Colin Perry

‘Into the mainstream: radical independent documentaries and television in Britain, 1974–1990’

Central Saint Martins

My research looks at independent film and video in relation to documentary and broadcast television in the UK, from 1974 to 1990. The date range broadly corresponds with the birth of the campaign to have independent film shown on television in Britain, to the collapse of funding and institutional support for it. My research looks in particular at the Independent Film-makers’ Association (IFA), and two diverse case studies: Stuart Marshall (a video artist who became a pioneering documentarist of media reactions to AIDS and gay rights for Channel 4) and Marc Karlin (a film-maker and member of the Berwick Street Film Collective who went on to make documentaries on memory and socialism for BBC2 and Channel 4).

My thesis proposes that by looking at this area in terms of current documentary and film studies, as well as media and moving image studies, we may better understand the intentions, desires and contradictions of independent film and video in the 1970s and 1980s in the UK. In particular, I use theories developed in documentary studies developed after the period in question in order to re-examine how independent film and video related to, and re-invented, documentary practice. I am currently looking at notions of documentary argument and indexicality, explored within the context of what Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge called the ‘counter-public sphere’. The thesis examines antinomical relations of independent film- and video-makers to mainstream media, in particular television, looking to the latter as a site for both contention and re-invention.


James Swinson

Lucy Reynolds