****Film will be available 24 hours before this conversation event***

A film essay on race and civil disorder in 1980s Britain and the inner city riots of 1985, Handsworth Songs takes as its point of departure the civil disturbances of September and October 1985 in the Birmingham district of Handsworth and in the urban centres of London. Running throughout the film is the idea that the riots were the outcome of a protracted suppression by British society of black presence. The film portrays civil disorder as an opening onto a secret history of dissatisfaction that is connected to the national drama of industrial decline.

The ‘Songs’ of the title do not reference musicality but instead invoke the idea of documentary as a poetic montage of associations familiar from the British documentary cinema of John Grierson and Humphrey Jennings.


Black Audio Film Collective was formed by seven undergraduates in Portsmouth in 1982, and was based in Dalston, East London from 1983 to 1998. In the sixteen years in which they worked as an artist’s atelier, they produced a rosta of groundbreaking and award winning creative documentaries, non-linear feature films, tape-slide installations, film programmes and screenings that examined the diasporic African and Asian experience in Britain’s and across the continents.

Characterised by an interest in memory, history and aesthetics„ the collective created a series of defiantly experimental works that engaged with black popular and political culture in Britain. The group were also instrumental in bringing an awareness of avant-garde film from Africa, India and South America to the UK.

Artists, filmmakers and writers associated with the group include John Akomfrah, Reece Auguiste, Edward George, Lina Gopaul, Avril Johnson, David Lawson, Trevor Mathison .

We will be joined by members of Black Audio Film Collective


– the link to the film 24 hours before the conversation event

– the Zoom link the day of the conversation


OFF SIDE CINEMA: Workshop Movement Season

Police brutality, media misrepresentation and resistance in 1980’s Britain

In the 1980’s Britain the dominant narrative was capitalist excess and wealth, but the reality was very different for many people. The streets were erupting in anger at inequality, discrimination, misrepresentation and police violence. From London, to Birmingham, Belfast and Easington Colliery the people of the UK were taking their resistance to the streets. The mainstream media portrayed the people as the aggressors while film workshops, responding from within the communities, set out to represent the lived reality. We are honoured to facilitate a season of films grown from this collective way of working to reflect and explore the experiences of people outside the mainstream representation in the 80’s. By screening 4 films and facilitating 5 online conversations with figures from the Workshop Movement and members of the community in which they worked, we will explore the lasting resonance of these seminal films and how they speak to this current moment of unease and protest.

Workshop Declaration:

The 1982 Workshop Declaration began a radical, defining era that brought diverse voices and perspectives into cinemas and onto British television. In 1981 Channel 4 began with a remit to provide innovative films from outside white, middle class and cosmopolitan experience. Under the declaration the Channel agreed to fund and screen films from the ‘alternative’ film and video collectives – known as workshops. Working closely with trade unions, local authorities, political groups, women’s organisations and ethnic minority communities, by 1988, 44 workshops had had films funded and screened by Channel 4. What followed was a decade of experimentation with politically progressive and aesthetically experimental documentaries and dramas screened on British television, which continued until 1990.

Thu 8 October 2020

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