‘Where to buy a good pork pie now?’ – What you had to say about closure of popular city centre butchers – CoventryLive

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A popular butchers in Coventry city centre has rolled down its shutters for the final time – and CoventryLive readers have been left heartbroken.

The news that Walter Smith butchers had closed broke this week, ending its 35-year plus presence in the city.

The butchers, located in the Bull Yard, closed on December 28, along with two others in the Midlands chain – Denby and West Bromwich.

A post on the Walter Smith Facebook page read: “We are very sad to announce the closure of our Denby, West Bromwich and Coventry shops.

“Thank you so much to all of our loyal customers for your support over the years.

“We look forward to seeing you in one of our remaining 11 shops and wish you all a very happy and healthy 2020.”

You can see what people had to say about the news below.

What you had to say…

Kelly Harding said: “A shame. Good service and great prices.”

Hardeep Sihota said: “Supermarkets have gradually killed the high street stores with cheaper prices and late night or 24 hour openings.”

Walter Smith butchers.

Mel Jones said: “Oh no I buy from here and I used to go here with my mum and my nan my nan is no longer with use and it always bringed back memories when I go in there so sad to see yet anther good shop going.”

David Price said: “Anyone know where to buy a good pork pie now?”

Lorraine Pritchard said: “Arh the lovely friendly staff had worked there years! All the best to them.”

Anna-kenine Adams said: “When my boys was younger and we would go town the boys always went there to get what they would call a big fat man sandwich always got a good deal there and lovely staff.”

Alison Broomfield said: “I’m sadly not surprised due to not many shoppers in the city centre & online shopping. could see this happening years ago.”

Karen Ward said: “What a shame lovely butchers.”

Amanpal Sangha said: “Sad times but all good and great things come to an end loved the meat.”

Amanda Lovett said: “Gutted. My favourite pork pies.”

Lee Brock said: “That’s what happens when not enough people use the shop. We can’t all moan about it closing when people didn’t shop there. And from what I’ve heard from someone who worked there, the whole business is becoming a bit short on profits.”

Janet Thompson said: “I wondered why it wasn’t open Saturday afternoon. Seemed strange.”

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#HausGoldenGays: Helping the seniors of the drag community during the quarantine – Preen.ph

“Siguro isa yun sa mga character ng pagiging gay. Kasi nga being gay, halos in general, survivalist eh,” is what Ramon Busa of The Golden Gays told Preen.ph in a when asked about how their group of elderly drag queens remains in good spirits despite facing hardships. 

The Home for the Golden Gays was a care facility serving the seniors of the gay community without homes and was established in Pasay during the mid-1970s by LGBT rights activist and columnist Justo Justo. Since the founder’s passing in 2012, many of its members have been living separately in multiple transient shelters. Under the enhanced community quarantine, they are unable to turn to performing in drag or their other jobs—working as a beautician, vendor, street sweeper or trader—for a source of income. Moreover, drag is more than just a job for the Golden Gays. Rey Ravago told us, “Nakakaangat siya ng aura ng isang lola at the same time pag rumarampa na kami, naeenergize kami. Parang buhay na buhay ang aming dugo.”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, our lolas are at higher risk due to their old age and lack of income. #HausGoldenGays is a fundraising campaign hosted by Preen.ph for the benefit of The Golden Gays. The donations collected from the drive will be used to help provide for home accommodation, utilities, food, medicine and other supplies needed by the group during the quarantine. One of the lolas, Federico de los Santos Ramasamy aka Lola Rikka, passed away and on Sunday was cremated. Proceeds will also be used to cover expenses related to his passing.

Let’s give back to our elderly drag queens who have served as inspirations and advocates for the Filipino LGBTQ+ community. You may send in your donations through GCASH at 0965 8544 619 or Paymaya at 0916 596 5455.

Let’s help our elderly queens stay golden! 

Photos courtesy of Jack Alindahao

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‘Absolutely devastating’: Tributes paid after death of Detective Garda Colm Horkan in Roscommon shooting

Updated 3 hours ago

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has paid tribute this morning to Detective Garda Colm Horkan who died after being shot in Castlerea, Co Roscommon overnight. 

Det Garda Horkan died following an incident in Castlerea which happened shortly before midnight. He was on duty at the time. 

It is believed that his official firearm was taken from him during the incident and he was shot with it. 

Paying tribute today, the Taoiseach extended his deepest sympathies to Det Garda Horkan’s family and friends of the Garda.

“Every day our Gardaí put themselves on the frontline of crime prevention, on behalf of all of us. This requires regular acts of bravery and courage. Sometimes the outcome is tragic and a Garda makes the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their duties,” said Varadkar. 

“Our thoughts today are with all those grieving as a result of this tragic incident,” he said. 

Garda Representative Association president Jim Mulligan paid tribute to Det Garda Horkan and extended sympathies to his family. 

Mulligan said Horkan was as an “experienced detective greatly respected by colleagues”. 

He is survived by his father, sister and four brothers. 

Shocked and saddened at the killing of a member of An Garda Siochana in Castlerea. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his community and all his colleagues who continue to bravely protect us all from harm every day.

— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD)

President Michael D Higgins said Det Garda Horkan’s death in Castlerea comes “as a shock to us all”. 

“As President of Ireland I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the Garda, and to all those who have been affected by this tragedy.

An Garda Síochána play a crucial role in our communities and this loss of life is traumatic for our society as a whole.

“I have contacted the Garda Commissioner to express my deepest sympathies on this terrible loss of a member of the Force,” said Higgins. 

In a statement this morning, Minister for Justice & Equality Charlie Flanagan said: “I am deeply shocked and saddened at the shooting of a Garda member in Roscommon last night and a full murder investigation is underway. 

“The brave Detective Garda who died last night died in the line of duty, serving and protecting the community,” said Flanagan.

“His death will cause untold heartbreak to his family, loved ones and all his colleagues in An Garda Síochána across the whole country. It is also a loss to wider Irish society. His heroism and the debt of gratitude which we owe to him and his family will never be forgotten.”

‘Huge shock’

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, TD for Roscommon Galway Denis Naughten, said Det Garda Horkan’s death was “absolutely devastating”. 

Naughten said the reaction to the shooting locally is “one of huge shock”.

“The community in Castlerea would work very closely on an ongoing basis with Gardaí and particularly over the last number of weeks” due to Covid-19, he said. 

“This is a huge shock to the community as a whole, to the Garda force throughout the Roscommon-Longford Garda division which would be a close-knit Garda force here. Everyone knows everyone, it is a rural division,” said Naughten. 

“It is a huge blow to the force, to the community and, of course, particularly to the Garda’s family,” he said. 

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Awful news this morning coming from @GardaTraffic with the death of a Garda colleague in Castlerea. Thoughts from all @PoliceServiceNI with his family, friends and colleagues at such a difficult time. pic.twitter.com/e4ftmQYc20

— Simon Byrne (@ChiefConPSNI)

Local Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane, meanwhile, said the incident was a “truly shocking incident”.

“This is a truly terrible incident and has caused major shock amongst the entire community in Castlerea and the wider region,” said Kerrane.

“My thoughts are with the Garda’s family and colleagues at this very difficult time. I hope that whoever is responsible is speedily brought to justice,” the TD said. 

In a statement this morning, The Policing Authority’s Karen Shelley said: “The killing of a Garda, as well as being a wilful denial of the right to life, is an attack on the essence and the foundations of our democracy.”

“It is a fundamental assault on the principle of equality. In the midst of exemplary service to the community during the health emergency, the Garda Síochána will mourn the death of a colleague,” said Shelley. 

In a statement this morning, An Garda Síochana said one man has been arrested in connection with the investigation and is currently detained in Castlerea Garda Station. 

An Garda Síochana has asked for privacy for Det Garda Horkan’s family at this time. 

“It is with deepest sadness An Garda Siochána confirms the death of our colleague, resulting from fatal gunshot wounds received during an incident in Castlerea shortly before midnight,” a statement from An Garda Siochána said. 

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

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‘Himas rehas ka ngayon’: PUP students get threats from Facebook accounts using their names | ABS-CBN News

MANILA — At least 2 Polytechnic University of the Philippines students reported Sunday that they received threats from accounts using their names on Facebook.

Many Facebook users have sought help from their friends on the platform to report dummy accounts using their names. This came after several people were detained in Manila and Cebu for protesting the anti-terrorism bill.

 
The Communicator, a student publication of the PUP – College of Communication, reported that a student in the college received a threat, which reads: “Ano sabi mo dati? Oust Duterte? Junk Terror Bill? Online protest ka pa ah himas rehas ka ngayon.”

“What did you say before? Oust Duterte? Junk Terror Bill? You dare mount an online protest, you’ll caress bars now.”

“Mae,” not her real name, told ABS-CBN News that she received a message — which The Communicator reported — from a dummy account bearing her name at around 3:37 p.m. on Sunday and immediately reported it. 

She later found out that the account was deactivated and the message deleted.

Mae said she signed an online petition to scrap the controversial anti-terrorism bill and used political hashtags on her social media accounts like #JunkTerrorBill, #JunkTerrorBillNow, #MassTestingNowPH, and #OustDuterte.

“Honestly, natawa ako sa kung gaano ka-low itong atake ng mga trolls sa mga kritiko ng gobyerno,” she said. 

(I was amused at how low the troll attacks against government critics have gotten.) 

“At the same time, may kaonting takot din para sa privacy ko pati ng mga tao sa paligid ko, gayon din po sa mga kaibigan at kakilala kong nagkaroon din ng mga fake accounts sa Facebook.” 

(There’s a bit of fear for my privacy and that of the people around me, my friends and acquaintances who were also the victims of fake Facebook accounts.) 

Meanwhile, PUP’s official paper The Catalyst also reported a similar threat.

In the publication’s post containing screenshots of messages from supposed fake accounts, it can be read that the student was red-tagged and called a “terrorist.” 

“Kahit ano gawin niyo lahat di kami matatalo mga wala kayong kwenta,” one of the messages declared. “Hintayin niyo kame sa June 12.”

(Whatever you do, we won’t be defeated, you’re useless. Wait for us on June 12.)

June 12 marks Independence Day, a national holiday. 

Critics and human rights advocates have said that the anti-terrorism bill approved by Congress can be abused to clamp down on dissent and arbitrarily arrest anti-government protesters.

The Department of Justice has ordered an investigation into the surge of suspicious accounts on the social media giant.

Responding to the rise of fake accounts on the social media site, Facebook said that they are now investigating “reports of suspicious activity on our platform and taking action on any accounts that we find to be in violation of our policies.”

“We encourage people to continue reporting any accounts they believe may be inauthentic,” it added.

Facebook had said its artificial intelligence (AI) detects most fake accounts and disables them before they can post on the platform.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse 

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On What Would Have Been the Launch of Cannes, a Celebration of 26 Film Festivals — and 26 Festival Directors | Filmmaker Magazine

&The Cannes Film Festival and Market

by Kaleem Aftab
in Festivals & Events
on May 12, 2020

Film festivals are all about a community coming together to celebrate an art form that we all love. They were one of the first group of events to cancelled when the coronavirus began to spread. The current crisis in the film industry (and across society and the economy as a whole) — the job losses and closures — made it difficult to publish my look back over my year in film festivals, as I’ve done on an annual basis for Filmmaker since 2014. (Also, I had broken my finger over Christmas so was unable to type for three weeks, which is when I usually pen these articles!) Plus, because last year I’d been to 26 film festivals, a record for me, the piece also took a long time to write.

Twenty-six film festivals is a lot. In December of last year, I promised my partner that in 2020, I would go to fewer festivals. Little did we know that my hand was going to be forced by the tragedy of a virus pandemic. Looking back, I’m so glad I went to so many in 2019, seizing the day like I was in the Dead Poets Society.

Sitting here right now, as Cannes would have begun, I believe we will be lucky to see a film festival happen in a traditional way again in the Fall — if then. For all the efforts to put festivals online, there is nothing that matches the intoxicating atmosphere and excitement of attending. That’s why I go to so many of them. I miss hearing a projector whir and seeing a film for the first time, listening to filmmakers talk about their projects, the conversations with fellow attendees, the pitching of projects, those celebrating great reviews, others commiserating. I even miss the 10-minute standing ovations made more out of courtesy rather than enthusiasm. I’ve even started doing this at home now.

So while it may seem odd to have a look back at 2019 film festival season in May, it also seems so fitting to publish today. Absence has made the heart grow fonder. Right now is a time when the role of film festivals is being analysed more than ever by festival directors, as they decide what is essential, what they have to keep, or for some, what they can replicate online. Most importantly, film festivals have to comprehend how can they stay relevant when the spectacle that is their heart is on life-support.

In my mind, there is nothing quite as exhilarating as attending a film festival. I look forward to the moment of being able to participate in more than 26 festivals in a year. (Just don’t tell my partner!).

The festival director is the public face of a film festival. They guide the program and set the agenda. But who are they? In 2019, I tried to meet as many festival directors as possible, and from time-to-time chat about the poster of the festival. I wanted to know if I could see the personality of the festival director at the event. Little did I know when I started this process in January that I would go to 26 film festivals, either as a journalist, moderating Q and A’s or giving talks on festival strategy. 

Tromsø International Film Festival 

Festival Director: Martha Otte

American Martha Otte first worked as a volunteer at the Tromsø International Film Festival in 1998. By 2005 she became festival director. 2019 was her last year as the position at Tromsø  I’ve known Martha for several years, first meeting her at the now-defunct Abu Dhabi Film Festival. We’ve bonded over films. I’ve appeared on the jury at Tromsø in the past, and this year, she asked me to do the Q&A sessions with Canadian filmmaker Philippe Lesage, following screenings of his excellent coming-of-age drama Genesis.

It takes a kooky personality to want to live in the Arctic Circle, where during the film festival, the sun never quite rises above the horizon. Despite all the darkness, the irony is that Otte is an insomniac. Luckily she’s found a profession where staying up in the dark is a necessary component.

Otte says of her philosophy to running the festival: “We are especially interested in films that are ‘off the radar’ and are not standard festival fare, which doesn’t mean experimental; it just means we want to make our own discoveries.”

I was too busy buying trinkets with Gaspar Noé and chasing the Aurora Borealis to make too many movie discoveries of my own. It’s that kind of place! The one discovery I made was Egil Håskjold Larsen’s Where Man Returned, about a lonely old white man lives in the Arctic wilderness with his dog. He listens to football and shipping news on his radio. It was a metaphor for so many conversations had at festivals this year. 

One thing that did catch my eye was the poster of the festival. It featured an image of a figure dressed in a thawb with the face drawn as the Tromso Film Festival logo. The poster was designed by Christopher Ide (AKA Doffa), of design office Tank, and he has been the go to guy for the festival for a number of years. The image was smart on so many levels. Since 2001, Tromso and Gaza have been twin cities. The festival also had a strong focus on Arab cinema with screenings of Sameh Zoabi’s satire of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict Tel Aviv on Fire, Dalia Kury’s prison recreation documentary Privacy of Wounds, and a section called Arabiyat — the Arab word for women — celebrating female filmmakers from the region and programmed in association with Morocco’s Cinematheque de Tanger.

Rotterdam International Film Festival 

Festival Director Bero Beyer

The next festival I attended was another festival where the festival director was looking to move their life away from festivals. In July, Rotterdam head honcho Bero Beyer announced that he had accepted a job as CEO of the Netherlands Film Fund, commencing in March 2020, after this years’ edition. More recently, it was announced that his replacement would be MUBI acquirer Vanja Kaludje, who had previously worked for the festival. 

2019’s edition was Beyer’s fifth in the post. He’s a confident guy. In the role, Beyer has grown the industry side of the festival and increased the focus on experiences rather than just watching films. The festival takes place when a lot of American eyes are on Sundance, but he’s keen on appealing to the 180 ethnicities found in Rotterdam. “The first thing we want to get right is that the program is representing the world and not just one side of the world,” Beyer tells me on his way to a Claire Denis seminar.

Beyer says of his philosophy to the festival, “We do what others don’t. We always go one step further. What makes us special is the stuff that is slightly crazy and on the fringe of things. People show up to watch avant-garde.”

The film festival posters are part of a campaign living under the umbrella of “Planet IFFR.” Planet IFFR is a concept formulated in 2017, where the emphasis was put on the number of people involved in the movie making process. The various staff on a set are in Rotterdam’s eyes, representive of the cultures and peoples of the world. “This year, we asked what makes us alive? It’s more than facts and truth because they are long gone, facts don’t matter – it’s emotions.” 

“In the poster campaign the faces and the words used to describe the expressions being pulled seem to conflict. There is a happy face, but the poster says angry. These seemingly oppositional emotions are reflected in the films we show. Our cinema doesn’t give you an answer – it gives you a question. The films don’t give you a feeling you have foreseen – they give you an emotion you have not anticipated it’s like a rollercoaster ride without a seatbelt.”

A case in point is Sacha Polak’s Dirty God, an international co-production that blurs fact and fiction by having Vicky Knight, who was a victim of an acid attack, play the victim of an acid attack. Yet from this starting point, a cinematic truth emerges, very different from reality. Or Present.Perfect, the Hivos Tiger Award winner, which is made up of footage of China taken from the Internet by Chicago based Chinese director Shengze Zhu.  

Beyer admits that the pluralism highlighted in the program could be better reflected in the diversity of the staff, stating, “That’s an on-going process.” And one from next year, he’ll presumably be pushing his successor to achieve.

Gothenburg Film Festival 

Festival Director: Jonas Holmberg

Gothenburg is Scandinavia’s biggest film festival, and just like Scandi Noir, it remains something of a mystery to me. It’s the one festival where I make an extra effort to watch the pitching session, where some filmmakers talk about the movies that they intend to make, and also others talk about the films that are deep into post-production. It’s intriguing as there is always something that ends up at Cannes, and not always what you expect. Usually, I hate seeing movie trailers or knowing anything about a film. Nonetheless, somehow I can listen to a Scandinavian auteur talking about their project in intricate detail, and yet see something entirely different on-screen. Is this because of what they say, or how I listen?

I did not know artistic director Jonas Holmberg before the festival. That despite the fact he’s been the head honcho at Gothenburg since 2014, when he was promoted from his position as international film programmer, and I’ve been to previous editions under his watch. His route into festival life was as a film critic. It’s interesting as that once familiar way into programming has gone into decline as dedicated film programmers appear, graduating from film schools, which have recently started hosting courses in curating and curating theory.

Holmberg seemed to be the quintessential Scandinavian when I met him. He dresses well and says all the right things. My younger self would have looked at him like the epitome of cool, but now I find him a little awkward.  He’s also good-natured. When I start by asking him about his poster, his reaction is a sincere, “How wonderful!” There’s a lot to like.

“We have a tradition of asking a local artist to design the poster,” states Holmberg. “They’re given a blank slate to design whatever they come up, and they come back to us with their design. It’s one of the most exciting days of the festival seeing what they have designed.”

It’s a very relaxed way of doing things and it has been that way since 1992. It also means that a look at the festival poster archive is like a journey to a gallery. The theme of the 2019 film festival was Apocalypse, which might explain how I came to watch a movie, Aniara, from the inside of a coffin. Jesper Waldersten was the artist chosen to create the one-sheet and created an eerie yet beautiful work in the style of horror and space movies from his childhood. Think, Alien, David Lynch and John Carpenter, then throw in a bit of Bergman, think of that image in black and white, and with a face populated by figures looking like they stepped out of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Hell. 

The Scandi vibe was also apparent in Swede Anna Eborn’s fantastic Transnistra, a film that felt like the ’70s even though it is a breakaway state on the border of Moldavia in present day.

Berlin Film Festival 

Head of the Berlinale: Dieter Kosslick

It was Dieter Kosslick’s last stand at the Berlin Film Festival. The year before many prominent German film industry figures called for a change at the top of the Berlin Film Festival arguing that the festival had become irrelevant. The call was heeded and before the festival it was long since announced that his 18th edition would be his last. Kosslick is a unique character. His style and matter is defiantly old school, and eccentric. In his final year, Kosslick programmed a festival that was staunchly unapologetic. No bones thrown to those who criticised him. So the festival was full of challenging choices and featuring buried treasures for those who looked deep into the program. It will be interesting to see how and if that takes changes under the new guard. 

Kosslick attended an event that I organized to celebrate the life and work of publicist Richard Lormond, who had died from an illness a few months before the festival. Kosslick took time out of his busy schedule to say some kind words, and it served as a reminder that the work of a festival director at a festival is more than about selecting films and is also about social interactions. Acknowledging the work of those who help contribute to an event’s success is important as it takes many to put together a great festival.  

Later in the festival, as we sat down to talk about his legacy and the Berlinale poster, I couldn’t help but think that retirement had come at the right time for Kosslick as he was being outpaced by changing times. 

“The bear is our symbol. And for a couple of years now, Swiss artists have been doing our poster,” said Kosslick. “For a couple of years now, the bear has been cruising around going to different locations in Berlin. A lot of people have been asking who are these bears? We thought because it’s the end of my tenure, we would lift the secret of the bear. When the bear takes off his head, it’s the audience that is underneath. The bear is normal people who are on the way to the Berlinale.”

Over the past 18 years, he has worked with many agencies, and they all come up with very different designs, which is evident in the change in the style of the posters every few years. 

“This year, a discussion arose because there was a black person in one of our costumes and we talked about what would be the symbolism of having a black person in a bear costume,” admits Kosslick. “Would it look like discrimination? We wanted to show the variety of the audience that attend the Berlinale, but we have been afraid that if we used it, it would create a discrimination debate. Two people on our poster were from our staff were used as well. I don’t know all of the people personally. We thought about putting me in a costume, but in the end, we believed it was too much.”

The Berlinale like many other festivals this year signed the 50/50 by 2020 pledge to pursued gender parity. “The pledge was a political aim, but I think we are far ahead at the Berlinale,” says Kosslick. We have seven films from female directors in competition and with our staff and selection committee, there are a lot of women in prominent positions.’

Indeed, the film that stuck out most at the festival to my mind was a film screened out of competition, because it had been at Sundance, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir.

Stockfish Film Festival 

Festival Director: Marzibil Snæfríõar Sæmundardóttir

Taking place in Reykjavik, Stockfish Film Festival is an event that wants to showcase Icelandic films to industry people to film exhibitors, programmers and distributors from around the world. Several Icelandic bodies come together to promote their wares, and it’s a great excuse to go to one of the most beautiful places in the world, with a burgeoning and exciting coffee scene. Yup, already by early March, coffee was my fuel.

The main two strands at the festival are an industry-pitching event, which has an overlap with Gothenburg and a competition programme of short films. There are also screenings of best of the fests, aimed to get the local audiences out of their warm wooden houses and into the fabulous cinema Bíó Paradís. From floor to high ceiling on one wall of the cinema are some fantastic posters designed by local artists to coincide with the release of huge movies, so it’s no surprise that Stockfish take their poster design seriously as well.

Sæmundardóttir has been the Festival Director of the Stockfish film festival since 2015. Before that, she was a writer and director. It was her love of film, and life, that led to her taking on the festival director role. A social butterfly, she brings a lightness and fun air to the event and promoting movies.

“We use a young designer and last year he came up with a version of yellow, which we liked a lot, and that has become the color of the festival,” says Sæmundardóttir. “The poster is exactly the same as last year, except for the dates!”

This attitude seems about right for a festival that knows what it wants to be and has a focussed goal. It’s a festival that has a great atmosphere, mainly because all the films take place in one cinema. They pick at most 25 films, which they consider the best of the fests, in addition to the industry events. The one thing they want everyone to watch is the local short films, which is a good way to start taking notice of local talent, and for local talent to realise that they’ll end up needing to make European co-productions if they want filmmaking to be their job. 

Bergamo Film Meeting 

Artistic Director: Angelo Signorelli

I love going to festivals that are off the beaten track. The Bergamo film meeting is one of those delightful festivals where much of the joy is in seeing classic movies on the big screen. There are new films that play, but I was more interested in seeing Jean-Pierre Léaud turn up to a screening of The 400 Blows, as part of a retrospective on his films, an exhibition of photographs from the set of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Arabian Nights and a retrospective on filmmaker and cinematographer Karpo Godina, an exponent of Yugoslavia’s “Black Wave.” In 2020 they were set to take an in-depth look at Jerzy Skolimowski. It’s a festival that loves outsiders. 

The desire to take a new look at the past is imprinted on the festival’s poster, which gives us a classic French New Wave shot of a young Léaud on the set of The 400 Blows in triplicate. Festival director Angelo Signorelli, who helped found the festival, struck me as a laid back, conscientious type. The easy-living style is one that he is happy to replicate at the festival with a communal ethos. A committee seemingly decides everything. No wonder it’s called the Film Meetings, because, in my two days in Bergamo, it felt like a shared experience, one where good coffee shops were not too far away and talking about films was as important as watching them. 

Signorelli had a similar attitude to the marketing material, “The poster is a collective choice. We liked the image a lot this year. It’s cinematographic, suggesting movement and different perspectives. The central focus is on the repeated image, which is also out of focus. In a way, it speaks about the complexity of cinema. How by looking at the cinema of the past, and the present, we see future trends. It reflects the multiplicity of the sections that the festival has.”

For the past four years, SUQ Republic has designed the poster. “They really understand the philosophy of the film meetings.”

Qumra  

Festival Director: Fatma Al Remaihi

The Doha Film Institute has been doing great work over the years, and industry gathering Qumra continues to be a success. It’s often a sign of confidence of an organisation when they are not afraid to admit to divided opinions and frank discourse. The following conversation between Festival director, Fatma Al Remaihi and DFI’s Director of Strategy and Development Hanaa Issa about the poster for this year’s event was one of my favourite moments of the year. 

Fatma: These images [on the numerous posters] represent the projects that we have, the jewels of Qumra. The principal image for the main poster and front of catalogue is from the first Qatari film in post-production and for us that is huge.

Hanaa: The circle in the poster is kind of our symbol. It reminds of the Q for Qumra and also the camera lens.

Fatma: But the question we had was, do we want to use an image that represented peace, or did we have one that was about war?

Hanaa: We had a long debate.

Fatma: We had different opinions. Do you want to tell him yours?

Hanaa: We had a debate. There was this one behind you, and in terms of artwork, it worked well with the colour and catalogue. I surveyed the office, and some of us felt that highlighting on the book of the projects and on the main catalogue an image of soldiers and war, especially of soldiers killing the farmers in Mexico, that this was perhaps the wrong message to send out to the world. We opted to go for something more peaceful. But then we had this debate around the fact that we do live in a hostile world, there is a lot of unfairness and injustice. Even though we want to highlight this, and make it part of the conversation, I thought to put an image that represented hope was more suited to who we are at Qumra, especially as our projects already contain a lot of stories about war and refugees.

Fatma: Whereas I thought that the world is a mess, and we should highlight it and not be afraid of it, we are not celebrating it, we are highlighting it. We spent the whole day with this discussion.

Hanaa: We argue all the time. We’ve known each other for a long time.

Fatma: It took the whole day this discussion. Going into work that day, I knew that we were going to have this discussion.

Hanaa: Me too, I ate a good breakfast, so I was ready to stand up for my view.

London Taiwan Film Festival UK

Festival Director: Aephie Huimi

I went to the opening day of the inaugural festival. They have a tie in with Stockfish, patly because Festival Director Aephie Huimi has strong links to Iceland and Taiwan. The opening was the UK premiere of Tsai-Ming Liang’s VR cinematic experience, The Deserted, with the director in attendance. I’d inadvertently had a hand in this happening, as I met Huimi through a producing pal friend of mine a number of times. When she revealed she was thinking of putting on a Taiwan Festival in the UK, I immediately mentioned The Deserted and said that she had to screen it. Little did I know that they would then have a retrospective of Liang’s work and he would come to London. It was a small but perfectly formed festival, which is how these looks at national cinema should be.

At first glance, I didn’t know what to make of the poster which seemed like a lot of undecipherable elements around an alien looking sea creature. Then Huimi informed me, “We wanted the poster to be as cute as possible.”

The poster designer, Ting Cheng, was also at the opening night party added, “She wanted something that would represent Taiwanese culture. I wanted something multicultural, and so we got a sea monster drinking Bubble Tea that is made up on the Taiwanese alphabet, which is full of symbols and these different shapes are representative of different cultures.”

Huimi adds, “You cannot define Taiwan in one shape, so every year, the festival will take on different forms, and that is why the sea monster is significant.”

All of a sudden, the poster took on a profound meaning that I’d not been able to see. It was a good reminder, not just of the value of art, but the importance of listening to others, and, of course, reading critics to elucidate and fill in gaps of knowledge. 

CPH: DOX 

Festival Head: Tine Fischer

“The posters for me are part of the core DNA of the festival. I’m so involved in the posters in a way that drives people mad. When we started working, we had external graphic designers, and now I hire designers so that they are employed inside the organisation and work with me for months! Each time I used agencies, I ended up being in massive conflict with them, mainly because, for me, it’s so delicate what you do with posters. When you said posters, I thought this is so fucking spot on, because it’s a nightmare each year, really a nightmare, because it’s challenging to find the balance in the posters from what I believe is the core DNA, namely a very active civic voice when it comes to political activism. You’re addressing something that people need to react to, not only will this look nice emotionally, but really react to it politically. Then it also needs to reflect an artistic profile that deals very much with non-fiction as cinema and as art. It can’t be a poster that will resemble an NGO perspective. So that balance has to be that it’s highly political and activist but also speaks with a more contemporary art, conceptual language. Then it needs to appeal to our audience, which is from young hipsters to grown-up decision makers. It’s a headache because it’s so difficult.”

“This year, I worked with the same graphic designer that I worked with for the last few years. So he works in-house for half the year, being a part of the process and understanding what the film process is about, but also what kind of films we will have. He saw climate change would be a big issue, but how do you do a poster on climate change? That’s almost impossible as all images relating to climate change have been used and overused. Then he came up with this image, with a woman’s breasts that have been sunburnt basically, but that makes it delicate to put out in public. It’s not overly clear what it’s about, but it is about someone who is not careful. We have the Morse code symbols on it to reflect a universal language, and then some images show images of climate change, there is a lifebuoy for example. There are lots of messages in that picture.”

I had started to feel like I’d seen most approaches to festival poster design, and just as I was beginning to tire of asking festival directors about it, CPH: DOX’s Tine Fischer blew me out of the water. But that will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the festival over the years. She has taken the bull by the horns during her long tenure at the festival. She boldly changed the dates of the festival from the Fall to the Spring when she felt that the market was too crowded. The film choices have been radical, and she’s established CPH: DOX as one of the most exciting documentary festivals. 

The festival was also where I conducted one of my favourite interviews of the year, sitting down with Alex Winter. We discussed Bitcoin and The Panama Papers, as well as sexual abuse in the film industry. And of course Bill and Ted, we drank coffee together a couple of days after the announcement that he would appear in Bill And Ted 3. Of course, it was most excellent.

Panama Film Festival 

Artistic Director: Diana Sanchez

A few weeks before the Panama film festival took place Toronto International Film Festival announced that Diana Sanchez would be taking up a position in Toronto full-time. Much of Sanchez’s fantastic reputation that led to that Canada role has come from how she built up the Panama Film Festival into one of the most vibrant, forward-thinking and fun festivals in the Americas. Of course, from my side, it helped that Panama is home to Geisha Coffee, some of the best and most expensive beans on the planet. A competition-winning brew that would set you back $75 a cup in San Francisco retails for $9 in Panama. It’s still a lot to pay for a coffee, given that great blends retail at $4 here, but it’s not often that one can treat yourself daily to the champagne of the coffee world. The coffee and the festival were marvellous. This year it gave a great platform to films from Guatemala. It showcased how artists are trying to comprehend the human catastrophe caused by the years of dictatorship and, also the American support to the dictatorship. There is a similar sentiment in Panama where President George W. Bush ordered an invasion in December 1989.

In total contrast to the approach in Copenhagen, Diana Sanchez, in a somewhat more laidback manner, informed me that she didn’t get involved in the production of the poster. She is someone who knows what she likes to do and is happy to delegate the other jobs to others. She advised me to chat with Pituka Ortega, the Director and founder of the Film Festival, who was involved in the creation of the poster and appointed the new team that will be in charge of the 2020 edition.

“It’s the first time that we have worked with Cisco Merel, a Panamanian artist to create the poster,” Ortega says. “He works with geometrical shapes, and one of his masters is Venezuelan artist [Carlos] Cruz-Diez. When we spoke to him, he brought this concept to us that within these geometrical shapes that conveyed cinema. Artists are artists, and we just loved it and went with it. It’s a detachment from everything else we have done, and we loved working with an up-and-coming artist. It has opened a window for us to work with other up-and-coming artists from Panama. The unifying factor will be the logo. It represents the festival as a platform for new ideas and talent just like we are doing for a central American and Caribbean platform that we have invested so much energy and thought to, and our resources. ”

CineMAS 

Artistic Director Joe Wihl

Formerly, the United Arab Emirates was host to not one, but two great festivals. Then in 2015, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival closed after eight editions, and last year, far more surprisingly, the Dubai Film Festival closed. Fans of cinema in the UAE went from boom to bust. So it was great to see cinephiles take the matter into their own hands and launch an independent film festival at an excellent venue, Manarat Al Saadiyat (the MAS in CineMAS). It was a film festival designed by cinephiles for cinephiles that lasted a joyous four days, with master classes, workshops and screenings. The festival is a demonstration that good taste can be more valuable than finance.  

“The poster was made in Abu Dhabi by a branding agency who designed all our collateral,” Wihl told me. “We wanted a poster that connected film, cinema and the art world. We are lucky to show films that people don’t normally get to see, so we wanted it to reflect the artistic nature of the festival. The branding agency came back to us with three options, and we chose the one used because the brush strokes showed the interconnecting nature of the art world and film. We have five different colours that we used on the posters to reflect the diversity of cinema and the wide selection of films from around the world.”

Admittedly, it is hard for me not to like the festival director, since I played on the same soccer team as him for several years. He scored many goals in his time, so I wanted to go to support the festival. This festival may end up being a one-off, as rumours abound that Abu Dhabi may re-launch an international festival in 2020. But many rumours circulate here. 

Cannes 

Festival Director: Thierry Frémaux

Cannes makes a massive fanfare out of its poster. It is published before any film announcement and widely shared on social media. Arguably, this year’s poster featuring the recently departed French legend Agnes Varda was the most popular one-sheet in its history. And that is saying something! A great article by Sight and Sound’s Isabel Stevens argued: “Cannes has finally woken up to the power of the poster.” She posited that the photo-shopped reinterpretation of the iconic image of Varda standing on top of cinematographer Louis Stein when filming her first feature La Pointe Courte was created to demonstrate that Cannes is changing. Stevens argued, it “signals that the festival has, at long last, clocked that it needs to change. Does this change go deeper than a clever and overdue rebranding exercise? Only the number of female-directed films in future editions of the festival will tell.”

Sadly, not long after the poster release, the competition announcement came, and this change seemed to be an illusion with complaints circulating about the lack of female directors. The festival still snagged the best film of the year, Parasite, and one of the many joys of the film is the range of great posters that Bong Joon-Ho’s film has inspired by regional distributors around the world.

As for the likeable Frémaux, every year he proves how good he, and his team, are at their job of selecting the year’s best films. Nonetheless, using a classic image from the past shows how much he still looks back when so many people are crying out for him to look to the future. He is an enigma, just like his festival, whose policy to exclude films not guaranteed an exclusive first run in French cinemas seems more and more robust with every passing year. So far, it’s Netflix and not Cannes making changes to how they operate. 

Kultur Symposium Weimar

By June, unsurprisingly I had had my fill of film festivals, so it was a delight to be invited by the Goethe Institute to attend their second Kultur Symposium Weimar. It was an invite-only event that contained talks, performance art, films and debates.

For three days, more than 300 participants from all over the world came together at the Kultursymposium Weimar, including representatives from science, culture, politics, business, journalism and publishing. The first Kultursymposium Weimar took place in 2016 on the subject of The Sharing Game – Exchange in Culture and Society. The second edition from 19 to 21 of June 2019 was entitled Recalculating the Route. It was an incredibly inspiring event, and great to be somewhere where I did not see the same faces, and people were talking about social issues without the conversation being bound to a film. I also didn’t talk to anyone about the design of the poster for the event. Indeed from this point on in the year, my observation on the one-sheet became largely my own again. This event felt like a real marker separating the first part of the year focussing on the branding to the second part of the year, informed by trying to reconnect with the idea of looking at how film festivals relate the realities of the world and present the future. Of course, there were movies, but this event was really about new ideas and building better social groupings. 

London Indian Film Festival

Festival Director: Cary Rajinder Sawhney

The London Indian Film Festival celebrated a decade. It was a big year for Festival Director Cary Sawhney as he also collected an MBE for services to the film industry. His work is getting noticed. I dipped my toe into the festival attending a screening of The Flight, where it was my pleasure to be asked to host the Q and A with legendary Bengali Filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta. It was a lovely event held at the Cine Lumiere in London. It reminded me how lucky I was to be living in London, where almost every night there is some great film festival of some sort or some fantastic filmmaker giving a talk. For the festival to reach ten years, and be more significant than ever, takes some doing.

Oh and I don’t think I looked at the poster. Sorry, Cary! And, really I need to stay in my home time more often! 

Nordic Youth Film Festival

Festival Director: Hermann Greuel

Having started the year in Tromsø, for a week when the sun never rises above the horizon, it was nice to be back in the Arctic Circle for NUFF when the sun never dips below the horizon. I mean, it’s cold whatever the time of the year one is in the Arctic, but on a clear day, when you can actually glimpse the sun it is gorgeous. At NUFF, the efforts to build a politicised film community are what brightens-up every day of this youth orientated festival.  

NUFF is an annual short film festival and film workshop for young filmmakers up to the age of 26. These talents get split into several groups under the guidance of a filmmaker. They have a week to make a short film from scratch. On the final weekend, the freshly made short films screen as part of a short films festival. The mentors included producer Racha H Larsen and filmmaker Egil Håskjold Larsen, whose film Where Man Returns opened the Tromso International Film Festival. The prolific award-winning short filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel, Anders Emblem, whose film Hurry Slowly I had missed at Tromsø International Film Festival but saw at a special here. Inuk Jørgensen from Greenland and Virtual Reality expert Marta Ordeig were also in charge of a group, and composer Rune Simonsen was producing music for the images.

I delivered a film appreciation seminar and hosted a masterclass event with Mahdi Fleifel talking about his short films, which we screened in chronological order, as well as hosting Q&A sessions with some of the talents attending the workshops It was an awesome time!

Festival director Hermann Greuel is such a great personality and so friendly. I wish that I could wipe away the years, and be young enough to be accepted as one of the participants. It’s a truly great event, and one that seemed to be practising the philosophy preached at the Weimar Kultur Symposium. The future is sunny. 

Karlovy Vary Film Festival 

Festival Director Karel Och

Karel Och is one of the great festival directors of our times. He has good taste, hosts a well-respected film festival that has great talents, juries, parties and writing courses. So what’s not to like? Well, somehow on the first night I was put into the world’s most noisy hotel, above a party that went on until 4 am every night. Add to this that the Internet in the basement house in Parasite worked better than it did at the hotel and I wasn’t a happy camper. Thankfully, the next night they moved me to the edge of town, and the smile returned to my face.

Apart from that blip, I saw many unique films. HBO put on a great party. I’d seen so many films at Cannes, that I wasn’t as side-tracked by catching up with Cannes movies as I have been on past visits to Karlovy Vary film festival. It’s a great place to get a taste of films from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. There was an excellent retrospective taking a look at the works of Egyptian maestro Youssef Chahine films. Even though I haven’t been for a few years, the festival seems familiar. Even the poster for the festival is the same design, this year the colours were changed to be black and white. So why is it, that I always leave Karlovy Vary with a but…

Every time I get home I think I’ll give Karlovy Vary a skip next time. But that’s usually because every second year clashes with a big soccer tournament. The festival will be happy that in 2022, the world cup is moving to the winter because of the hot Doha summer, that will probably be the year I’m not invited! The festival has a great press dinner, and at the main festival centre, there is a bar where everyone congregates. However, the festival still manages to get it wrong because it separates the industry, press and guests from each other. There feels like several festivals going on at the same time, which is a shame as really Karlovy Vary should be about breaking down those barriers between the different parts of the film community rather than reinforcing them. 

Locarno Film Festival 

Festival Director: Lili Hinstin

Locarno feels like a bit of a blur. It was the first year that Lili Hinstin was in the Festival hot seat. Her philosophy seems to be that evolution and not revolution was the best way to get her feet under the table. On my first night by the magnificent lake, I met her at an official dinner attended by Palme D’Or winner Bong Joon-Ho and also hosted were those programmers and filmmakers who put together the excellent Black Light retrospective. On the Industry side, the push to support filmmakers from around the world, especially from those areas without traditional support for independent cinema remains strong.

The poster also evolves slightly every year, but it noticeable evolved that little bit more this year, the main indicator of changes. What I like about Locarno is the use of the yellow and black leopard spots, which are always such a unique identifier. It’s also fun. There have been some inventive variations on the leopard theme, especially the kiss poster from the 59th edition in 2006, which remains one of my all-time festival favourites. This year, there was a bold reinterpretation that saw far more playful brush strokes, creating a more abstract version of the leopard, but one that seemed more playful, child-friendly and looking to the future. With it being Lili’s first year, it was understandably difficult to find time to catch her for a conversation on the direction of the festival, which I’m looking forward to doing in 2020

Locarno is a festival that has so much going for it, from the magnificent screenings in the Piazza Grande of more commercially minded films to the selection of more challenging fare in competition and elsewhere. Yet, as with so many other festivals, it has suffered from sales agents no longer using the film festivals as their primary location to source and sell movies. It will be interesting to see how Karlovy Vary and Locarno tackle the hurdles ahead, especially on the side of promoting cinema rather than movies. Festivals such as Locarno and Karlovy Vary have begun addressing this issue by being more supportive of a broader range of critical voices. Still, there must be more effort to make audiences feel part of the movie industry and encourage spectators to make bolder choices, not just at film festivals, but on a Friday night date.

Venice Film Festival 

Festival Director: Alberto Barbera

In the last couple of years, it’s been a surprise that the Venice Film Festival hasn’t just found a space to put the Netflix logo in the middle of the poster, given the preponderance of films from the streamer. I get it. Venice has been the primary beneficiary of the stance taken by Cannes on streaming platforms failure to heed cinematic windows, and they have reaped the red carpet rewards, with more stars in attendance and more media interest. It’s undeniable that Alberto Barbera has done a great job in making Venice a place to launch films, especially award contenders. Although it’s likely that for the second year in succession, unless Marriage Story does pull off an unlikely Best Film Oscar victory, that for the second year, the Oscar winner will not have debuted on the Lido. There is also a well-voiced and, quite frankly well-placed, concern about the dominance of English language films in the Venice competition. Again, the media and the trades desire to push films as Oscar contenders, that will result in them receiving advertising money from studios looking to win awards, is also part of the game. So it’s not in anyone’s interest to complain too much. It’s another example of how capitalism can limit choice, even in art.

Consequently, some great movies that could have done with the status push that can come with appearing in competition on the Lido get somewhat lost in the sidebar sections. I would like to see Venice be a bit bolder in its official selection. But if it’s glam you want, Barbera is your man. He is incredibly slick, has a big fun personality and could have been a character in La Dolce Vita. He is Italian Hollywood.

Even the choice of poster, which I love, reflects this debate. It’s a painted image of a couple being filmed kissing on the front of a boat. It’s a hint towards Titanic more than the refugee crisis, or the debate about how locals have turned against cruise ships, and the worry about climate change. The poster designed by Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti (he’s also created the 2000 edition Cannes poster) emphasizes the water that makes Venice so unique, and the painted image connects the film festival to La Biennale, of which it is part. I liked the poster, and yes, I liked the festival. 

Toronto Film Festival 2020

Artistic Director and Co-Head: Cameron Bailey

I must admit it’s only now that I’m writing this that I’m looking properly at the one-sheet of the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time. The fall film festival season doesn’t allow for much navel-gazing. It’s the moment every year that I forget the sage advice from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off about life moving pretty fast and the need to take stock and look around once in a while. At Toronto, there is no such opportunity to stop. After the curated programmes of Venice and Telluride is the splurge of films in Canada.  The festival ends with the announcement of the winner of the Toronto audience award. Then we are all supposed to guess what will win the Oscars for the next few months. Of the Oscar frontrunners, only 1917 and The Irishman, which debuted shortly after at the New York Film Festival had not screened at this stag. It’s a shame that there is this enormous focus on what goes on in Hollywood in February because great stuff that happens in Toronto gets overlooked as a consequence.

One of which is the mentoring of film critics from underrepresented demographics. So at TIFF, I had the great honor of mentoring Valerie Complex at the festival. It was great to be able to meet up and hang with a young writer, who had exciting and differing viewpoints about films. She’s also making significant headway into the field of criticism, and has a prevalent Twitter account should you want to employ her. Together, we watched Anna Winocour’s space training epic Proxima, which we were still debating the next day. It was a film that grew on both of us, with Complex being the first to admit that the film was better than she initially thought. The joy of movies and not writing immediate tweets and reviews. As with many things in Toronto, it did feel like the critic mentoring scheme was another thing added, and need some refinement and more support from the festival, but it’s a great start for the initiative that I hope will grow. It came as no surprise to me that this initiative was taking place at a festival where Cameron Bailey is the head honcho. Despite all the talk around inclusion, white male critics still have so much more opportunity than women and people of color. And it’s no surprise that Bailey has overseen this initiative given his background. He’s a top programmer, and it won’t be long before his evolution at TIFF becomes a revolution. Of the big fall festivals, Toronto is the one making the most significant effort to bring about change not just to film, but also society.

But back to that poster, it’s a bit abstract and difficult to tell what it wants to be. Maybe I did see it during TIFF, everywhere, I just didn’t realise that it was the visual identity that was supposed to be representing the festival. Having said that, it kind of fits with some of my sentiments about a festival where a lot of films, seem to be put together abstractly, and where it doesn’t quite come together as a whole.

El Gouna Film Festival 

Festival Director: Ihtishal Al Timimi

I have a good rapport with Festival Director Ihtishal Al Timimi from his time at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Heading to Egypt meant that I had to miss San Sebastian, one of my favourite film festivals of the year, every year. I’m still crying, even if it was well worth the change of water and sun location. El Gouna is one of those friendly festivals, with a real hub where everyone mingles and chats about the movies that they have, or haven’t been watching. Its focus is on films from the Middle East and North Africa, and all of the key players from the region turn up, make plans and plot for the future. It comes a few weeks before Cairo and has a far more curated programme in which most films had a lot going for it. It was one of those festivals with not much to do in a resort late at night, so it was easy to mingle with filmmakers and festival programmers.

The poster is striking, albeit one more in keeping with it a perfume fragrance rather than a film festival. It shows a lady in a red dress walking across a stage from left to right, with the backdrop resembling a film reel. It wants to be modern but can’t help but feel retro. Much like this festival, the poser is a throwback to a bygone era, and that’s not always a bad thing. I’m hoping the festival moves dates to avoid a clash with San Sebastian in the future.

Zurich Film Festival 

Artistic Director: Karl Spoerri

Straight from El Gouna, I crashed into the Zurich Film Festival. This festival, with its green carpets, has been growing in stature every year. It’s the sister festival to San Sebastian and benefits from filmmakers coming straight from the Basque region to Switzerland. Zurich has improved a lot in recent years, but the selection has yet to catch fire. The big Swiss festival, Locarno, has a much more progressive and diverse programme. This year was a watershed for Zurich in many ways as it was the final year that co-founders Nadja Schildknecht (managing director) and Karl Spoerri (artistic director) were at the helm. They will be board members and advisors to the festival from here on in. Some months before the festival started, Zurich announced that leading film journalist Christian Jungen, the chief cultural editor at the German-language Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, had joined the Zurich Film Festival and would take over as Artistic Director in 2020. The appointment shows that good taste and a long career observing the film industry is still a way into festival curating (despite my earlier observation), especially for celebrations of cinema looking to be bolder in their selection.

One of the changes that can immediately be made, that would highlight a bit more risk-taking, is the creation of more captivating movie posters. I hope Jungen changes this up too. The Zurich Film Festival has a strong logo presence, but the desire to have a visual identity that appears on tickets, festival cars and stationery has led to the uninspiring and corporate logo dominating the festival poster. Where is the fun? The use of the logo on the poster is more bland corporate identity than art. Let’s face it, the formula for many film festivals is the same, you have films, industry talks and events with a bit of glamour on the carpet, it’s the other stuff that stokes the audience imagination that creates buzz. That starts with a good poster.

London Film Festival 

Festival Director Tricia Tuttle

The London Film Festival also went for the abstract approach to designing their visual identity. At first glance, it feels even more abstract than that in Toronto and less cohesive with it’s merging triangles and colours. The British Film Institute said when launching the poster: “Delivered in collaboration with creative agency DBLG, the design continues to develop iconography that was inspired by the beautiful NFT sign on our building at BFI Southbank, which was created in 1957 by Norman Engleback, and harks back to some of our classic Festival artwork from the 60s.” Hmm. If you say so! I’ve been to the BFI Southbank building countless times, and I’m at a loss about the beautiful NFT sign! 

London is my hometown film festival, so I guess that makes me harder on it, in the way that happens in families. It was the first year that Tricia Tuttle was officially in charge as festival head. The year before she was acting head, so 2019 wasn’t her first festival in the hot seat. Her promotion seemed to be an anointment rather than an appointment. I was surprised that there was not a more significant fanfare about the failure to open up the application process, but not too surprised. Tricia is very personable and is well-qualified for the role and probably would have got the job anyway. Also, it’s hard to imagine many clamoring for a position that involves programming a festival around talent that is coming to London for BAFTA screenings so that they can campaign for award season votes. London feels like a hostage to the awards season. 

That being said the clamoring for votes is terrific timing for the festival as it means it gets a host of talent to attend the festival because it’s the early stage of the awards campaigning when producers and studios are still unsure of what will emerge as the frontrunners. Consequently, it struggles to be a festival of discovery or even a festival of festivals, despite the introduction in recent years of competition segments. The surprising omission of Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms meant that this was the first time that I can remember that none of the Berlin, Cannes, or Venice Best Film winners played at the festival. (Someone will no doubt fact check this and prove me wrong!) 

As with any festival that has this many films and star names, the attention gets placed on the usual suspects. While film festivals are the life-blood of smaller independent films, it is harder than ever for them to emerge and break out into the mainstream. It’s a chicken and egg situation. London does try to make this push, but the sheer size and scale of the operation, and the need to get audiences through the door means it usually fails. How hard it is for films to get noticed is the struggle of our times, and it’s even harder persuading a distributor to release it after a festival appearance, which sounds odd given that more movies are coming out each week than ever before. London is just another festival that seems to favor the studios rather than the independents, as it’s easier to get bums on seats and ticket sales for blockbusters, even if the goal is to highlight smaller films and BFI funded films. However, I realize I know I’m more aware of the issues of the festival in regards to the distribution scene in the United Kingdom, as I’m much more often in contact with the local sales agents, distributors and exhibitors, which could be highlighting the problem. I’m sure the same story is being told elsewhere, but it is one that comes into sharp focus for me in London.

Lumière Film Festival 

Festival Director: Thierry Frémaux

When not presiding over Cannes, Thierry Frémaux is the director of the Institut Lumière, in Lyon. The museum and the festival are located within the grounds of the Lumière family house, around the site that the Lumière brothers shot one of their earliest works, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon. It’s often called the first motion picture ever made. The Institut Lumière was founded in 1982, and charged with promotion and preservation of film. Acclaimed French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier is President and Frémaux is its director. It’s a job that Frémaux clearly loves. One of my best experiences in a cinema was watching Frémaux live-present Lumière! A film he directed in 2016, made up of clips and reels of early French cinema. The witty and engaging commentary that he delivers as the reels play is extraordinary and full of passion.

A decade ago, Frémaux decided to launch the Lumière Film Festival, which focuses on the history of cinema with a line-up dedicated to restored prints and retrospectives. There are some new films, presented when one of the many luminaries who come through the festival give a masterclass. Top talent comes, because of the connection to Cannes. The masterclasses are extensive, intriguing and unique, some of the best of the year. Go on their website and listen to the podcasts if you have not done so already, you will not be disappointed. It’s impossible not to have a fabulous time when spent watching the works of Lina Wertmüller, treasures from pre-code Hollywood, and re-mastered classics including 5 Fingers by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Phillipe Garrel’s Liberty at Night.

The Festival poster is in keeping with the cinematic history theme. It’s a poster of Francis Ford Coppola directing on the set of Rumble Fish. It’s in black and white, of course, and chosen to celebrate the fact that Coppola was in town to pick up the festival’s big honour, Prix Lumière. Coppola had a great time. My particular highlight was seeing him introduce The Cotton Club. A couple of days later at The Godfather Trilogy all-nighter, I was struck by how The Cotton Club and The Godfather movies use entertainment as a mask for nefarious activities. It is a great film festival, and a joy to see cinema through the eyes of Frèmaux, in a way that is impossible at Cannes. Bravo!

Red Sea Industry Workshop

Red Sea Festival Director: Mahmoud Sabbagh

The decision to allow cinemas to open in Saudi Arabia after a 30-year ban has brought a vast new audience and film market hungry for cinema. Saudi Arabia, with a population of around 70 million, is full of cinephiles. The cinemas that have been opening have been booked out. There have also been several Saudi films that have started to appear at film festivals. Haifaa Al Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate vied for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The observational comedy Barakah Meets Barakah by Mahmoud Sabbagh is one of the most popular films from the region on Netflix. It is Sabbagh, a pioneer as a director, who is leading the drive to set up the Red Sea Film Festival, and also the Red Sea Lodge, an incubator for regional filmmakers that’s been set-up in collaboration with the Torino Film Lab. Two of the projects will win a production grant of $500,000. Next year, the Red Sea Film Festival will have its inaugural edition in March.

I jumped at the chance of going to the Old Town in Jeddah for the weekend to meet the filmmakers from the 12 projects selected for incubation. The filmmakers seemed invigorated at workshops where leading industry experts were discussing and dissecting their scripts for just over a week. I watched enthralled as one workshop leader used toys to highlight character journeys and some structural problems. Egyptian filmmaker Marwan Hamed delivered a masterclass, where he discussed his career, including the adaptation of The Yacoubian Building. I was most impressed by the attendance, where the local community sat enthralled throughout and came armed with interesting and intelligent questions. It was a surprisingly more engaged audience than I had seen at other Middle East Film Festival over the years. Cairo usually being the best. 

There was no poster as such, although on the literature that was released, often the writing would come over a photographic image of the Unesco heritage site in Old Town Jeddah. It will be interesting to see what happens in March when the first edition launches. Will the festival be seen as Saudi filmmakers celebrating film for the first time in three decades or will it be clouded and judged by a geo-political narrative? Much will be in the eyes of the beholder.

Films From the South 

Festival Director: Lasse Skagen

I found myself in Norway again, this time in Oslo for Films From the South Film Festival, where I delivered a master class at the Sørfund Pitching Forum on “Festival and Press strategy” to Norwegian producers, international directors and producers. At Sørfund Pitching Forum six selected filmmakers from Latin America, Africa and Asia pitch their films that they hope will be backed by the Norwegian film fund in 2020. One of the great advantages of this fund is that you don’t have to invest the money in Norway, but you need to woo a local producer, who will then be your Norwegian co-production partner. The standard of filmmakers is extraordinary. Two of the filmmakers pitching at the event had won Lion of the Future awards, for best first film at the Venice Film Festival.

So I didn’t attend a film at the Films from the South Festival. This was a festival that for me was about helping filmmakers further their career. In Oslo, I was the one in control of the show, or more accurately the Powerpoint presentation. It’s great to talk to filmmakers directly in this way. The aim of the talk is to give them an idea of a strategy that might attract the media to their films, including which festivals they might get the best results at, and when or where they will need to employ publicists, find sales agents, or just do it on their own. It always amazes me that independent filmmakers have to be both architects and realtors, they plan, create and when they have finished their film, they then realise that it’s up to them to sell their films. Even if they have a great team behind them, or working with them, often festivals can be a confusing and demoralising place for a filmmaker. 

I looked through the Films from the South catalogue, and it was an impressive list of films that were screening, and Sørfund can be proud of the success the films they’ve funded have had, especially last year. The screenings highlight how there are so many great filmmakers around the world, and how much stimulating and fascinating work gets created each year. On the minus side, it’s demoralising to see so many amazing films get ignored. As for Lasse Skagen, who is also the Artistic Director at the Oslo Festival Agency, and has been at the Oslo Films from the South Foundation since 1997, our paths didn’t cross, but I admire his work. I was in contact with the SORFOND team. As for the poster for the festival, I have only just looked at it now, and have to say I like it. A rainbow of paint is segmented to show the sun high in the sky casting a shadow down to the sea, a clear distinction of the world between the North and the South. Although some may balk at my interpretation as it can also be looked at as a representation of privilege. 

Ajyal 2019 

Festival Director: Fatma Al Remaihi

If you have made it this far, I salute you. You must be as exhausted as I was by the start of December. For my last festival of the year, I was back in Doha at the Ajyal Film Festival. This time it didn’t seem like Fatma Al Remaihi and Hanaa Issa argued very much about the poster, as it was in the spirit of the posters from previous edition, featuring an explosion of colourful splintered geometric shapes creating a circle with no borders. The use of the white background, a change from the previously used black background, made it pop out even more.

It’s been a few years since I’d been to this festival, and I have to say I was very impressed with how much better it is now, then from it’s baby years. Ajyal’s excellent goal is to foster a love of cinema in children and young adults. There are 96 films screened from 39 countries, with the juries for these films made up of these young spectators, split up into various age groups. Each age group were given 4 to 6 movies to watch and judge. There were also workshops for the 400 jurors from 41 nationalities, including 40 international jurors. 

I delivered a quick talk on how to watch movies and criticize them. What was surprising was how little help they needed, and that they were open to the fact that film criticism can come in many forms these days, not just print, but also with memes, video streaming and just chatting to your friends over a milkshake. It was the perfect end to an exhausting year, and as I finally finish writing this up, I realise that I went to a hell of a lot of events last year, and it’s impressive how non-repetitive and unique each festival is.

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Five new laws that could affect your rights at work in 2020 – Somerset Live

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The year 2020 is set to see a range of new laws come into effect.

Here are five key employment law changes that could affect you at work, as explained by Abigail Hubert of Birketts LLP to The Gazette.

From how holiday pay is calculated – to the leave you can expect when you are grieving – these are worth knowing.

Improved rights for agency workers

‘Swedish Derogation,’ also known as ‘pay between assignments’ contracts would previously see agency workers agree a contract that would remove their rights to equal pay with permanent counterparts after 12 weeks working on the same assignment.

From April 6, these will no longer be permissible and agency workers who have been in their employment for 12 weeks will be entitled to the same pay as those on permanent contracts.

Agency workers will have more rights

As well as this, all agency workers will be entitled to a key information document that more clearly sets out their employment relationships and terms and conditions with their agency.

Agency workers who are considered to be employees will be protected from unfair dismissal or suffering a detriment if the reasons are related to asserting rights associated with The Agency Worker Regulations.

Holiday pay calculations changing

From April 6, the reference period to calculate a ‘week’s pay’ for holiday pay purposes will be extended from the previous 12 weeks of work to the previous 52 weeks.

This could affect employees who work variable hours seasonally.

New parental bereavement leave

In September 2018, a new workplace right for paid leave to be given to bereaved parents was officially enshrined in law.

The first of its kind in the UK, the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 2018 is expected to come into force in April 2020 and will give employed parents the right to two weeks leave if they lost a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Employed parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

New right to a written statement of terms

Currently, employees who have been continuously employed for more than one month must be provided with a written statement of terms within two months of employment commencing.

From April 6, all new employees and workers will have the right to a statement of written particulars from their first day of employment. Additional information will have to be included as part of the extended right.

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Accountability for tax shifting

At present, the IR35 rules apply where an individual personally performs services for a client through an intermediary. If the services were provided under a direct contract, the worker would be regarded for tax purposes as being employed by the client.

Currently, it is the intermediary’s responsibility to determine whether IR35 applies.

From April 6, changes to IR35 rules will be implemented for medium and large businesses in the private sector and will largely mirror changes that took effect in the public sector in 2017.

Under the new regime, for all contracts entered into, or payments made on or after April 6, the onus will shift from the intermediary to the end user client to make a status determination.

Responsibility for accounting for tax and national insurance will shift to the party who pays for the individual’s services, known as the ‘fee-payer.’

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Bagpipe-playing Canadian turns up at long-lost uncle’s home on Christmas Day – Nottinghamshire Live

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A Long Eaton man has described his shock at the moment a long-lost relative turned up at his home playing the bagpipes.

Tom Russell of Long Eaton had a Christmas Day he will never forget, when his half nephew flew in all the way from Canada to surprise him.

The 74-year-old told Derbyshire Live he began researching his family tree after he retired in 2010.

After finding a distant relative through Facebook, he had no idea of what lay in store.

He said: “Over the years I was successful in finding most of my relatives in the UK, Ireland and Italy, with the help of family members and, of course, the Internet.

“The one missing part was my father’s family, and all I had was the fact he was in the Canadian army during WW2, and based in England.”

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The former Royal Mail worker said his father Thomas Hutchinson, who was his half nephew’s grandfather, fought in both world wars.

Mr Hutchinson had moved to Canada from Dundee after the end of the First World War before returning to Britain close to the start of the Second World War.

After Mr Russell was born, his father was unable to take him back to Canada and after his mother lost her job, he was adopted in Britain.

With the help of his daughter, Mr Russell managed to use Facebook to make contact with someone in Canada using his father’s military rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.

bagpipe player

Through “discreet enquiries” to the contact – who was in fact his half nephew Brian Hutchinson – he found “various small details and dates (about his father) matched”.

Mr Russell added: “As the contact was now very intrigued, I revealed the reason for my veiled questioning, at which point he became very excited as he had for some years thought there was something he didn’t know.

“We investigated further to the point we did a DNA test which proved a perfect match.”

But for Mr Russell, the “biggest shock” was yet to come.

On Christmas Day 2019, Mr Russell’s half nephew, Brian Hutchinson, now in his 60s, turn up outside his front door playing the bagpipes, having flown in overnight from Toronto.

The pair then celebrated New Year’s Eve together before Mr Hutchinson went off to visit different areas in England, including Nottingham and York. Before heading home to Woodstock, Ontario, he is planning to visit London.

Watching the “accomplished” bagpipe player arrive was almost too much for Mr Russell who said he “virtually collapsed in a heap”.

“I’m still very emotional about it,” he said. “The rest of the family were in on it whilst I was kept in the dark like a mushroom.”

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When Universal Credit and benefits will change in 2020 and how you’ll be affected – Kent Live

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The General Election result meant a lot of things but it also ensured the continuation of Universal Credit.

Campaigners had been hoping for an end to the controversial scheme, with  Labour promising to scrap Universal Credit  altogether.

However, there will still be a number of changes to the benefits system this year – some of which will be good news for claimants, reports BirminghamLive .

Here’s the timetable of what will be happening – see how it will affect you.

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1. April 2020 – End of benefit freeze

The end to the benefit freeze would mean Universal Credit and other working age benefits rising by 1.7 per cent from April 2020.

The freeze was brought in by the Tories and came into effect from April 2016. It has meant that most benefits and tax credits have not gone up in line with inflation for four years.

Other benefits that have been frozen but are now set to rise are Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income support, housing benefit, child tax credits, working tax credits and child benefit.

Adam Corlett

The increase means someone on £1,000 a month in benefits will get an extra £17, equivalent to £204 over a year. Those receiving £500 a month get an extra £8.50.

But according to think-tank the Resolution Foundation, families will still be hundreds of pounds a year worse off due to the past five years of bills rising while benefits have remained at the same level.

The Resolution Foundation’s Adam Corlett said: “While the benefit freeze is over, its impact is here to stay with a lower income couple with kids £580 a year worse off as a result.”

2. April 2020 – Pension changes

The Government also said the state pension – which has not been frozen – will increase by 3.9 per cent.

This is expected to be announced in the Budget.

It means retired Brits are in line for £5.05 a week extra on the ‘old’ basic state pension and £6.60 a week on the ‘new’ state pension.

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The bad news is that the  adult dependency payment is being stopped  in April, which could mean thousands of pensions cut by £70 a week.

In addition, the qualifying age for men and women will rise to 66 in October 2020.

It means anyone born after October 5, 1954, will have a state pension age of at least 66.

And there will be further rises too. The Conservatives have set out plans to increase the state pension age to 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2039.

3. April 2020 – Disability benefit changes

The Scottish Government is taking on responsibility for disability benefits from April 1 and will implement changes after that.

In summer 2020, Social Security Scotland will open to claims for the brand new Disability Assistance for Children and Young People, which is Scotland’s replacement for Child Disability Living Allowance.

By the end of 2020, Social Security Scotland will also open to claims for the new Disability Assistance for Older People. This is the Scottish replacement for Attendance Allowance and is for people over the state pension age who need someone to help look after them because of a disability or long-term illness.

Also by the end of 2020, children who receive the highest care component of Disability Assistance will be entitled to Winter Heating Assistance.

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Further changes will come in 2021, including PIP being replaced by Disability Assistance for Working Age People and Carer’s Allowance being replaced by Carer’s Assistance.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville says the system will have a redesigned application process and significantly fewer face to face assessments.

There will be rolling awards with no set end points and those with fluctuating health conditions will not face additional reviews due to changes in their needs.

She said: ““Since the Social Security Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June [2018], progress has been swift.

““Our next priority is delivering payments for disabled people, as this is where we can make the most meaningful difference for the largest number of people.

“We have a duty to quickly reform the parts of the current system which cause stress, anxiety and pain. And I have been moved by the personal stories I have heard, many of which criticise the penalising assessment process.”

Around half a million cases – the equivalent of around 10 per cent of people in Scotland – will transfer from DWP to Social Security Scotland in 2020.

Ms Somerville added: “This is not simply a case of turning off one switch and turning on another. For the first time in its history, our agency will be making regular payments, direct to people’s bank accounts and our systems need to work seamlessly with those of the DWP.

“It is therefore essential we have a system that is fully operational for those making new claims and ensure we protect everyone and their payments as their cases are transferred – that is what those who rely on social security support have told us they want. We must work to a timetable that reflects the importance of moving quickly but not putting people’s payments at risk.”

During the transfer no-one will have to reapply for benefits, no claims will be reassessed and payments will be protected.

She added: “The timetable I have set out is ambitious but realistic and at all points protects people and their payments. I have seen the mess the DWP has made when transferring people to PIP and introducing Universal Credit, and we will not make the same mistakes.    

“There is much hard work to be done but the prize is great – a social security system with dignity, fairness and respect at its heart and which works for the people of Scotland.”

4. June 2020 – TV licence changes

Free TV Licences, funded by the Government, for all those aged 75 and over will come to an end in June. So you can get a free licence up to May 31, 2020.

From June 1, a new scheme means you can only carry on getting a free licence if you – or your partner – are receiving Pension Credit.

If not, you’ll have to fork out the cost of a TV licence – which is £154.50 per year for a colour TV, and £52 for black and white. You can choose to pay monthly (£12.87 a month), quarterly (£39.87 every three months) or yearly.

Brits

So it’s worth checking if you can get Pension Credit to avoid the licence fee.

Pension Credit is a top-up benefit payment available if you or your partner have reached state pension age, or if one of you is getting housing benefit for people over pension age. You get more if you’re responsible for a child or young person who lives with you and is under the age of 20.

There are two elements to Pension Credit. Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income if it’s below £167.25 (for single people) or £255.25 (for couples), while Savings Credit is an extra payment for people who saved some money towards their retirement and is up to £13.73 for single people and up to £15.35 for couples.

The Pension Service helpline is available on 0800 731 0469. Call Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. Calls to 0800 numbers are free.

5.  July 2020 – Universal Credit transition protection extended

From July 22, claimants are to get an additional two weeks of income-related Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Income Support if they receive one of these benefits when moving across to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is intended to replace six existing benefits in total.

People are transferred on to UC if their circumstances change – such as moving home or having a child. This is called natural migration.

Everyone else on the six old benefits will have to move across in a managed migration scheme by the DWP that is set to be completed by December 2023 and is currently being tried out in Harrogate from July 2019 to July 2020.

Normally, existing benefits are terminated when a Universal Credit claim begins but the Government has amended the rules to allows a “two-week run-on” of the three benefits named above.

6. September 2020 – Universal Credit change for self employed

The DWP works out Universal Credit for self-employed people using what’s called a Minimum Income Floor (MIF).

This is roughly equivalent to the national minimum wage for each hour the claimant is expected to work.

It can mean Universal Credit is calculated on a higher level of earnings than you were actually paid.

However, this Minimum Income Floor is not applied to those who started a business within the past 12 months .

And from September 2020, this 12-month exclusion period will also not apply to “those who are naturally migrated in self-employment and all those existing UC claimants who become new gainfully self-employed.”

‘Naturally migrated’ means switched across to Universal Credit because of a change in circumstances.

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Karolina Kowalkiewicz Needs Titanium Plate For Broken Face, May Have To Retire – MiddleEasy.com

Karolina Kowalkiewicz Needs Extensive Facial Surgery Following Auckland Loss

Karolina Kowalkiewicz took quite a beating in her most recent contest. Now it seems possible that she will be unable to fight again, following a need for surgery.

Kowalkiewicz faced Xianon Yan last month, at UFC Auckland. She was beat pillar to post, en route to a unanimous decision loss. However what concerned fans was the massive amount of damage she took during the fight.

The bout was somewhat controversial, due to some questionable officiating on the cageside doctor’s part. In between the first and second rounds, the doctor came to look at Karolina’s eye, as she had noticably been struggling to see after taking a shot to the face. Despite the fact the doctor allowed the bout to continue, she struggled seeing for the rest of the fight, with the damage only compounding.

Now it seems the decision for Karolina Kowalkiewicz to keep fighting is having some serious repercussions. She recently took to her Instagram Stories to answer questions about her health. Here, she revealed that she would be undergoing surgery on Thursday, to get a titanium plate in her face. Moreover, this has left concerns that she may not be able to compete anymore.

“I hope it wasn’t my last fight but now I’m focused on my health,” she said in her story.

If this truly was the last time Karolina Kowalkiewicz is able to fight, it is a massive shame. While there is no point in focusing on what should have happened, it is hard to not feel like the doctor or someone in her corner should have stopped the fight earlier. Regardless, MiddleEasy wishes her a successful surgery, and speedy recovery.

For more MMA News, Rumors and Updates follow the Red Monster on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram

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When and where you can see a historic steam train travel through Cambs – Cambridgeshire Live

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A historic steam train will be travelling through a part of Cambridgeshire this year, giving train buffs a chance to see the iconic locomotive.

Ely station will be treated to a rare sighting of one of only two surviving B1 class locomotives.

The train will be passing through the station on April 11, 2020, on its journey from London to Lincoln – where passengers will enjoy a day out in the cathedral city.

The 63106 Mayflower will also be passing through several other nearby stations including Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds (as well as others listed below).

Steam train enthusiasts can buy tickets to ride it to Lincoln, or simply visit the stations it passes through to catch a glimpse of the magnificent machine.

Find out more about timings and the train’s exciting history below.

About the engine

Abigail Rabbett

As reported by our sister title EssexLive, the 63106 Mayflower is one of only two surviving B1 Class locomotives, designed to haul either express passenger trains or freight traffic.

She was built in 1948 by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow and first deployed in Hull, before being transferred to Bradford.

Mayflower was the last B1 in service, with her final trip spent hauling the ‘Yorkshire Pullman’ from Leeds in September 1967.

The train was restored in the 1970s, acquired by Steam Dreams owner David Buck in 2014 ad returned to mainline service in 2015, before being withdrawn for an extensive overhaul.

Where can you see it?

Here are the times the train will be passing in and out of Ely and nearby stations on its journey:

For more information and tickets for the journey, visit the Steam Dreams website.

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