The roots of BBC Video Nation date back to 1937, when the Mass Observation project set out to do social research on the lives of everyday people in Britain, leading to a number of published books and reports from the study in the 1950s.  The current Video Nation project was started in 1993 by Chris Mohr and Mandy Rose of the Community Programmes Unit.

The idea was to give the camera over to the citizens and allow them to create short videos showcasing everyday life across the UK. In the first ten years, nearly 1,300 Video Nation shorts aired on television. Recently, the project was moved almost entirely to the internet, though videos still air on television and radio with permission from the “artists.” To make the movies, they provide accepted applicants from the various participating regions with a camera. The people shoot and Video Nation edits, although they always come to the artists for changes and approval before final posting. Updates are made to the site almost daily.

Films last anywhere from one to seven minutes, and they star teens and geriatrics alike. They can be mundane –a nervous teenager awaits her university acceptance letter – or heartbreaking – a child’s fight to survive a terminal illness. As new videos are posted, they are filed in the New Videos section, where 20 of the most recent clips reside. The abundance of no-longer-new videos are kept in the Archives, where they are searchable by region, specific location, title, filmmaker, or by the over 40 different categories, ranging from animals to parenting to holidays. Videos in the Features section are commissioned by the BBC to cover a specific topic, such as poetry. Residents of participating locations are invited to participate by visiting the Take Part page and registering with their location’s contact team. While they certainly hope that filmmakers will take part in the project, they also encourage hobbyists and even those who have never used a camera before, as they provide lessons in Filming Skills through short videos.

There are a few films that display an especially local flair, particularly from residents of the Isle of Man, who have a very devout love for their town. One man shares stories about his lucrative hobby as a background performer, or “extra,” in the many feature films that shoot there. He takes viewers to popular shooting locations and discusses the history of filmmaking in the region.

Adam, the star of a piece entitled “Hold On,” and whose last name remains hidden, shares his heartfelt story about his ongoing battle with depression and his three suicide attempts, hoping to inspire others to get the help that they need.

And John Davison’s experience with growing pumpkins, particularly those over two feet in diameter, makes for a cute look into agriculture in the UK. I also enjoyed browsing the Teaching Awards feature, which highlighted award-winning educators and gave them a chance to share their classroom techniques.

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