The Inner City Tape (1974)
A collaborative community video made by Tom Zubrycki in conjunction with the Inner Sydney Resident Action Group. Through the eyes of its residents it tells the story of the threat to the survival of inner-city Sydney in the face of redevelopment by the Housing Commission of New South Wales.
The Inner City Tape was part of a submission to the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and documents the human cost of redevelopment and resumption on working-class communities who are deeply connected to the inner-city suburbs in which they have lived for decades. This ‘process video’ aims to present a human story about belonging, community and the importance of place.
Very much of its time, it is an important example of the work produced by the community video movement in the 1970s. In Australia in 1974, at the time that this video was produced, the Inner Sydney Interim Regional Council for Social Development (ISRCSD) was newly established and the Builders Labourers’ Federation (BLF) had instituted a number of ‘green bans’ around the inner city to try and stop the demolition of community housing in these areas.
The video interviews residents, shows resident action group meetings, a public rally, a protest march through the city and scenes of demolition. This is framed with the voice of Margaret Barry, coordinator of the ISRCSD, who also features in Zubrycki’s first feature, Waterloo (1981). Barry’s voice-over begins: ‘This is our story. The story of our city, our people, our communities. She was built to house us, the workers’.
Zubrycki became involved with the community video movement that developed in Sydney and Melbourne during the 1970s and got his first chance to experiment with portable video technology (video portapaks) and its social and political application through the Paddington Video Access Centre (now Metro Screen) in Sydney. The community video movement made the most of the freedom that portable video offered and videos such as The Inner City Tape were often made very quickly (in a few days) and screened in town halls, people’s homes, pubs or on the streets. The collaborative approach Zubrycki used provided communities with agency and gave them another tool with which to lobby.
Zubrycki made two other videos which covered the impact of urban redevelopment on working class residents – We Have to Live with It (1974 ) and Fig Street Fiasco (1974). Some of the residents that appear in The Inner City Tape also feature in Zubrycki’s first feature-length documentary, Waterloo (1981).
Portable black-and-white video portapaks were first developed in 1965 by Sony in the USA and trickled into Australia in the early 1970s. However, this early analog video format has not fared well over the years. Due to tape deterioration, there are some drop-outs in this video which appear as white lines across the image.