“I was an activist I came in from the music, the club scene, squatting, social activism, the underground movement; psychedelia and sex and drugs and rock-and-roll to use Ian Dury’s immortal words. That was my introduction to the mix. I was really driven in, not by a particular person working in video, but by the half a dozen groups with portable video within half a mile of my squat. And it wasn’t so much their work which, in those days, was quite hard to get to see quote ‘the work’ and a lot of it like ‘interaction’ and ‘action space’ were practically unwatchable. But it was the idea of controlling the means of production and being able to do something to amplify one’s own community of interests.
The original Fantasy Factory in 1974 was set up in grant application, saying ‘The equipment would be made available to other people 30% of the time’, which was a modest objective. That didn’t mean we were going to work 10 till 6 Monday to Friday on just that – 30% was manageable and left us with plenty of time to do what we want. But over the years we got more and more Arts grants and the whole thing got more and more bureaucratised and restrictive and repressive basically.
So, in terms of working with other people, what I liked about video was firstly I could see what I’d done immediately and if it was all out of focus and the sound was crap you could just rewind the tape and do it again. But also there was this sort of vibe, which you still get very much with TV crews doing news and current affairs. Where the subject of the documentaries was sort of cannon fodder – they don’t count, they are just there to be used up, to be consumed if you like. Well, with video, people would get to look at what they’d done and if they didn’t like it they could have another go, they might rewind the tape and record it again and they’d have another go and we’d have a look at it again, until what came out on the tape satisfied the person who’d shot it and the person who was in it and that seemed to me a sort of friendly and democratic way of working, which just couldn’t be imitated by film, whatever you did, and it wasn’t so much about the picture quality, it was about the social quality or the technical immediacy.” Sue Hall REWIND Interview
“Hopkins founded TVX with Cliff Evans, which was the first British TV workshop and video research centre in 1969, and subsequently Fantasy Factory with Sue Hall. Hopkins and Hall made many video works, including social reportage: Ben’s Arrest, Song of Long Ago, Squat now whilst stocks last and Bungay Horse Fair and as TVX ‘experimental happenings’ at the BBC in the 1970’s.” J.Hatfield
John Hopkins, known to his friends as Hoppy, graduated from Cambridge with a master’s degree in Physics and Mathematics and embarked upon what was to be a short career as a nuclear physicist. However, a graduation present of a camera was to change his career route significantly.
He arrived in London in 1960 and began to work for the Sunday Times, the Observer, Melody Maker, Jazz Journal and Peace News, “Melody Maker because I was into jazz, Peace News because… well, one does.”
Hoppy photographed The Stones, The Beatles and Marianne Faithful in their prime, and with his greatest passion, jazz, captured striking images of Duke Ellington, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk and Louis Armstrong. These portraits evoke the personalities of his subjects through the spontaneous, unpretentious way in which Hoppy worked.
In stark contrast he recorded the seediness of Notting Hill in the sixties, with photographs of grubby tattoo parlours, bikers, cafes, prostitutes in their small bed-sits and bizarre local fetishists.
Hoppy worked as a photojournalist for a comparatively short period and by 1965 he began to drift into the London psychedelic scene. During that time he recorded many of the diverse events that embodied Sixties counter-culture. In addition to music he documented peace marches, poetry readings with a naked Allen Ginsberg, and twentieth century icons such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
During the mid 1960s he helped establish a publishing company, organise two Notting Hill carnivals, promote Pink Floyd, found the underground newspaper International Times, set up the London Free School and start London’s first psychedelic club, UFO, where Hendrix would call in and jam. He spent much of the 1967 summer of Love in prison serving a ludicrously vindictive sentence for the possession of marijuana.
By the closing years of the 1960s he had become a pivotal, even legendary, figure in the London underground scene. For Hoppy these times offered “just a great opportunity to take pictures of people I loved for free.”
“At IRAT, The Institute for Research in Art and Technology, among the artists and organisations that came together to occupy this factory, was the Film-makers Co-op among them were Malcolm Le Grice, Dave Curtis, Annabel Nicholson and John Lifton, There were various departments and my gang was called TVX as the video department of this burgeoning institute!” – John Hopkins REWIND interview
Interview of Sue Hall and John Hopkins
Mobile Video Unit
Electric Newspaper (collaborators: TVX, Cliff Evans)
Area Code 615 “Scotland”
Squat Now Whilst Stocks Last (collaborators: Graft-On)
Zappa “Tell Me You Love Me”
Bens Arrest (Reportage Squatting Used In Court)
You Can Make It If You Try
Song Of Long Ago (ext)
Wally Hope At Watchfield
Bungay Hourse Fair (ext)
Xeron TV 999 “Quite Disapointing” (ext)
Com Com Commercial
Slow Scan Is Slow Scam (ext)
Days Of Chaos
Li & Ling (ext)
Quotes:" we have been looking at society in terms of the disaffiliated and other groups within it, and have developed the concept of Social Matrix in which to describe our findings. The Social Matrix is a map of society seen from the individual's point of view, and we feel it will be of tremendous use to any group or government wanting to communicate with the disparate and decentralised activity that is now part of young society." Letter to Andrew Page at the Arts Council 12 December 1969. In files at BAFVSC.
"Why should art be the domain of the few and not the many? Shouldn't democratization of culture, and in our case the liberation of communications technology for public access, be an integral part of our actual art activity? We demand the unity of technology, art and politics; the unity of information, meaning and effect." Sue Hall and John Hopkins (1976) 'The Metasoftware of Video', Studio International, May/June,p.260.