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Guest curators Sara Greavu and Ciara Philips convene a panel discussion with former members of the 1980s radical film collective Derry Film and Video Workshop (DFVW), whose work explored overlapping political tensions, radical self-representation and resistance and offered a nuanced depiction of these complex forces at work in the specific context of Derry.

A discussion with filmmakers Anne Crilly (Mother Ireland, 1988) and Margo Harkin (Hush-A-Bye Baby, 1990) will be followed by a critical response by Isobel Harbison (Goldsmiths University, UK) centred around the DFVW film Stop Strip Searching (1984). Guests explore the activities, impact and legacy of the work of DFVW, touching on the political, social and artistic context in which they were working, collective practices, and their work’s connections to the urgencies of today.

Programmed in association with the exhibition, We realised the power of itDerry Film and Video Workshop, the programme also includes outdoor screenings of selected moving image and film work. For further details visit Living Canvas at IMMA Screening schedule here

Programme Details

Derry Film and Video Workshop (DFVW)
Derry Film and Video Workshop (DFVW) was a woman-led film production company established in Derry in 1983 that operated until 1990. Its members, most of whom had no prior experience of filmmaking, came together with a sense of urgency to make films addressing overlapping political tensions around gender, class, the Irish national question and legacies of colonialism. They sought to counteract the epistemic violence of depictions of the north of Ireland, its conflict, and its people by British TV news and cinema, telling a different story about their lived political and social realities.

DFVW produced a number of films, including Stop Strip Searching (1984); Planning (1986); Mother Ireland (1988); Hush-a-Bye Baby (1990), as well as enacting various forms of cultural education including community screenings and filmmaking courses. Working to counteract the ‘slow violence’ of British TV news and cinema stereotyped depictions of the north of Ireland, members of DFVW sought to tell a different story about their lived political and social realities.

In addition to their filmmaking activities, the DFVW had strong community links and provided filmmaking training for young people, a video library of tapes relevant to their interests, and public screenings of films that inspired them.

Critical Response: Strip Searching – Security or Subjugation? – Isobel Harbison (Goldsmiths, University of London)
In 1984, newly funded by the Channel 4’s workshop scheme, the Derry Film and Video Workshop completed their first documentary Strip Searching – Security or Subjugation (later titled Stop Strip Searching). Initially shown in a variety of contexts, it was invited to be screened to a sub-committee of the European Parliament in 1986. Directed by Anne Crilly, this film challenged the systematic strip-searching of republican women held in Armagh Gaol under British occupation. The issue of strip-searching had intensified debates about the intersection of struggles for national liberation and women’s liberation in the north of Ireland.

For DFVW’s first film, they taught themselves the technicalities of filmmaking to platform this urgent issue. Crilly and the DFVW interviewed ex-prisoners inside or outside their homes about the experiences, editing in drawings and staged photographs to represent invasive, unsupervised, and largely undocumented searches on women of all ages, even when pregnant. Additionally, they interviewed a law professor, psychiatrist, priest, journalist, and trade unionist on this subject.

This paper will consider this work in its political and production contexts, and how variously the DFVW’s filmmaking posed questions about gender and nation in an internationalist framework, appealing to audiences in and (as importantly) beyond Ireland and Britain.

About Participants

Anne Crilly
Anne Crilly is a filmmaker and writer based in Derry She was recently the recipient of the Arts Council’s Markievicz Award. More details here

Margo Harkin
Margo Harkin was born in Derry and continues to live and work in her hometown. She is the founder and Managing Director of Besom Productions Ltd. and is an award-winning director and producer. Her most recent IFTA nominated film, Stolen (2023), interviews survivors of Mother and Baby Homes across Ireland. More details here

Isobel Harbison
Dr Isobel Harbison is Senior Lecturer in the Art Department, Goldsmiths. In 2019, her monograph Performing Image was published by MIT Press. Harbison’s current academic research focuses on the international and intersectional history of moving image in the north of Ireland since 1968, its challenge to state-sanctioned media and various instances of censorship and intervention. The research has been supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Association of Art History, published by Afterall Journal and the British Art Studies Journal, and informed public events including Tapes Under the Bed (co-curated with Sara Greavu) at IMMA.

Sara Greavu
Sara Greavu (she/her) lives and works between Derry and Dublin. A researcher, writer and organiser, she is the Curator of Visual Arts at Project Arts Centre, Dublin. In 2024, with Project Arts Centre, she is curator of Ireland’s Pavilion at the 60th International Venice Biennale, presenting Eimear Walshe’s work, ROMANTIC IRELAND.

Ciara Phillips
Ciara Phillips is an Irish and Canadian artist born in Ottawa, Canada in 1976. Her work has been exhibited in public institutions, artist-run spaces and private galleries worldwide including: Ciara Phillips at Trykkeriet in Bergen in 2019; The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; The Model, Sligo; Kunsthall Stavanger; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; Benaki Museum, Athens; TATE Britain, London; and Hamburg Kunstverein. She is the initiator of many collaborative projects including: Workshop (2010 – ongoing); Poster Club (2010 – 2017); Press Room (2019); and Åpent Trykkeri (2018 – 2019).

In 2014, Phillips was nominated for the Turner Prize, and in 2020 she was awarded the Queen Sonja Print Award in Oslo. She is a Professor at the University of Bergen, Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design.

About Exhibition

We realised the power of it – Derry Film & Video Workshop
Now until 22 Sep 2024, Gallery 1

We realised the power of it, Derry Film and Video Workshop is an exhibition-project by Sara Greavu and Ciara Phillips, that deals with the history of the radical film collective, Derry Film and Video Workshop (DFVW). More details here