Hamish’s history of The European Newsreal
The has been much talk about doing a European wide video newsreal for the last 10 years or so. Undercurrents, which grew out of the UK anti-roads movement was in its latter additions an attempt at covering geographic wider story’s. However it wasn’t till the digital camcorder revolution and the communication revolution of the internet made video documentary work at a grass roots level sustainable.
I was working with undercurrent in Oxford covering demo’s and teaching the actional video activist course at Ruskin collage. The European Newsreal came out of 6 months of funding I wangled, which left me free to …. I had been thinking of doing a European video production/screening network for some time, had raised the issue at a number of European manifestations and alt-gatherings. Had meet many good and committed video makers, B- of CannalB (Berlin) in Genoa had impressed me with her work ethic, Marion from Munich had translated the 9.11 film I had brought back from NY IMC. I visited croater were I meet Iva and Oliver who were making original videos and organising screenings. With such good committed and driven people something should be possible if they could all be connected together and a common spark ignited.
At the time I was supplying short edited news stories for World in Crises a weekly 30 minute report for Freespeach TV in the states. While chatting to Eric by e-mail one day the subject of a European news program came up, FSTV had been running the Indymedia Newsreal for the 6 months at this point. Eric had some development funding which had to be spent before the summer so the European wide news project was pushed into fast gear with the help of Anna Bragga (who was planning a new alt-media magazine) and Paulo we organised the Islip gathering by inviting all the nice people I had meet that summer to Oxford.
The idea was to produces a “Europeanised” version of the American project. Keep it very simple with the minimal of rouls and constraints, build it up slow from the core (and committed) group bring in new people as the project grows. The project was to be firstly very simple with no aimless politicking (the pain of progressive IMC type projects) to consist of a page of structure and a paragraph mission statement. The dynamics of the group and regular face to face meetings would keep the project on the productive path. With this in mind it was decided to make the project affiliated of the IMC rather than a direct IMC project, making its out look much more open to non activist ghetto ideas and techniques. For me it was very important that these simple processes need to be agreed from the very beginning then changed by experiences of producing the half hour video. Being very aware of the problem of all talk and no action from the endless activist dream world of East Oxford.
One of the core ideas for me was that we would use blagabel video CD’s for screening and distribution rather than VHS as this would allow a non-centralised and most importantly robust distribution network. VHS being analogue doesn’t work at all well as a non hieratical distribution medium. Its is difficult and time consuming to copy VHS on a small scale. With latter practical but (blind) desion to use VHS we were committed to uncontrolled DV masters being distributed, unrestrained exploitation of others work being a re-accruing problem and is one of the main sources of paranoia in the activist ghetto that I felt we need to avoid this (or at least mediate it) from the beginning. But with most of the innovations I had in mind they only surfaced latter as people directly experienced the issues. This agen is a damming theme from the ghetto that experiences and innovation is seen as a threaght rahater than encouraged. In the ghetto the is little respect for the hieraceys of knowledge involved in knowledge and craft production, this childish attitude is both a blessing when it challenges the existing power structures and a damnation when it undermines real solid alternatives.
We set up the Islip list as a means of achieving this early consensus so that the gathering itself could be the place were we got to know each other and actually share the practical skills of producing a pilot issue of the project. Very few alt-projects are sustainable, the ones that are sustainable tend to be focused on small and closed cleacks, almost all of the IMC networks embody this. In such projects it is generally a small tightly nit core who do most of the work, surrounded by a shifting periphery.
Islip was a faler at creating such a functional core… it instead instutuanlised a fundamentalist and paranoid muddle which the project is now struggling with. The project dose exist but it suffers from a lack of clarity, dignity and warmth that very much questions its long term sustainability. Perhaps after the meeting in May this might be opened up as the paranoia and megalomania of activism may have died down anufe for a solid, practical and interesting project to grow from the current weed racked ground.
Myself am getting on with a more defined project from the start – European wide video activism traing caravan. Funded and role defined from the beginning.
Hamish Campbell, Oxford 2003