Undercurrents is an alternative video news network which began with the UK distribution of videotapes shot by volunteers. It has since expanded to include a web presence, media training for volunteers, and a film festival, BeyondTV.
Undercurrents is an alternative news agency which came into being in 1994 with a VHS videocassette of news which the founders (Jamie Hartzell, Paul O'Connor, Zoe Broughton,and Thomas Harding (publisher)) felt were not being addressed by the mainstream media. One of the issues covered was the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill, whose varied measures included attempts to curtail large gatherings both of travelers and raves and make direct action protest a criminal offence. A second video compilation was released before the end of the year. Bands such as the Levellers included Undercurrents references on their CD sleeves. Radiohead have donated funds and Comedian Mark Thomas allowed undercurrents to produce and distribute his first DVD to raise funds.Undercurrents was amongst the first groups which coined the phrase 'video activism'- the use of camcorders for social change. A co-founder, Thomas Harding, wrote the video activist handbook published by Pluto Press. Undercurrents now distribute films via DVD and in 2009 they launched visionOntv - a Peer to Peer TV channel over internet.
Many of the video activists who worked at Undercurrents went on to work at Oxford Channel including Roddy Mansfield, Jason Torrance, Thomas Harding and Debora Harding. But they found that local TV was not the way forward and Undercurrents continued to distribute via DVD and community screenings. They host the annual BeyondTV international Film festival in Swansea and tour the Summer festivals with a compilation of radical and empowering films.In 2009 they launched The Sol Cinema a micro touring cinema powered by lithium batteries and designed by Jo Furlong. Undercurrents has won a number of awards including Digital Hero awards 2011, as well as film festivals in Germany, Tokyo, France, USA, UK and Czech republic.
In 2006 Undercurrents was chosen as the Guardians campaign of the week. The article stated that undercurrents 'most successful piece is probably Evolving Minds, a film by Melissa Gunasena about dealing with mental health problems'. In 2007 Undercurrents released EcoVillage Pioneers- a documentary exploring sustainable low impact communities around the world. 'Reach for the Sky', premiered at BeyondTV festival, produced by Undercurrents, focuses on Swansea Airport and that uncontrolled aviation expansion is unsustainable. Swansea Airport, with the connivance of Swansea Council, was given the go-ahead to operate in the centre of the Gower Peninsula, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the first AONB to be designated in the country. Public pressure forced Swansea Airport to close down. Air Wales, which operated from Swansea Airport has now closed down.
Undercurrents are currently producing video podcasts about environmental issues such as Climate change. Online Video series include Surfing and climate change, Bushcraft and sustainable housing.These can be viewed at channel website. In 2010 Undercurrents produced a step by step guide to building a house using Roundwood Timber Framing with Ben Law. In 2014 Undercurrents will be producing a project on low cost housing.