Film & Video

Despite TV was a video co-op that grew out of Mark Saunders’ work at THAP. In the 1980s they reported on local events and current issues, offering training and access to equipment for a range of local people. Productions included a series of ‘magazine’ tapes plus longer, single issue programmes.

Despite the Sun was a fifty minute exploration of the ‘Wapping Dispute’ brought about by ‘Press Baron’ Rupert Murdoch’s treatment of sacked print workers, while Despite the City, investigated ‘the square mile’s most recent spate of colonisation … into the East End.’

Like THUD Theatre, DTV eventually became independent, while still maintaining strong links with the project. Members went on to find employment in video and take courses to further their knowledge in media education.

A drama performance by THUD Theatre.

The videos were made as accessible to the public as possible, through showings at community centres, unemployed drop-ins, libraries, schools and elsewhere.

Other THAP productions included Yard Scene, an improvised drama with Saxon Youth Club about a family affected by unplanned pregnancy and alcoholism, and Land of Arguments, was about a group of girls on the Gough Grove Estate. Drama work there collided with video production in the making of several films, such as Interference, which imagined the plight of a group of young people stranded in the countryside at the time of a nuclear explosion. 

Breaking Through was an ambitious hour-long drama-documentary directed by Jeff Perks for Riverfront Pictures and shown at primetime on Channel Four Television in 1984. Scripted by two THAP workers it featured the work of a number of East London poets and writers, including Gladys McGee, Dave Barnes and Roberto Bangura, who later went on to direct his own films and work in television.

The film also featured a Bengali music group, Dishari, and the WOOF Theatre Company, whose fictional film crew threaded the writing extracts together.

Left: Poster for ‘Sparrows Can’t Sing’, a charity film show, opened by Barbara Windsor.

Right: Alan Gilbey and Denise Jones add a theatrical presence to the screening.

THAP publication, East End On Screen, in 1985, catalogued the above THAP and DTV productions as well as more mainstream films such as the factually based To Sir, With Love, and Sparrows Can’t Sing, filmed in Stepney and the Isle of Dogs and revived by the project for a special showing to mark the launch of the book.

Malika Begum in an Eastside video workshop.