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Journey into the deep, dark world of old VHS clips at the Found Footage Festival

Written by
Sonya Barber

Ever wonder what’s lurking on those abandoned VHS tapes? Watch two guys turn that grainy old footage into a two-night comedy show

VHS tapes – remember them? Anyone born before the mid-1990s will probably feel a flutter of nostalgia for those chunky boxes of magical analogue entertainment. Once the most cutting-edge tape-based technology where you could – shock horror! – record a show straight off your TV, nowadays video cassettes are mostly relegated to charity shops and car boot fairs.

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But it’s in these very places that childhood pals Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher make some of their best discoveries. Since finding an incredibly awkward McDonald’s employee training VHS tape in 1991, they’ve been on the hunt for the weirdest, silliest and most outrageous videos they can get their hands on. Trawling through car boots, thrift stores, warehouses, and even skips across the globe, they’ve amassed an impressive collection which includes weird instructional gems such as ‘Mastering the Art of Carving’, ‘Telepathic Communication with Animals’ and ‘Rent-A-Friend’.

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In 2004, they decided it was time to show the world the delights of their archive, so they started the Found Footage Festival, a show where they screen carefully chosen clips from their greatest VHS finds alongside hilariously dry commentary. They even do ‘where-are-they-now’ updates.

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Now the boys are back in town for their sixth London show. This time they’re bringing an all-new ‘After Dark’ selection of the trashiest, dirtiest and most depraved videos in their collection. Catch scratchy footage of a New Age exercise video featuring something called ‘testicle breathing’ and some corkers they found in London: ‘Famous Tits & Arses’ and ‘Between the Shafts’ to name just two. We hear the first night of their Edinburgh Fringe run had so many penises,  they had to edit a few out. Oo-er! No wonder the show starts at the ungodly hour of 11.30pm. Things are definitely going to fall into the ‘after the watershed’ category.

Can’t wait until Friday? This will give you an idea of what to expect...

Dial-up nostalgia

...A little bit of oversharing 

...And things you can never unsee 

Soho Theatre.Tube: Leicester Square. Fri Aug 31-Sat Sep 1. £16.50. Find out more here

Find more analogue technology in the city

Umit & Son

Umit & Son

Projectionist Umit Mesut’s Hackney shop is stacked with celluloid. You can find Super 8 and Super 16 reels of old monster movies like ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ plus the odd pack of Transform-a-Snack crisps amid Umit’s great selection of sweets. 35 Lower Clapton Rd, E5 0NS. Hackney Central Overground.

Cassette Store Day

Time to rescue that Walkman from your parents’ attic: Cassette Store Day lands next month, when Rough Trade East and other shops will be flogging limited-edition tape releases. (No really, it’s a thing.) Various venues. Oct 13. 

Mike’s Records at Wood Street Indoor Market

Mike’s Records can barely contain its storage boxes of jazz, folk and reggae vinyl. And if you want to have a found footage fest of your own his shelf of VHS tapes looks like it might have some solid source material. Wood Street Indoor Market. Wood St Overground. Tue-Sat.

Cameras London

Still photographing on film? Visit Juliano Ribeiro’s vintage camera stall. There’s a great choice of Nikon, Pentax and Olympus film shooters, and specialist items like view cameras (the ones that look like accordions with lenses on the front). Portobello Market (usually Stall 25). Tube: Ladbroke Grove. Every Fri and Sat.

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