Knowle West Media Centre has been given access to 23 hours of footage from Knowle West TV – an early community cable TV project first broadcast on Bristol Channel in the 1970s. The footage has been converted from videotape to digital format and gives us a fantastic insight into what it was like to live and work here forty years ago.
We’ve seen glimpses of things that no longer exist or have undergone major change, and uncovered fascinating films of the Fighting Cocks pub, a 1974 Knowle West Art Festival, a women’s liberation movement, and more. In the coming months we’ll be sifting through the old footage and making connections with new films from the University of Local Knowledge, which celebrate the knowledge, skills and experiences that exist within the area.
You can watch a selection of clips on the Knowle West TV Youtube Channel – we’d love to know if you recognise anyone. If you remember Knowle West TV or lived here in the 1970s we’d love to hear from you. Join us to explore the ways our community has been presented – and presented itself – across the decades.
Bristol Channel was a community cable TV initiative, one of five in the UK authorised in the early 1970s. It was set up by Rediffusion, at the time the UK’s largest cable company, and reached 23,000 homes in Bristol via Rediffusion’s cable network in 1973 (about an eighth of the population of the city).
Between 1973-75, a team of volunteers and staff from Bristol Channel (up to 16 staff at one time) worked with organisations and communities across Bristol to record hundreds of hours of footage. The programmes were transmitted first at weekends and from October 1973 on weekday evenings.
Among the organisations and groups involved were the Bristol Astronomy Society, the Bristol Cine Society, the City Museum, the Port of Bristol Authority, the Regional Arts Association, a local Wildlife Trust, Bristol’s two football clubs – City and Rovers, Bristol Women’s Liberation, and a large contingent of the Knowle West community in South Bristol.
Some 700 hours of television were produced in the 22 months of Bristol Channel’s existence. After Rediffusion closed the station in March 1975, about 100 hours of videotape were donated to the National Film Archive.
This summary draws on a study of the station and its output written by Peter Lewis, the Station Manager (Lewis 1976).
The Bristol Channel film archive is currently stored at the British Film Institute in London, and the administrative paper archive at Bristol Record Office. In 2014, the Knowle West TV stock was digitized, from videotape to mp4 format. As well as being archived by KWMC, copies of digitised footage are held at Bristol Record Office, alongside the paper archive.
Keen to identify the people and places in the footage, and explore the parallels with contemporary experiences of life in Knowle West, KWMC and the Know Your Bristol project collaborated to bring the footage back to the community that had inspired and produced it forty years ago.
In 2014 KWMC and Know Your Bristol ran a series of drop-in workshops with people who had participated in KWTV in the 1970s or who had lived in the area for a long time, to see if they recognised participants and locations.
This was followed by a Knowle West TV week from 11th – 14th May 2015 at KWMC. As well as daily screenings of Knowle West TV and a display of people and places yet to be identified, there was a discussion about the past, present and future of community media, featuring Bristol Channel manager Peter Lewis, and the opportunity to meet artist David Hopkinson who was creating new short films using the archive footage.
Personal stories were recorded by KWMC throughout the week, while information about locations, such as the now-closed Fighting Cocks pub and the Merrywood School, were recorded using Know Your Bristol’s digital mapping tools.
In October 2014 we worked with the Know Your Bristol team from University of Bristol to stage Home Movie Day. The celebration of amateur films and filmmaking is held annually at venues worldwide – and we were delighted to host it at KWMC. People visited the Know You Bristol bus to share and digitise their home videos, and recount their stories.
They also watched a series of clips from Knowle West TV to see if they could identify any of the familiar faces and places.