FEATURE: Congleton Film Festival

Situated about twenty miles south of Manchester, some of you may not have heard of Congleton, an old market town with a questionable relationship with bibles and bears, but those of you who have may have also heard that it's about to host the very first Congleton Film Festival on the 28th to the 30th of September.

Organised by resident Sam Astbury, the Congleton Film Festival has been designed as a celebration of the town's cinematic history and the screening locations were all formerly cinemas in their own right. Raising awareness of Congleton's cinematographic past, the festival will offer town residents an insight into the ongoings of regional film-making with entries from film-makers from Cheshire and the North-West region. The selection is an interesting and varied one, ranging from The P.O.W, following a prisoner-of-war attempting to escape, to Birdie about a faded and forgotten sportsman. In terms of the films' selection, Sam states that 'as it is the first year, I wasn't looking for anything in particular. The festival is not a competition so its main aim is to celebrate film in its entirety'.

The celebration of film, particularly on a local level, is the festival's main focus; "I felt that a film festival was the best way to explore Congleton's cultural heritage because the town has such a strong cinematic past, having had four cinemas over the years," Sam explains, "Film is also something that I believe can bring people together in a shared experience and as the town has an active connection to the past, this festival was a perfect way to represent this." As well as the film screenings themselves, Sam has organised various events to coincide with the festival weekend. One such event is a workshop being held at The Electric Picture House Artists' Co-Operative and will hopefully inspire a new generation of local film-makers that can keep the festival running.

My family have lived in Congleton for 15 years now and it came as a surprise to learn about the town's history with film and cinemas. Growing up in a fairly small town can often be dull and without any major events, I remember frequently lamenting that it never had any cinemas or indeed, much else to do but wander around and amuse ourselves in the park. This film festival is a really exciting event for Congleton, a chance to explore film-making in the local area and perhaps inspire more young people to pick up a camera. Wandering around a town can turn into fantastic films and capture little moments or memorable occasions. 

Sam has big ambitions for the film festival and rightly so. Congleton has recently seen a burst in cultural happenings of which the cinematic is only one. As Sam explains, 'depending on the success of this one, I don't see why it couldn't become an annual event which could co-enside with those more established in the town such as the Jazz and Blues Festival.' The locality is also extremely important, particularly in the venues chosen for the screenings. Illucini's Cafe stands in Capitol Walk which takes its name from the Capitol Cinema which used to stand in its place while the Electric Picture House Artists' Co-Operative was formerly the Electric Picture Palace. It will be an event that is deeply rooted in the town's history and it will hopefully add to the town's sense of community.

So if you happen to be in the area or feel like journeying to a small market town with big ambitions, set aside a weekend and see what Congleton Film Festival has to offer.

Festival Timetable:

Friday 28th September - Illucinis Cafe Bar, Capitol Walk (7pm Start)

FOCUS: Congleton's Film-Makers.

Destiny Awaits - Directed by David Gowin

Escaped Loonies - Directed by David Gowin

MAIN FEATURE: Being Sold - Directed by Phil Hawkins (hopefully followed by Director's Q&A)

Saturday 29th September - The Electric Picture House Artists' Co-Op (7pm Start)

FOCUS: Varied and Further Afield

Birdie - Directed by Rhys Fullerton

The P.O.W. - Directed by John Hamlett

SPECIAL GUEST: Roger Shannon

Sunday 30th September - Congleton Community Garden (7pm Start - Subject to Change)

FOCUS: Family Film

Secret Screening - Film to be revealed.

For further information, please head over to the Congleton Film Festival website or the Facebook page.

- Becky

You can follow Becky on Twitter @beckygracelea
Or follow her blog beckygracelea.wordpress.com

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