Battle of Trafalgar

Despite TV

1990, 52 mins, U-matic, color, 14 mins (excerpts), original available through

The film is an account of the anti-poll tax demonstration on March 31, 1990 in London and raises questions about public order, policing, the independence and accountability of the media, and the right to demonstrate. Eyewitnesses tell their stories against a backdrop of video footage showing the day’s events as they unfolded.

Sheridan Morley, The Times, September 19, 1990
The second “Battle of Trafalgar” has yet to find its place in the history books and will probably not qualify for the waxwork reconstruction at Madame Tussauds. But the anti-poll tax events of March 31 this year (1990) do have some historical fascination, and “Battle of Trafalgar” (Channel 4) suggested that they will resonate for some time yet. A freelance video company called Despite TV produced an hour-long documentary, which carefully reconstructed the demonstration from freelance footage, shot on the hoof and largely unscreened at the time. What it showed was often elderly people of distinctly un-student-like demeanor being violently attacked. Various caveats need to be entered: the film did not claim impartiality, nor did it attract spokesmen from either the police or any of the television news organizations, which the program accused of bias in their subsequent coverage. It was there—as the film company’s title Despite TV might suggest—to prove there was another side to the story of how an initially peaceful mass demonstration became a riot on a spring Saturday evening in central London.