Town ‘YouTube’ in its 40th year

This Is Wiltshire: Martin Parry has been involved with Swindon Viewpoint for 30 years Buy this photo » Martin Parry has been involved with Swindon Viewpoint for 30 years

IT has been described as “the original YouTube” – or at least a local version of it – and it was certainly the country’s first and longest running community television station.

A key aspect of Swindon Viewpoint TV was to film and show its viewers various aspects of local culture, including the town’s rock scene.

So it is only fitting that an all-star cast of Swindon bands will this month celebrate the 40th anniversary of Viewpoint at a major town centre gig.

The ‘grand benefit’ concert at MECA in Regent Circus on Friday, December 20 will feature a string of acts.

Cash raised will enable Viewpoint – a registered charity – to continue to promote culture and other areas of Swindon life via its website where old and new footage can be seen.

Local brewers Arkells have made Swindon Viewpoint Anniversary Ale to commemorate the milestone.

Martin Parry, who has been involved in Viewpoint for 30 years, said: “The 40th anniversary celebration was initiated by Swindon’s musician community.

“So many top-line bands wanted to perform that they couldn’t all be accommodated. For the past 40 years Swindon Viewpoint has showcased an enormous range of local talent and helped bring them to the public eye – from XTC, before they were well-known, to current rising stars Colour the Atlas.”

Among five original community TV “experiments” across the UK, Swindon Viewpoint was the only one to flourish beyond the early period after going live in 1973.

News, sports and cultural events were piped into homes via the town’s TV/radio cable network.

An important aspect was to allow public access to its equipment that enabled Swindon people interested in film and TV to make their own programmes.

Several early users went onto careers in television production while those who benefited from using its equipment included a young David Yates, who later directed several Harry Potter movies.

Funding issues eventually saw local programming axed in the early 90s, but Martin took charge of Viewpoint’s vast archive of videotaped material which he is digitising and putting online.

He describes the archive as “unparalleled anywhere else in Britain for its local focus and depiction of normal, everyday life and culture.”

New material is also filmed and placed on the Viewpoint website.

Last year more than 60,000 multiple repeat viewers visited the site with an increase expected this year.

Martin said: “Most of these are local, but Viewpoint also has viewers and followers around the world, where it is taught on university courses as a pioneer in media history.”

He added: “Swindon can be justly proud of Viewpoint as a great initiative associated with the town’s name and known worldwide.”

The concert line-up includes Tin Spirits featuring former XTC guitarist Dave Gregory, the Teddy White Band, Erin Bardwell Collective, Colour the Atlas, NudyBronque, Bobby the Persuader and AJ Live and Bully.

Tickets are £5 in advance. More details can be found at bspadministrator.wordpress.com; swindonviewpoint.com

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