Chris Dorley-Brown

Placement at BBC Creative Archive Licence Group

BBC Creative Archive placement


The BBC’s Creative Archive project provided unprecedented opportunities for two highly regarded artists – both well known as inspired users of video and other archive – to work with a wealth of material at the BBC.


Chris Dorley-Brown’s placement was intended to give him access to material licensed for public use through the Creative Archive Licence Group. But he says: ‘it didn’t interest me much, so I sought permission to choose my own material.’


A former winner of the Prix Italia Award, film artist Chris has worked for 20 years almost exclusively with historical material: ‘Even when I started out, making photographs of a documentary nature, I was aware that I was making archive – work that people would be more interested in later on in the future than at the time.'


For Chris, ‘the BBC archive is probably the one I fantasised about the most.’


And like many of us, Chris was especially keen to see things from his youth: ‘I have been an avid telly viewer and radio listener all my life – these moments have been truly pivotal and valuable.’


He had no interest however in simply reusing old footage: 'We’re here to present oblique angles and different navigation paths through old material, rather than simply cutting it up. I think I’m going to combine elements, or maybe re-shoot or relocate them, disguising them, using the images as data that I can work with.’


In the end, Chris spent more than a year working with the BBC and a three-hour DVD, complete with a 40-page explanatory booklet including an essay by Tony White, was the valuable outcome.


His compilation, entitled simply ‘The BBC in the East End 1958-1973’, varies from 30-second news clips to full one-hour documentaries, some of which – as he predicted – Chris remade in full, using the original participants.


See also Vicki Bennett