 The Bath Festival A little of the video by TVX is on You Tube:

116 John Kirk in conversation with Stephen Jones – March 20, 2010.

117 John “Hoppy” Hopkins interview at <>

118 See, among other things: Lux artists' moving image Blog/Community Video #4: The Video Show - Video Art and Community Video.<>, and Blog / Community Video #2: Community Action <>, and Chris Meigh-Andrews interview with John Hopkins and Sue Hall at <>. All retrieved 21/12/16.

119 Fantasy Factory Video Ltd, “List of Completed Video Production 1969-79, retrieved from,%20John%20Hopkins/SHJH029.pdf, 22/12/16.

120 Sue Hall describes how the tape was shot in Hatfield, Jackie, Rewind artists' Video in the 70's & 80's. Interview with Sue Hall and John Hopkins, 17 November 2004. Fantasy Factory Compilation No 1, 60 mins, 1974-80,,%20John%20Hopkins/SHJH028.pdf. Retrieved 31/12/2016. “The unedited, brutal arrest of a black youth in London's Kentish Town. This single shot created the precedent for videotape to be used as defence evidence in an English court. Ben was acquitted. A classic example of community video. Apart from the police all persons shown are squatters.” The actual sheet from which this reference is taken is a description of a compilation tape once held at the Sydney Filmmakers Co-op.

123 John Kirk in conversation with Stephen Jones – March 20, 2010.

124 Ibid.