23-27 March 2011
A bit of a pivotal year, this one. We received the final instalment of our Film Council funding, shortly before the ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’ saw it close down. It was the swansong for co-director Pip McKnight, who after five glorious years had decided that she wanted to deliver babies for a living instead. Likewise, designer Gas left us for the bright lights of London, leaving only a cloud of Cutter’s Choice and yet another nifty brochure (in newspaper form for the first time). The blow of these departures was softened by the arrival of Selina Hewlett and Sam Groves, both of whom would become key members of the team.
Once again Vivid was transformed into the festival hub, this time rechristened ‘the Dirty End’ and co-hosted by Fierce Festival, with whom we shared dates for the first and only time. I’m pretty sure this was the balmiest edition ever, with guests and punters strolling down Heath Mill Lane in shorts and flip-flops (though the memory can play tricks). Perambulating the city was the recently-restored Vintage Mobile Cinema, screening archive films to curious hordes, and soon-to-be Flatpack regular Ben Waddington hosted a walk for the first time – in this instance revealing some of the city’s forgotten picturehouses.
Live treats included Shadow Shows, a new piece by Pram and Scott Johnston, and a mesmerising turn by Hiromichi Sakamoto combining cello and angle-grinder. Wilson and Conway’s every minute, always was a ‘headphone performance’ for two at the Electric which drew on Brief Encounter, and the film itself was presented by the irrepressible Richard Dyer. Our patron saint was Iris Barry, an unsung daughter of Birmingham whose trajectory led from 1900s Ward End to Bloomsbury bohemia, from becoming the first woman to write film reviews for a daily newspaper to setting up the first national film archive at MOMA in New York.
Among the screenings were China’s first independent animated feature, Uruguyan cine-reverie A Useful Life, the short films of Al Jarnow and a midwifery-themed programme in honour of Pip. Tony Garnett came to introduce the provocative, gritty Prostitute (sparking some interesting Balsall Heath conversations), and Czech marvel Daisies screened in memory of Trish Keenan. Award for the most rambunctious, eye-opening Q&A of the festival must go to Chris Needham, emerging from rural East Midlands seclusion to discuss his legendary 1992 video diary.