Playback: Reactivating 1970’s Community Video

Ed Webb-Ingall

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In the early 1970s, activists and community groups began to use newly available video recording technology to produce what came to be known as ‘community video’. The capacity to record and instantly playback video material enabled groups previously ignored or misrepresented by mainstream media to develop their own means of self-representation. Since its inception, community video has largely been considered as ephemeral and remained at the margins of moving image histories.

This practice-based thesis challenges the marginalisation of 1970s community video through a combination of two approaches. First, the reappraisal of community video projects from the 1970s will describe the context out of which ‘community video’ first developed and align it with other similar approaches to non-fiction moving production. I then use an analysis of primary sources to draw out a methodological approach specific to 1970s community video. Second, I consider the contemporary relevance of 1970s community video practices through the ‘reactivation’ of both the production methods used to make community videos in the 1970s and the videos produced as a result of them.

Referring to a practice of both restoration and of setting-in-motion, the term ‘reactivation’ provides a useful metaphor for the reflexive process that I use to draw comparisons between community videos produced in the 1970s and those videos produced during a contemporary community video project. This combination of reactivation with historical analysis will be used to develop an aesthetic language to describe the particular sensory and perceptual quality of videos produced by
community groups, as well as their uses, pleasures, and limitations. This language helps to understand and articulate what defines community videos and to evaluate how the processes that characterise this specific approach to non-fiction moving image production continue to provide translatable and adaptable methods of collaborative video making and representation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Merck, Mandy, Supervisor
  • Dowmunt, Tony, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Feb 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 9 Nov 2018


  • video
  • community
  • practice based
  • 1970
  • community art
  • video art
  • art history
  • film studies
  • documentary

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