The National Review of Live Art was produced annually in Glasgow by New Moves International. It originated from a one-day event in 1979 called the Performance Platform, organised by Steve Rogers at Nottingham's Midland Group arts centre, which has since closed. Growing into a large annual festival of live art, it was directed by Nikki Milican since 1984. As well as performance, the festival included installation and video art, and a platform for new performers to show their work alongside more experienced and well-known artists. It was been peripatetic since the mid-1980s, taking place at the Riverside Studios, London (1987); Glasgow's Third Eye Centre (1988 to 1990); the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (1993); The Arches in Glasgow (1994 to 2005); and Tramway, Glasgow (2006 to 2010).
The festival was first documented in 1986 by a team led by Stephen Littman of Maidstone College and Tony Judge of Projects UK. The team used U-Matic videotape, an analogue format used in the broadcast industry, and experimented with live video mixing while beginning the practice of using multiple cameras to capture different angles on a performance. The following year, Littman was joined by Stephen Partridge and Doug Aubrey with students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Arts, and this team continued until 1990.
When the festival returned in 1993, documentation was resumed on VHS, and the following year the work was carried out by teams of students from Glasgow University, directed by Patrick Brennan and Greg Giesekam (1994), and by Greg Giesekam and Lalitha Rajan (1996).
In 1998 the documentation was taken over by a Scottish video production company, Left & Right, who were the first to use digital mini DV tape for recording the 2001 festival. Left & Right also presented work at the festival in these years.
From 2003 to 2010 the work was filmed on mini DV by a team from Nottingham Trent University, under the direction of Paul Hough, and then by the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, again under Hough.
The video collection contains over 1,800 hours of footage, which has been held at various times by New Moves International, the University of Glasgow and Nottingham Trent University. Custodianship has now passed to the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, who are committed to the archive's long-term preservation and accessibility.
To preserve the archive’s fragile video formats beyond their limited life-span, a £297,000 project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Capturing the Past, Preserving the Future, enabled digitisation of the footage up to 2006. A second £140, 000 AHRC-funded project, Into the Future: Sustainable Access to the National Review of Live Art Digital Archive, completed the digitisation, added new data from the final years of the festival (2007-2010) and made the material accessible online.
In addition to the case study from the Capturing the Past project, three new case studies exploring different approaches to the archiving of live art online are included on the NRLA Video Archive Online website and the new site also offers users their own workspace to annotate videos and make links between works both within and without the archive, providing a uniquely valuable resource to artists, researchers and students of live art and contemporary performance practices.