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London Film-Makers' Co-operative

Related: underground cinema - film - London


LUX is the principal centre for the promotion and distribution of experimental film and video works in the UK. It has one of the largest collections of experimental film; it houses works of over 1000 artists. It was formed in the 1990s in the merger of the London Filmmakers' Co-op and the original London Video Arts (later variously named London Video Access and London Electronic Arts). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Film-Maker%27s_Co-op [Nov 2005]

London Film-Makers' Co-operative

The London Film-Makers' Co-operative was founded in 1966 and based upon the artist-led distribution centre created by Jonas Mekas and the New American Cinema Group. Both had a policy of open membership, accepting all submissions without judgement, but the LFMC was unique in incorporating the three key aspects of artist filmmaking: production, distribution and exhibition within a single facility.

Early pioneers like Len Lye, Antony Balch, Margaret Tait and John Latham had already made remarkable personal films in England, but by the mid-60s interest in "underground" film was growing. On his arrival from New York, Stephen Dwoskin demonstrated and encouraged the possibilities of experimental filmmaking and the Coop soon became a dynamic centre for the discussion, production and presentation of avant-garde film. Several key figures such as Peter Gidal, Malcolm Le Grice, John Smith and Chris Welsby went onto become internationally celebrated. Many others, like Annabel Nicolson and the fiercely autonomous and prolific Jeff Keen, worked in the boundaries between film and performance and remain relatively unknown, or at least unseen.

The Co-op asserted the significance of the British films in line with international developments, whilst surviving hand-to-mouth in a series of run down buildings. The physical hardship of the organisation's struggle contributed to the rigorous, formal nature of films produced during this period. While the Structural approach dominated, informing both the interior and landscape tendencies, the British filmmakers also made significant innovations with multi-screen films and expanded cinema events, producing works whose essence was defined by their ephemerality. Many of the works fell into the netherworld between film and fine art, never really seeming at home in either cinema or gallery spaces.

Shoot Shoot Shoot, a major retrospective programme and research project, will bring these extraordinary works back to life.

Curated by Mark Webber, with assistance from Gregory Kurcewicz and Ben Cook.

Funded by the Arts Council of England National Touring Programme, the British Council, bfi and the Esmée Fairburn Foundation. --http://www.lfmc.org

The Film Makers Co-Op and the First English Underground Cinema 1966-70

In 1966 London counter culture was gearing up for the revolution....the mods were mixing it at the coast, the radical student movement was beginning a cycle of sit -ins and occupations, drug use was becoming a form of rebellion, there was a steady influx of militant draft dodgers from the U.S. and liberational movements were coalescing around radical feminism, black power, gay liberation, ecology, squatting and the commune.

At the Better Books bookshop on Charing Cross Road the poet manager Bob Cobbing began screening American Underground film as part of a series of events that included work from the Destruction In Art Symposium and readings by poets including Alexander Trocchi.

Out of these screenings emerged the London Filmmakers Co-Op on the 13th October 1966. The Co-Op based its structure on the New York Co-Op an open screening, open distribution collective formed in 1961.In its formative stages the London Co-Op was a coalition of disparate interests; U.S. film makers including Steve Dwoskin and Simon Hartog and British journalists, poets and would be film makers including Cobbing, Raymond Durgnat and Dave Curtis. Two weeks after its formation the Co-Op teamed up with I.T. , the International Times London's first weekly Underground newspaper, and counter cultural organiser Jim Haynes to hold the Spontaneous Festival of Underground Film at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre from Halloween to Bonfire Night.

Forget art, forget funding,
start your own open cinema,
distribute your own tapes!
--http://www.explodingcinema.org/underground.html accessed Feb 2004

1966 [...]

Bob Cobbing (a concrete poet who had previously organised film societies and other arts clubs in Hendon and Finchley) left teaching in 1965 to work in paperback department of Better Books shop on New Compton Street (around the corner from 94 Charing Cross Road) - organises Cinema 65 film club there showing foreign, experimental, non-commercial and unknown films - Ray Durgnat, Philip Crick, John Collins in frequent attendance at regular Friday night screenings - in '65 the screenings are meant to provoke and encourage; by '66, it becomes apparent that more coherent organisation is needed as more people become interested in making and distributing films - films usually projected in the shop (surrounded by books), and only occasionally in the basement (which was used for poetry, exhibitions and theatre / happenings, such as Jeff Nuttall's People Show)

March 1966
Jonas Mekas posts an open letter to New York Film-Makers' Co-operative members stating that, through the persistence of Barbara Rubin, a London Co-op is forming and will be run by Barry Miles, and based at Indica (a bookstore and gallery on Southampton Row) - planned film fundraiser at Albert Hall (following on from the "Wholly Communion" poetry reading, which featured Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, and Trocchi the previous year) - talk of establishing London Co-op as base for European distribution

May 1966
Mekas says in second letter (May) that a LFMC will start in July - plans to spend $2,000 on prints for 3 programmes for Albert Hall show in June (the show never happened) - Co-op committee at this time: Bob Cobbing, Phillip Crick, John Collins, Paul Francis, Simon Hartog, Ray Durgnat, Michael O'Casey, Les Philby, Stewart Kington - general ethos is an enthusiasm for filmmaking (in addition to viewing) despite a lack of knowledge or experience

Harvey Matusow arrives from New York, where he had been involved in fringes of underground scene - had previously spent time in jail for perjury during McCarthy trials - an incorrigible hustler, he got things done but aroused much suspicion

June 1966
Approximately 20-25 people attend 2 Co-op planning meetings - draft code of practice drawn up by Miles, Cobbing, Jim Haynes, Paul Francis, M. Ellis, Peter Whitehead and Matusow (who is named as secretary) using Better Books address as base

1 July 1966
Letter from Paul Francis to Mekas announces Co-op is being set up independent of Better Books and Indica - by reply receives Western Union cable on 11th with message "GOOD START AND GOOD SPEED WE ARE WITH YOU" signed Brakhage, Breer, Brooks, Emshwiller, Jacobs, Markopoulos, Mekas, Vanderbeek, Brigante, Clarke, Rogosin

12 July 1966
Co-op Committee meeting at which a 5 page draft constitution is written including plans for screenings, distribution, newsletter and quarterly magazine (then called Reel) - Durgnat, Francis, Hartog, Matusow, Leonard Foreman, R. Hudson, and Jeff Keen write Mekas again explaining preference to establish independent base despite friendly competition of the 2 bookstores - Open Screenings start to outnumber pre-selected programmes at Better Books

Summer 1966
David Curtis graduates from the Slade summer '66 and travels to New York to see films - on his return he frequents Better Books and helps with film shows - a week of Open Screenings at the London Free School is presented as part of the Notting Hill Fayre - Steve Dwoskin, on a Fulbright Scholarship to London College of Printing, brings his early films with him from New York - meeting with John Latham leads to screening at the Fayre, seen by Cobbing - Co-op is by now established as a group though not officially formed

September 1966
Destruction In Art Symposium (DIAS) at venues throughout London includes events at Better Books, organised by Bob Cobbing & Gustav Metzger - screenings include Kurt Kren's Actionist films and John Latham's Speak - nature of event leads to significant media and public attention

Plans to use Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre (set up by Jim Haynes) for late night independent screenings - new Co-op draft constitution includes renamed magazine (Cinim) and outlines structure of the organisation

13 October 1966
London Film-Makers' Co-operative (LFMC) officially formed at meeting at Better Books: Matusow as chairman, Cobbing and Francis secretaries - Co-op draft telegram to Mekas, declaring intention to "shoot shoot shoot" - unlikely that the telegram was ever sent, it may just have been mocked-up by Hartog for reproduction in Cinim and elsewhere

15 October 1966
First official Co-op screening forms part of the Roundhouse Rave - launch party of IT (International Times) newspaper held at the Roundhouse - includes Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and 6-hour film programme featuring Balch, Dwoskin, and Latham - IT, the press organ for the British cultural underground was published by Jim Haynes, John Hopkins (Hoppy), Barry Miles and Jack Moore, and edited by Tim McGrath

20 October 1966
Matusow's presence secures good attendance to the press conference which announces the Co-op at their Better Books HQ - subsequent article in Town magazine proclaims Steve Dwoskin, Andrew Meyer, Simon Hartog, Bob Cobbing, and Matusow "some of London's most active underground filmmakers"

31 October - 5 November 1966
"Spontaneous Festival of Underground Films" at Jeannetta Cochrane Theatre - 6 day long schedule includes films by Dwoskin, Keen, Balch, Matusow, Meyer and London School of Film Technique students as well as significant international work by Anger, Brakhage, Mekas etc - just about every piece of experimental film that was available in London (from Co-op, BFI, Connoisseur, Contemporary Films distribution) is shown - followed by 6 nights of Open Screenings at Better Books - first issue of IT includes 4 page supplement on the event

November 1966
First issue of Cinim is published; edited by Phillip Crick, designed by Lawrie Moore, and published by the Co-op - Co-op has about 50 members and distributes films by Dwoskin and Meyer - First LFMC bulletin distributed to members

26 November 1966
Matusow complains to Mekas by letter that US visitors gravitate to Indica "although Miles has never been to a Co-op meeting" - a later letter from Barbara Rubin to IT staff indicates that NY filmmakers reluctant to send films to London because of Matusow's involvement

November 1966-January 1967
Co-op holds 11 Open Screenings and many other programmes at Better Books

Christmas 1966
Hoppy opens UFO club on Tottenham Court Road and David Curtis begins film screenings, which first augment light shows on Friday nights, in between live performances by psychedelic rock groups. --http://www.lfmc.org/chronpages/CHRON%201966.htm

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