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Wainwright Foundation Funding Proposal

Video Activist Network UK #


How can radical media best contribute to the massive upsurge of political activism in the UK at the moment? visionOntv proposes to begin the building of a truly effective and sustainable video activist network. Its members will document and promote the actions and direct actions of the movements which protest the LibCon government’s use of the deficit to re-structure the welfare state, education and the NHS. But rather than creating a small group of highly-skilled specialist reporters, this project will use the revolutionary training tools provided by visionOntv to build a network of video citizen journalists. The aim is to turn camera-toting spectators at protests into effective rapid turn-around radical reporters. This will be initiated by a Video Activist Roadshow, located in universities around the UK, but with major outreach to other parts of the activist community. A large number of people in the UK still think that the cuts are justified, so there is a desperate need for more media in the popular form of video, covering all aspects of the anti-cuts campaigns, which really challenges the mainstream coverage of these issues.


visionOntv (http://visionon.tv), an undercurrents project, has previously been funded by the Andrew Wainwright Foundation (in 2007), an essential and inspiring start-up grant which enabled us to create a resource which has since flourished. visionOntv has become the largest archive for quality activist video in the world. Our core technical and infrastructural development, currently being funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, will create in the coming months the most powerful and flexible tools in existence for the distribution of radical video. Currently we have 5 main channels of daily-renewing quality video news and docs. Our globalviews http://visionon.tv/globalviews channel is for instance currently taking all the best independent films coming out of Egypt. Our grassroots http://visionon.tv/grassroots channel has extensively covered the student and ukuncut protests since October. We have pioneered the use of editorially controlled live storylines http://visionon.tv/dayx3 of the major protests. Overall the project aims to make a global contribution to the building of sustainable alternative media (http://visionon.tv/mission).

Why video training has failed up till now, and visionOntv's solution

visionOntv has developed a unique and widely acclaimed programme for the training of video citizen journalism (http://visionon.tv/training)

All previous video training has either been a form of boiled-down documentary course or it has been participatory video. Participatory video is irrelevant for video activism because it does not have as its object a film viewable by people outside the community which made it. The documentary short course has been successful in enabling a few future film makers take their first steps in the long apprenticeship to learn the complex form and skills of factual film. However, the vast majority of participants have fallen by the wayside and have never made another film without the tutelage of experienced film makers.

Our solution has been to reduce what is taught to simple templates published as single page cartoons (http://visionon.tv/produce). Some of the impressive results from these can be seen by clicking each template icon, and watching films in the left-hand column. Most of these films are by absolute beginners, often their first production.

Students have gone on to produce powerful and effective films independently, including this series made in Palestine in autumn 2010 http://youtube.com/user/stellanagm.

All trainings are not mere isolated weekends, but have undercurrents-style packages of support before and after. Students are inducted into a horizontal local video activist network http://visionon.tv/vanlondon with its own web resources.

The Need: Video and the student occupations – a mixed bag

Of all the video produced by occupying students around the UK, one college was exemplary. The University College London occupation produced a wide range of quality material, from crowd messages to other occupations, to finely honed direct action films, to filmed lectures. No other college achieved this. Instead what was published on youtube was disappointingly poor – typically, over-long wobbly-cam with bad sound and no journalism. This observation further impelled us to plan the roadshow.

The Video Activist Roadshow

We aim to achieve at least four local video activist networks in different parts of the UK. We will kick off each network via well-plannedand publicised weekend trainings in universities, with outreach to local communities, trade unions etc (in Glasgow/Edinburgh, Manchester/Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle – London is already covered, as the London Video Activist Network http://visionon.tv/vanlondon is ready to launch now). It is very important to emphasise our methodology for maximising the effectiveness of training courses. The courses are free of charge, but require a commitment from students to make citizen media immediately.

The programme coordinator will firstly seek out effective partner organisations in each place, which can attract a large number of participants who are the “right stuff”. Typically these would be student occupation groups, trade unions fighting the cuts, and health cuts campaigns. The simple application form http://visionon.tv/training for each training means that we can enter into a dialogue with potential students before the course, discussing their needs and our expectations.

Each course will begin on the Friday evening before the training with a screening of activist video carefully targeted at a broad range of activists, and advertised to them in those terms. The VCJ templates mean that no in situ equipment is necessary, and we can take a much larger number of students than on traditional video courses. (Students bring their own kit, which can be just a mobile phone camera (template 1) or no camera at all (template 2). The training will also aim to “train the trainers”, for the passing on of video activist skills to even more people. Follow-up, in conjunction with our partners in each locality, is crucial, and we will encourage students to fulfil on their promise of at least three pieces of finished video in three weeks, and help them if they get stuck.

This training is in no sense “community video”. There is no aspect of this training which is not politically driven, and this overtly political purpose makes it inaccessible to charitable funds.

In the end, by closing the gap between the universal availability of moving image technology and the almost total lack of story-telling skills, we aim to build media communities which will help to fight the cuts and argue for another world.


Trainers Hamish Campbell and Richard Hering have over forty years’ video training experience between them. As core members of visionOntv, they designed the video activist templates http://visionon.tv/produce. (You know us from our previous application in 2007!)

Our training coordinator will be Kayte Fairfax, who currently works as a project coordinator, as well as having a background in training and university lecturing. Kayte is also a core member of visionOntv.


Training coordinator £4000

Trainers x 2 £4000

Travel and other costs £2000

TOTAL £10000

NB We only got £3k from Wainwrights + we have another £3k owing from Undercurrents' Esmee Fairbairn funding as payment for tutors.

So basically so far we have £3k for coordinator(s) and all other expenses, which is why donations play a significant role!

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