Putting the past in focus
5:30am Thursday 14th August 2014 in By Beren Cross, @BerenCross
THE future of Swindon Viewpoint is being shaped by its past, as current directors and founding members gathered for a 40-year reunion yesterday.
The Goddard Arms in Old Town, where so many of the founding members used to meet in the 1970s in the formative years of the television station, was the setting for the event.
Six of the original team who set up the station in 1973 were back at the pub, along with three of the current board, with the task of guiding Viewpoint’s future direction.
Martin Parry, chairman of the charitable trust which runs Viewpoint, said: “We have development day this afternoon, where we decide how we want to take View-point forward.
“We wanted to use this reunion to establish how we might deploy everyone’s experience.
“We all agreed community media is still important, if not more important than it used to be when we started.
“The town is diversifying ethnically and socially.
“Community programming is a great way for people to get involved in local life and learning about other people’s cultures and ways of living.”
The station was originally one of five Government experiments in community television.
“It was funded by EMI and gave a small team the chance to document life in Swindon.
The station operated on cable networks for seven hours per week and engaged a local audience of approximately 10,000 subscribers.
Funding came to an end in 1976, when the station was transferred to a locally elected board of directors.
Full-time staff were made redundant in 1980 and the station eventually found its way online, where archived and new videos are available to watch.
“We have a bigger audience now, on the internet, than we did with the cable audience,” said Martin.
“We have over 60,000 regular visitors to the website each month, with some programmes watched more than 100,000 times by people.
“We would like to raise funding for paid staff again to train them in how to edit and shoot video.”
Martin was joined by founding members Jigga Dunn, Lizzie Halfacre, Peter Knight, Hoppy Roy, Michael Barrett and Rupert Kirkham at the pub.
Rupert, a former producer and station manager at Viewpoint and current board member, said despite the change in time there was little change in the topics people were interested in watching.
“There’s still the same kind of cultural problems which arise in Swindon,” he said.
“People still want to discuss poor job prospects, or housing problems, or mental health issues which remain untouched.”
In its 40-year existence, many of the viewers who first tuned into Viewpoint have continued to watch it now and followed it online.
Martin acknowledged there was a gap in the age groups watching the website’s output, with more attention needed on those under the age of 30.
He said it was something the website would tackle in the coming months with a focus on break-dancing among other youthful pursuits.
- For more information visit www.swindonviewpoint.com