TopFoto’s new and exclusive, 1980s: The Rio Tape / Slide Archive
- The Rio Cinema's Tape / Slide project captures the essence of the 1980s and Thatcher’s Britain, illustrated by Hackney and Dalston, East London – authentic and as it was, photographed from the inside
- The 12,000 strong collection was discovered in a basement in 2016 and has never been available for licensing until now
- Isola Press have just released the book: The Rio Tape/Slide Archive, Radical Community Photography in Hackney in the 80s, with forewords by Michael Rosen and Zawe Ashton
TopFoto is working with the Rio Cinema, Dalston, in representing their one-of-a-kind collection, illustrating life, politics and partying in Hackney during the key years of Mrs Thatcher’s government.
The 12,000 strong collection is a microcosm of Britain from 1981-1988 and in contemporary terms, it’s a bold showing of what the Netflix series The Crown hints at: the strong social current running underneath and counter to the official narrative.
The 1980s set in train or massively amplified movements and issues that we are still wrestling with; Stop the City, Justice for Colin Roach, Rock Against Racism, No Deportations….all these feed into Occupy the City/Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter, the Windrush Generation, protests against the “hostile environment for immigration" policy and numerous anti-fascist and anti-capitalism movements.
The Tape/Slide Newsreel Group, as it was called, or Tape/Slide Project, was an adult education project that met in the basement of the Rio Cinema in Dalston, East London. A tutor, Sandra Hooper, came to teach young, mostly unemployed, local people photography and sound recording skills and sent them out to report on Hackney life. The results were shown on the big screen before the main block-buster feature, bringing Hackney stories chosen and interpreted by Hackney residents to over 1000 cinema-goers a week.
In many ways, the Tape / Slide Newsreel Group picked up the baton from Picture Post, which had folded some 25 years previously. With politically engaged community photography, the Group took the traditional pattern of Pathe’s familiar, top-down, mainstream and Empire-friendly newsreels and subverted it all, giving the community a loud and clear voice, fresh and even more relevant 40 years on.
The results of their work span some of the finest social-documentary photography images imaginable to a (few) cheerful thumb-over-the-lens snaps. But every photograph shimmers with the authenticity of early citizen journalists, covering their own people and their own patch. There are no reassuring stereotypes here.
The 12,000 images were taken on 35mm slide film and have been digitised by Hackney photographer Alan Denney in an almost superhuman effort. A book is just out, with over 300 images from the project included. TopFoto has a tight edit of 100 images and these are now uploaded onto www.topfoto.co.uk ready for licensing. The rest of the full collection will be gradually uploaded onto the website as the caption information is pulled together. None of the original newsreel footage survives so piecing the captions together is another monumental task, although it is possible for the TopFoto team to trawl through the offline images for something in particular.
The Rio Tape/Slide Archive captured the public imagination since word started spreading in 2016/2017, with the Instagram account attracting a growing following (15,000 to date) and the Kickstarter campaign to fund the book doubling its target, raising over £35,000. The book itself, brought into being by Tamara Stoll, Alan Denney, Andrew Woodyatt with Max Leonard and designer Myfanwy Vernon-Hunt, is available from Isola Press https://www.isolapress.com/shop/the-rio-tapeslide-archive-book and good independent bookshops.
TopFoto is in a position to work with The Rio and support this extraordinary collection in its development thanks to recent vital funding for the TopFoto Archive from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage, administered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has underpinned TopFoto’s curatorial services including public engagement, collections work and preparation for future exhibitions.
Flora Smith, Managing Partner, TopFoto, said:
“We are so grateful to The Rio Cinema Trustees and management team for this opportunity to represent their wonderful collection, world-wide and on an exclusive basis, and in the wider sense our thanks to the Government, the DCMS and the Heritage Lottery Fund for visionary support enabling us to find and accelerate this kind of partnership.”