British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

What is Women’s Film History?

Resourcing Women’s Film History: Making the Network Work
The third of the Network’s AHRC funded Workshops focused on issues of resourcing–especially the possibilities opened up by on-line and digital mechanisms for storing and sharing research findings and ideas–and on models of Network organization. Through this workshop we drew from the experience of participants working in archives, libraries and museums, in different educational sectors, and running other networks: Women’s History Network; MECCSA’s Women’s Media and Race Networks; and the international network, Bildwechsel.

Karola Gramann of the Kinothek Asta Nielsen, Frankfurt at the Doing Women's Film History conference (photo: John-Paul Green)

Following the conceptual ground clearing of Workshops One and Two, and Workshop Three’s review of resource issues and organizational choices, we have identified a set of core activities within a broadly defined remit. Adopting the tag ‘UK/Ireland’ to encompass our various locations in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the Network defines its research interests as British and Irish women filmmakers working in their own regions or abroad and oversees women who work here. The Network is affiliated to the umbrella organization, Women & Film History International and encourages contributions to international initiatives already noted. In particular we are now soliciting contributions to the UK/Irish raft of entries to the Women Film Pioneers Project (an online expandable and updatable digital digest of resources in preparation by the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, Columbia University).

On the home front the Network seeks to serve a culturally diverse history, making connections with ethnic minority arts and media networks in the UK and Ireland such as MECCSA’s Race Network or writetalklisten. Similarly, we are establishing links with related professional organizations such as Women in Film and Television (WiFTV UK), The Women’s Library, and the BFI’s Screenonline. In this respect the Network’s interest in history is as much its usefulness to the present as uncovering the past. Unlike the international initiatives mentioned, the Network’s remit extends beyond the silent period to women’s work in sound cinema, with a particular concern for the documentation and preservation of the work of the workshops and collectives of the 1970s and 1980s. For women and ethnic minority filmmakers struggling to get work made and circulated now, preserving and making this recent history available is particularly important as a supporting tradition for future generations.

On the home front the Network seeks to serve a culturally diverse history, making connections with ethnic minority arts and media networks in the UK and Ireland

Recognizing the constraints on time and finance once AHRC funding ceases in October, we have been pragmatic in defining network functions and membership structure. Rather than organising a specific programme from an institutional centre, the network aims to stimulate and facilitate a widening web of interrelated activities that by generating knowledge, increase the visibility of women’s filmmaking. To achieve this the Network seeks a flexible mode of membership combined with an organizational centre capable of stimulating and sustaining such activity. The Network is conceived as an umbrella organisation to which any group or individual developing projects on any aspect of women’s activity in and around cinema might affiliate, using the network presence and online communications to circulate projects and events or record research findings and set up collaborations. The Network will provide a home base–a virtual meeting place where research findings can be shared, ideas exchanged and initiatives publicised,. The internet offers the ideal medium for the creation of such a base and an organic mode of organization that can be flexibly inclusive and yet ensure the sustained continuity of core functions supporting evolving activities over time as membership grows and takes the Network in new directions.

To ensure these sustaining functions, a steering group of volunteers will take on particular responsibilities, in pairs or small sub-groups. This will meet three times a year to review and co-ordinate new developments. Steering group membership will be drawn partly from volunteers from the current AHRC funded core or from those who contact as through our current wiki, or from nominations made at the Network’s biennial general meetings hosted by the Doing Women’s Film History conferences. Positions will be held for two years and new nominations called for, voted on and agreed at these conferences. Additionally the Network will hold caucus meetings at relevant events such as Screen conference, Women and Silent Screen (Australia, 2013), British Silent Film Festival, MECCSA conferences in order to publicise existing or initiate new activities, reach a wider audience and broaden membership.

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