A brief history of shmuTV

In 1996/97 Cat-A Theatre Company, an Edinburgh-based video production company, received funding to undertake intensive work with excluded young people in Aberdeen’s Tillydrone and Fersands areas.  This was carried out in partnership with local community projects and a Community Arts Officer, Murray Dawson, from Aberdeen City Council’s Arts Development Team.  The outputs from this work were two successful videos entitled Ballistic, an eight-minute drama about teenage pregnancy, and Bully Bully, a five-minute drama focused on bullying.

In 1997/98 the Great Northern Partnership (GNP) indicated its desire to further support work with young people in creating issue-based video productions.  Working in partnership with the Community Arts Officer, an SLA was drawn up to develop and deliver an ongoing programme under the banner of GNP Young Film-makers.

During that year, the City Council was unsuccessful in a £23m bid to regenerate the Tillydrone area of the city.  This resulted in a number of tenants in the Alexander Terrace area forming the Ter-Action group.  The group decided, with GNP support, to create a video about the level of service the area was receiving.  The Scottish Office Minister was so impressed by the video and presentation that the funding decision was partially reversed and £11m allocated towards the regeneration of Tillydrone.  This was a powerful demonstration of community media’s potential for contributing to social change.

In 1999/2000 the GNP submitted a major bid for Scottish Executive Pathfinder funding, including a proposal to commit £30k per year (for 2 years to end March 2002) towards a community media component.  The project aimed to build people’s capacity to use digital video to improve service provision locally.  This bid was successful and resulted in bringing the two strands of GNP Young Filmmakers and Pathfinder Projects under one roof at Station House Community Centre and under one name: Station House Media Unit (SHMU).

Local communities continued to use the flexibility of video as a powerful medium, for example, as a campaigning tool in “Safety First”, a film exploring community safety issues, and for awareness raising and education in “A Problem Shared”, a mental health awareness film for schools.   The medium was also used as a consultation tool at a variety of community events across the areas. 

To date, shmuTV has produced over 250+ films, including local documentaries made by community members and activists.  The organisation has delivered a number of First Light Film funded projects supporting young people to engage in film-making activities and to produce short films.  In 2007 a short film produced by young people supported by shmu won the prestigious First Light Film of the year at an awards ceremony in London.

Despite this success it has been extremely difficult to secure sustainable for this area of work for the organisation and the work has ebbed and flowed based on our ability to secure funding to support the work. In order to try and readdress this, we began to undertake commissioned work, with the aim of reinvesting any surpluses back into filmmaking activities. This area of work now forms a substantial area of work, which helps clients to produce films and media content on a commercial basis, with prices scaled to suit the circumstances of the client.  This aspect of work is showing considerable potential with expansion into the production of on-line video content and event filming.

If you are interested in finding out more about our past work or want to get involved in future projects, please get in touch brian.woodcock@shmu.org.uk