It was a very stimulating conference with a good range of speakers representing a variety of different perspectives and constituencies. Excellent opening keynote by John Hill. There was perhaps an inevitable tendency to reinhabit the ‘golden years’ of the 80s but then the sense of risk-taking and experimentation that characterised that period is an inspiring legacy especially because of its resonant absence today.
It was great to see extracts from various forms of film, but it does raise important issues of archiving, preservation, accessibility and availability that I hope will be addressed. I wonder if Channel 4 are sufficently aware of their heritage?
It was good too to learn about the progress the research project itself is making and the range of issues that are coming into greater clarity and focus.
Thanks for organising such a smoothly running and enjoyable event.
Andrew Spicer (University of the West of England)
A real privilege to hear reflections on film culture in the UK and Channel 4′s contribution to it from people within the industry alongside those researching it. A particular highlght was watching ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ after an introduction from Hanif Kureishi. Thanks!
Annabel Tremlett, University of Portsmouth
I enjoyed the conference, particularly ‘The Birmingham Film and TV Workshop and UK Film Culture’ ‘The Failure of the Avant-Garde?…’ and ‘Channel 4 and the Emergence of Independent Black British Filmmaking’. It was also great to see ‘Giro: Is This the Modern World?’
Catriona McAvoy, Loner Films
I really enjoyed the conference not least because of the growing realisation of quite how much of my working life in film in the 80s and 90s was inextricably bound to Channel 4 and its productions. I particularly enjoyed the contributions where there was passion behind the paper, and echoes of the culture and poltics that drove C4 in the early years. Next time if there is a next time you should try and get hold of more of the survivors like Rod Stoneman.
Gill Henderson, House of Illustration (& Arts Council/LUX)
The pack of conference is too simple. It will be great if there are more research reports, references. Also, it could have more people in industry to share their works and perspectives.
…Just to say thank you for a very enjoyable conference which covered a lot of ground on Film 4. It was the first conference I’ve been to for a long time where there really wasn’t a dull session. Good opportunites to chat and meet, or meet again, colleagues. Shame time defeated us all at the end but even then one could catch up in the bar and feel we had completed things.
Great discussions, great presentations, great fun.
Tom Nicholls, University of Portsmouth
A well resourced, well organised and well run conference. I know the pitfalls and penalties of conference organisation, so congratulations to all. Croissants were great, too.
Second, just a few observations on the papers. I think there are three related topics to consider about C4′s involvement with film: C4′s feature production, the independent/workshop history, and film acquisition and scheduling. Each was given due attention. If the workshop history had a bias of time, that would not be too surprising, given the activism of its people and their attachment to the early C4 period, when their visibility was greatest. I missed the last sessions, but I assume that Rod Stoneman and anyone else from the commissioning aspect of that time would have been able to offer more about the institutional side of the relationship. John Wyver’s point about the failures there, I thought, needed a more critical response, especially since the absence of televisual considerations wasn’t developed and seemed to beg the question about what experimentation is for. I remember sitting through some thuddingly boring stuff on Eleventh Hour, but never for a moment doubted the importance of it nor its right to be there, a right so absent since. I also thought Steve Presence’s distinction between formal and political experiment worth developing and complicating. I’m sure it was never a matter of film form that undermined faith in its sustainability, and there was more than enough political antagonism to Thatcherism across the TV economy, not just C4, at the time, so the nature of the content is neither an issue. More to the point is John Hill’s analysis of the crucial effect of self-financing (a brilliant, concise and informative summary by way of introduction, incidentally) in determining the shift from production for minority to mainstream audiences.
I did think there more to explore about C4′s role in film acquisition and scheduling. There is an issue about the importance of keeping film history alive, both for its own sake (popular memory) and in order to inform a vibrant film culture now and in the future. C4 has played as important a role in this as the BBC once did in the days before video, but there is a risk of that focus being lost now, if not abandoned, in the arbitrary acquisition and scheduling policies evident in a multi-channel environment. This is why I mentioned, as example, the sudden and rare appearance of a more recent patterned acquisition of 1950s westerns. I would like to see some more attention paid to this issue – as an educationist, closer to my heart - in particular.
Once again, thanks for the opportunity to participate in the conference. I’ll keep myself informed about developments in your project. All strength to you. A good event, and an important project.
David Lusted, lecturer and writer on film and media education