Commentary Tony Dowmunt

Tony Dowmunt is a pioneer of video with children and young people and worked until his retirement as a professor for documentary filmmaking at Goldsmiths College in London. In his video portrait he goes back to the beginning of the first experiments with kids’ video on a big estate in South London. Young people there had nothing to do. Video was a great opportunity for them to express themselves and to test their own abilities.

Tony Dowmunt: ‘The first thing was really about seeing yourself on television. In fact I interviewed one of the groups that I had worked with most consistently in the late 1970s, and that was the thing that the dominant kid in the group said: “I came in here and I saw myself on video for the first time, it was like, wow!” So it was this energizing effect of seeing yourself on video. I can’t remember how we organized it, but it was basically on a weekly basis. They would come and do something each week. Sometimes it was rubbish or just passing the time, but sometimes it was powerful as a group process’. (see Tony Dowmunt, Video 17.50: Video with young people)

Have a look at the science fiction video that Tony Dowmunt did in 1977. It was scripted and filmed by a group of young teenagers in a community room on the Aylesbury Estate: their version of a Star Trek-style drama.

Wishing you an inspiring viewing session,

Heinz Nigg

In the 1970s and 1980s, young activists discovered video as a new medium and used moving images in their struggle for access to cultural expression for the many, not the few. They were researching and developing new forms of independent and participatory media work. This was an important step towards realizing the utopian promises of the digital age.