A pair of climbing boots dangle beside a gas mask in the Undercurrents office. "That about sums us up," jokes Paul O'Connor, one of the organisation's founders.

They have been up trees, down tunnels and in the midst of riots, armed only with a video camera and incredible bravado. Like superheros, their goal is to expose injustice and champion the people, recounting the stories that slip off conventional radar.

Undercurrents coined the phrase "video activists", but prefer the more flamboyant "video warriors" to describe this radical, hands-on form of journalism.

Slowly, they are infiltrating the mainstream media. "We started using video in a very strategic way then thought why not go to TV with these images? Eventually we bullied TV stations into considering them," he explains.

"They had never see anything like it. This was the news they were missing. We go inside and get the views of activists, even if that means going up trees and down tunnels." Capturing such footage often puts them in sticky situations, to put it mildly.

"Newbury was pretty extreme," he recalls. "We were up on walkways between the trees, holding a camcorder in one hand and holding on with the other.

But that's all in a day's work for the small team, comprised of five people in East Oxford and 10 in Wales.

"This goes beyond photo journalism. We're trying to bring out the whole story.

"Our archive is unique in the world and the videos go out to different TV channels all around the globe," he says. "Australia orders quite a few, but we've also sent copies to Jamaicia, Slovenia, Hungary and Russia.

"We've been running a video magazine for the last five years and that goes everywhere. Someone has even translated it into Romanian we certainly didn't do that. Environmental direct action has become massive and everyone is looking to Britain." Paul speculates that turbulent eco-scene is ironically all thanks to the Iron Lady.

"Margaret Thatcher started the green party in a very conservative way, but a lot of people took it seriously."

Of the four original founders, one decamped to television, one runs an ethical property company, one reverted to standard campaigning only Paul remains. Yet Undercurrents has flourished since its birth in 1993.

Funding remains the largest obstacle. The organisation offers Internet and video training, sells news clips and uses prize money from various awards to stay afloat.

Somehow it all pulls together, and they continue to highlight problems and solutions. "Video can raise awareness, which is great, but it goes beyond that.

"For example, some pensioners were angry about a noisy factory and wanted to publicise it. Instead, we helped them make a video letter, which was sent to the factory owner in New York, the local media and officials who deal with pollution.

"In the end, it was very successful. The manager was fined 20,000 and the company stopped doing noisy stuff at night. Sometimes it pays to be a bit more strategic." Undercurrents has often been a lone voice in the wilderness taking up issues long before the mainstream media. "We were doing stuff on GM in 1996 but no one would touch it. Two years later it kicked off in a big way."

Their coverage strives for a more well-rounded view of protests.

"In the mainstream media, sometimes you only see people lobbing bottles. But around the corner, there were 500 people peacefully blockading a gateway, who never made it onto the evening news.

"There's no hope in the national media. It's all about death and disaster and whipping up moral panics about GM food, car pollution and water safety. During the 80s and early 90s, they looked for solutions. Now it's all scare-mongering.

"Environmental action is worthy, but how do you make it sexy? How do you make it sell? The finances are tricky too, especially when companies like Monsanto, the GM baron, have advertising clout."

The Internet is hailed as the way forward. As Paul points out, a search on GM yields both critics and supporters, giving a range and choice unavailable elsewhere. And more importantly it's affordable. "People in the former Czech Republic log on to our website and get inspired by what we do in India as well. We could never reach that level of distribution otherwise."

He stresses that video activism doesn't have to be about tunnels and blockades, flying bottles and riot police.

A 300 camcorder and cheap PC-software lets anyone make their own news from parents concerned about a playground to pensioners worried about night-time noise.

But Undercurrents will stick with the climbing boots and gas mask and high ideals.

Contact Undercurrents on 01865 203661 or www.undercurrents.org.