Released in 1986
In January 1986, Rupert Murdoch moved his printing operation, News International, from Fleet St to Wapping in East London. Over 5,000 print workers, clerical staff, cleaners and secretaries were sacked in one day.
Despite the Sun is an investigation into the year-long dispute, which shook the print industry. Produced from the point of view of the residents and print workers, the camera records the effects on residents harassed by the police and Murdoch’s lorries alike and cavalry-like charges of police horses on the picket lines. Vital questions are raised on the ownership and control of the media, access to it, the organisation of work and impact of the so-called ‘new technology’.
One of the first camcorder activist tapes, Despite the Sun sold over 400 copies and was (thankfully) ‘bootlegged’ by the picketers and sold on the picket lines. An important historical account of a dispute that will resonate for many years to come and one that was almost totally ignored by the media.
During the three month production of this video Despite TV had equipment damaged, many light bulbs truncheoned and three members were assaulted by police.
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DVDs can be purchased from the Spectacle shop.
A list of editions of the printers picket bulletin which was distributed throughout the dispute can be found and downloaded here.
New Visions of Repression
“Despite the Sun knows that one telling image is worth a thousand words and sequences like the riot-dressed mounted police trotting through Wapping to the homely reassuring tune of East Enders, the night shots of shield wielding police picked out in lights like a scene from Close Encounters; and the sheer boredom of daily picketing caught in a collage of images set to choral music, means you can all but smell the vile fumes of TNT diesel.”
Nigel Willmott The Tribune
“…Despite the Sun…is quite genuinely from the belly of the beast”
…. like Despite TV’s ‘Despite the Sun’, which was shot on VHS at night, so it’s full of comma tails and smears and it was shot colour, but actually there was insufficient light, so it comes out as a greyscale, that’s I think one of the most gripping pieces of political documentary to be made in this country in the last 50 years, it’s a phenomenal piece of work. It was using the aesthetic of both the recording equipment and the playback, the immediate circulation for ‘Despite the Sun’ were people in the immediate area of the dispute over moving the Murdoch group newspapers down to the Isle of Dogs and the famous picket lines. The BBC crews, which they interviewed, weren’t allowed through the police lines, but these guys were all locals, so they all went scooting round through people’s houses and so on to get stories that the national media weren’t getting, and it’s a fabulous piece of work, but it was designed to be shown locally and distributed through the library service in Tower Hamlets, so they were expecting domestic TV and VHS playback, so it was pretty raw, and also released very swiftly, I think they cut it in less than a week from about three weeks of shoots. So it was very important aesthetically as well as in terms of its politics.
Sean Cubitt Professor of Media and Communications, University of Melbourne 2010