Circles formed to distribute women artists’ film and video.
By presenting women's work together we hope to be able to show its richness and diversity and the threads which run through and link it together. We hope also to encourage discussion and support for other women to make and show their own work, whether the subject matter be personal or political, figurative or formal and create our own 'definitions' and 'contexts' as women artists.
Circles Catalogue 1979.
Circles was the first women artists' film and video distribution organisation in Britain. It emerged from the increasingly politicised cultural climate of the late 1970s, in which the Womens Movement played an influential part, and it provided an essential role in the promotion and distribution of exclusively women filmmakers, supporting filmmaking which varied from political and social document to more experimental modes of practice.
Founded in 1979 by a small group of filmmakers including Felicity Sparrow, Lis Rhodes and Annabel Nicolson, Circles ran initially from Felicity Sparrow's flat with women only screenings and group discussions taking place at Four Corners Film Workshops in Bethnal Green. The group were concerned not only with the promotion of contemporary filmmakers but also the rehabilitation of pioneering women filmmakers such as Alice Guy and Maya Deren, who had often been overlooked in favour of their male contemporaries.
Circles was based on consensus and a mutual support network of discussion and practical help which redressed the hierarchies which had marginalised many women filmmakers in other film production and distribution models. Every woman whose work was represented by Circles had a vote, ensuring visibility not only through the distribution of their work but in the decisions that affected the organisation. The distribution library presented a diverse range of media; offering tape recording, video tapes, slide/tape and performance works for hire alongside film. An early distribution catalogue features the films of Susan Stein and Pat Murphy, for example, alongside Tina Keane's slide/tape Clapping Songs, for example, and Annabel Nicolson's recordings of Women and Creativity.
Circles continued as a successful film distributor until 1992 when the funding that it had latterly been receiving from the British Film Institute was cut, precipitating a merge with the Cinema of Women, another woman only distributor with a more overtly issue-based agenda. Renamed Cinenova, the organisation provided distribution for a new generation of women filmmakers, and continues to make available a unique distribution archive of women's filmmaking for curators, educators, artists and new audiences interested in the wealth of diverse filmmaking it represents.
Further information can be found at http://www.cinenova.org.uk. And a more detailed history by artist and Cinenova director Emma Hedditch is available here.
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