Merseyside Moviola was established in 1985 by Josie Barnard and Lisa Haskel. They had both moved to Liverpool the previous year as students, Barnard to study Russian and Soviet Literature and Haskel to study Psychology, and the two young women shared a flat in the Toxteth area of the city. Neither came from an arts background, but Barnard developed an interest in alternative film and video after taking a film studies module under John Thompson at the University of Liverpool.47 By 1985 Haskel had left university and was working as a music events promoter, and through her connections with Liverpool’s alternative music scene and Barnard’s academic interest in alternative film, they identified a gap in the city’s cultural offer. Liverpool did not have an established arthouse cinema, nor did its cultural organisations regularly showcase media artworks and, therefore, they established Merseyside Moviola as an occasional screening agency.48 Merseyside Moviola was funded by small grants received from Merseyside Arts, and whilst remaining revenue was raised by ticket sales, the organisation did not generate any profit and relied upon loans of equipment from local companies, including Granada TV which had a studio in Liverpool at the time. Their first event, The Urban Programme, was a diverse two-day screening which was held at the Unity Theatre, 9–10 November 1985, and included documentaries, scratch video and a Charlie Chaplin film, and throughout 1986 and 1987 they hosted further film screenings at both the Unity Theatre and Everyman Theatre with increasing frequency.


John Thompson worked at the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Liverpool from 1974-1991 and, according to Barnard, taught a varied film studies course which ranged from “a serious analysis of ‘Ghostbusters’ one week [to] an exploration of the jokes in [Russian filmmaker] Tarkovsky the next.” (Barnard, J. (founder, Merseyside Moviola), email message to author, 20 February 2010)


Biographical and historical detail is taken from interviews with Josie Barnard, Lisa Haskel and Eddie Berg (Barnard, email message to author, 20 February 2010; Berg, E. (Artistic Director, BFI Southbank, former Director, FACT), interviewed by the author, 26 January 2010; Haskel, L. (founder, Merseyside Moviola), interviewed by the author, 21 January 2010)

Fig. 1 Poster for Merseyside Moviola’s inaugural event, The Urban Programme, 1985

Through their events at the Everyman, Barnard and Haskel met Eddie Berg, a young Liverpool resident, or ‘Scouser,’ working in a front-of-house position at the theatre. Berg had taken an Open University course called Popular Culture, through which he met Sean Cubitt, a leading academic of media art, and following this course he became increasingly interested in the work that was promoted by Merseyside Moviola. Having become more involved with the project, the combination of Barnard, Haskel and Berg’s skills and interests facilitated the development of a series of workshops and further screenings across Merseyside, until Barnard and Haskel left Liverpool in 1987, although the latter remained involved with Merseyside Moviola on an occasional basis throughout the early 1990s. Berg’s involvement in Merseyside Moviola was formalised in 1988 when he became the organisation’s first paid member of staff, and in subsequent accounts of the organisation’s history, this year has frequently been cited as the year of foundation.49 However, although


In 2009, FACT published We Are the Real-Time Experiment to celebrate the organisation’s twentieth year, thus implying that it was founded in 1989. In other sources, the year of foundation has more frequently been cited as 1988. See FACT 2009; Berg 2003e; FACT Centre: History and

securing funding for Berg’s salary was a significant turning point in Merseyside Moviola’s history, the organisation that developed from 1988 onwards grew directly from the work done by Barnard and Haskel.

Berg’s vision for the organisation was much more ambitious than that of Barnard and Haskel, however, and in 1988 he chose to drop the regional prefix in an attempt to signal an international profile, and his early achievements with Moviola demonstrated this ambition. He secured funding from the Arts Council of Great Britain (ACGB) for a biennial festival of video art, with the first Video Positive festival taking place in 1989. From the outset Video Positive was defined as an international festival, but Moviola was underpinned by an ethos of being rooted in the local community which it had inherited from Merseyside Moviola. This was demonstrated in the early 1990s, a time which was crucial in the development of Moviola’s core activities, when the organisation secured funding for a community project that would be integrated into the Video Positive festivals. The Collaboration Programme was established in 1990, and two years later Moviola’s remit further developed with the creation of a media art presentation and training facility, MITES. Both of these activities were supported by the ACGB and Merseyside’s Regional Art Board (RAB), and by 1995 Moviola had asserted its position as a regularly funded client.50 This status signalled a period of continual growth for Moviola throughout the 1990s, which culminated in the rebranding of the organisation in 1997. The new brand, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), produced two further Video Positive festivals in 1997 and 2000, as well as continuing to develop the Collaboration Programme and MITES, but by the turn of the twenty-first century, the organisation had become increasingly focused on the development and construction of its own premises, the FACT Centre.51

Context (The Green Book), (Available: FACT Archive, Box – FACT Centre Business Plans (HIST.25); Folder – June 1999); Moviola Business Plan 1992-1995, (Available: FACT Archive, Box – Admin General 1)

50 Arts Council of England (1996), The Arts Council of England Annual Report 1995/96, Arts Council of England: London, pp.85-86


Originally called the FACT Centre, the building that houses FACT is known both internally and locally simply as FACT, but to avoid confusion, the organisation will be referred to as FACT and the building as the FACT Centre.

The period between 1997 and 2003 signified the greatest reinvention in the organisation’s history and it provided FACT with the opportunity to unify its activities. However, a further significant change took place when, in early 2005, Director Eddie Berg and Associate Director Clive Gillman, who had joined FACT on a temporary basis in 1990 and worked specifically on MITES and the FACT Centre development, both left Liverpool for posts as Artistic Director at BFI Southbank, London and Director at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) respectively. Their departures revealed how integral to FACT’s identity their individual personalities had been and, consequently, the organisation entered a period of transition, both in terms of its direction and as it settled into its new building. Berg was replaced in April 2005 by Gillian Henderson, formerly at the London Film and Video Development Agency, who remained in the post for eighteen months and after a period without a Director, video artist and media art curator, Mike Stubbs, was appointed in May 2007. Stubbs had established Hull Time-Based Arts in the mid-1980s, a video arts agency with similarities to the early Moviola, and had most recently been employed as Head of Exhibitions at the Australian Centre for Moving Image in Melbourne, and it was under his guidance that FACT reasserted itself as “the UK’s leading media arts centre.”52

In document The art of regeneration: the establishment and development of the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, 1985–2010 (Page 31-34)