Radical Media Forum

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Radical Media Forum

The Radical Media Forum is a regular meeting for left-aligned politically-engaged media practitioners, activists and researchers. Participants include those working with: film/video and television, online media and Indymedia, radio, books and print publication, community and media events, archives, and media research. It is open to individuals and groups working at any level across voluntary activist and community-based media to those working within mainstream and academic contexts.

The forum provides a space for networking, news exchange, skills sharing, discussion, debate, and building a more consolidated base for critical media in Scotland and the UK. Meetings take place every two months at various venues.

Each forum provides time for meeting and exchanging news, issues, ideas, etc., followed by a dedicated skills and discussion session.

For the January 2012 meeting, film and documentary maker Barbara Orton will facilitate a practical workshop to discuss issues and practices around engaging audiences through mainstream formats and alternatives to these. The debate around mainstream access is an important one in political film-making, whether to work with it, challenge, or reject it, and it is useful to understand how such positions may determine the ways in which work is realised. Participants are invited to bring along film and video projects they are currently working on to review and discuss as part of the session.

The people participating in this first meeting include (in no particular order):

- Indymedia Scotland

- Camcorder Guerillas

- Document

- Variant

- Gordon Asher

- Glasgow Media Group

- Autonomi/Diversity

- Walton Pantland -

- John Couzin

- Jennifer Jones

- Euan Sutherland - RiB

- Mike Small - Bellacaledonia

- Burgh Angel

The event is envisioned as a space for dialogue and the intention is for the event to have a social element that is inclusive and participatory, conducive and transparent. With this intention in mind, the event brings people together in a spirit of open and reflective dialogue, those organising the event have proposed a structure for the afternoon that includes facilitation – both for the event overall and for the discussions.

The main aim of this meeting is for people to get to know each other. We would like everyone to give a no-more-than 10 minute outline of what they are doing and how they work. Given the potential number of participants this may take up to two hours. This will be followed by a shorter session to establish what will be the most useful issues to take forward for future meetings/development.

To help outline the discussion and create a common set of questions to explore, it would be helpful if everyone could think through a set of responses to the following questions. Much of this can form the basis of your presentation, others are issues we can explore in discussion:

- number of people involved

- structure of group

- what media you work with

- examples of recent work

- how is work distributed?

- who / where is your public?

- how do you fund your activities?

- do you currently have adequate resources?

- do you work with other groups/people, and if so how?

- key areas in which you feel your group could develop

- what are you basic views on establishing a network or more regular meetings for radical media in Scotland/Northern UK?

- who else should we involve?

The event is centred on the notion of participatory dialogue – on listening and being listened to – and it is important that everyone should have the chance to speak if they wish to, with no one person dominating. This forum will be quite lightly facilitated in order to keep an informal but focused atmosphere. Facilitators are not neutral, but active participants and can contribute their own points to ongoing discussions.

The tendency in such discussions can be to arrive at agreement around the most important themes or concerns. The process of agreement is often organised around resolving differences in experience or knowledge, and responses in discussion may well be convergent or similar. In this process, however, try to also give attention to our divergences, not as differences to be conquered or argued but as points of reflection.

A data projector and computer with internet access (running Linux) will be available if you require it, or you are welcome to bring your own laptops. Given the amount we wish to cover however, we would suggest not giving too much time on this occasion to the showing of projects, as it is intended to allow for more dedicated sessions for this at a later date.

Key themes that came up across presentations included:

- funding: many people are self-funded through varying degrees of voluntary labour, those who have received funding are finding this to be decreasing. The use of funding has become more heavily politicised.

- distribution: multiple forms of distribution are used, from photocopied pamphlets to web, screenings etc., it was felt important to work across these, but also that there would be a benefit in sharing distribution platforms and syndicating material more. The use of mainstream media, ie. TV, for distribution has become virtually impossible.

- archives: the need to archive both past work and ongoing activity was broadly agreed upon, but it was also recognised that there is much labour involved in this as well as costs for resources. One option may be to 'piggy back' on existing archival systems. This is an issue which needs to be explored in greater depth.

- problematise 'radical/critical/art/alternative' and 'media': these terms are increasingly used across a range of disparate and contradictory contexts resulting in them potentially becoming meaningless or suggesting continuities and commonalities that may not actually exist.

- role of technology: technology, such as web distribution, can be helpful and effective, but infrastructure and related costs is an issue

- censorship/exclusions: some participants said they were censored or excluded from Scottish platforms, despite being highly regarded elsewhere. Reasons such as 'not fitting the brand' of previously usable venues or claims that locally targeted events were 'exclusive' and 'elitist' have been used by organisations and funding bodies to justify this.

- education: groups who have provided an educational practice have found that this is often abused, either being orientated towards demographics who already have access to such sources, or for ends that are contrary to those of the group (ie career development). The educational benefit of being involved in a project for its own sake is not recognised by funders. A desire for skill-sharing between groups was also expressed.

- aggregation: technologies such as those being developed by projects such as Be The Media may be a useful way of supporting distribution and syndication of material.

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