Last night was a poignant one. Even before I was involved with digital storytelling, I’ve been a fan of BBC Video Nation. I first became aware of it when I saw an job ad in the early 1990s announcing that the BBC Community Programmes Unit was recruiting people to develop uses for the Hi8 analogue camcorders that had heralded the introduction of near-broadcast-quality consumer video cameras. The fruits of that project, founded by Mandy Rose and Chris Mohr, were five to ten-minute video shorts scheduled before Newsnight on BBC 2 TV.
Last night I went to London’s ICA Cinema for the final screening of Video Nation Network’s Turn Back Time – The High Street community films. Along with other projects, Video Nation is coming to an end, as part of the BBC’s Putting Quality First strategy.
Rosemary Richards, VN’s editor Interactive and Outreach hosted the night well and the films were a delight. it’s just so refreshing to hear new voices who speak from experience and knowledge about subjects.
I met many of the films’ authors and some – like Karl Stewart, head of Shaftsbury Rd school in Leicester had travelled from far for the screening. Karl had brought two young school students with him and they were very proud seeing their film on the West-End cinema screen.
I also met some of the Video Nation team, from past and present: Outi Vellacott, who went on to work with Hi8Us and Mark Dunford on a pan-European digital storytelling project; Alyson Fielding, who came to work at BBC Wales for a time, while Snowdonia Farmhouse and other major productions were being made.
I’m sorry Video Nation’s coming to an end. It marks the end of a major long-running collaboration between the BBC and its audiences. And for some of its collaborators – who pay their License Fee but don’t watch, listen or read much BBC content at all – working with Video Nation was a rare point of contact that they valued with the BBC. So there’s one example of Video Nation’s priceless legacy.