Vaudeville Court TC, was a live streaming TV station that I ran in Finsbury Park for a number of years in the early 2000's. The starting idea was to provide a local TV station to my local community by broadcasting over the communal aerial that served the 36 flats on the estate.
VHF converters that could turn the signal from your computer to something a TV could show were still available and cheap, and material could be readily produced using cellphones, and things gathered from the internet - so why not reinvent the idea of a local TV station for the internet age?
I had come back from a stint at OKTO TV in Vienna, where we had introduced open source technology into the broadcast pipeline, and many of these experiences informed the project.
# Interest As I reached out to the local council to get support for the workshops, it turned out that the engineers who provided connectivity for the borough had an idea to provide free internet to the community, and I could pilot the scheme on our small estate. Things grew from there.
# Wireless connectivity We installed a wireless dish on the roof, and connected ourselves to Islington's LAN at high speed (200mbs). It was a strange experience logging into the internet to see hundreds of computers from council offices available for file sharing! Security was not the biggest concern in the first weeks.
# Powerline The next step was to provide free internet to other flats by using powerline adapters. As flats shared the same electricity circuit, we could provide high speed internet to each flat with a simple cheap adapter.
# Recycled computers lastly as many of the homes were very low income, and did not have computers we supplied free recycled computers from the council to the residents together with the powerline adapter and free internet.
# Mosque We installed a free dish on the roof of the local mosque and provided free internet to the office and community space they provided. In return they provided us space to run free courses for our residents and members of the mosque and local community.
# Gardening Club As internet was relatively new, and did not necessarily appeal to the older generations and heads of households, we ran a weekly gardening club for parents and young children in the grounds of Vaudeville Court. We reached out to local neighbours for plants.
# The story The story was if you helped out with the gardening then you could get a free computer and internet. It was more of a story than a deal, as everyone basically got a free computer. We had as many as we needed as the Council was throwing away many hundreds of these every year, the trucks and logistics were all readily available, and the real cost was in the labour to recycle and carry, and mainly teach people how to use the technology. The thing we needed to make the project work was a story.
# The magic
The story needed to unite different community interests. The parents, and especially the grandparents wanted a garden and to socialise with neighbours and the neighbours children. Digging and planting flowers, sharing some food and local gossip was their thing. The kids on the other hand wanted none of that. They wanted to run around and play video games. The local authorities and organisations had other agendas.
The gardening club while strangely married to the Time Bank and a surreal but locally driven art project provided the magic. The magic was in the integration of the pieces into a story that was fun and spoke to peoples hearts. We were doing some good, but with a sense of humour and a sprinkle of subversiveness. The magic was in the combination of spice that we used.
# Circular flow 1. We started the gardening club, and invited the neighbours 1. When people turned up, we had some fun and told them about the art project we were doing and that we needed to collect stories. 1. We suggested that they might involve their older children, and that if they came to the gardening club we would be able to give them a computer and teach them how to make television. 1. We installed a first free computer at a neighbours house. News spread fast, and the gardening club became popular with all ages. 1. We started the time bank and the classes in the mosque. 1. The time invested in gardening (which was something the council used to pay for), and the time invested in helping run the club, the classes, and the time spent learning IT skills was all logged and flowed through the time bank. 1. We gave the local council the numbers they wanted, and provided them with photos and videos they could use. 1. We connected the mosque to the local community, other faith communities, and provided their community access to IT training. The project provided an opportunity to tell a story from their perspective. We started a streaming TF station from the mosque. 1. The kids and adults trained in how to refurbish a computer, and set up an IT network, and edit audio and video, returned the favour by teaching others the skills they learned. 1. The time banks kept the social incentives in balance. Teaching new skills earned you credit that you could use to learned more advanced skills. This basic principle became the Viral Academy and eventually the Outlandish Academy.