Catherine O'Flynn on 7inch
As part of our tenth anniversary stock-take, we're compiling a little almanac summarising all that we've been up to since 2003. Author Catherine O'Flynn (What Was Lost, The News Where You Are) has kindly written a foreword for the book, and here it is:
I left Birmingham for Barcelona in 2002. When I returned three years later I found my home city had changed. The creaking, oozing Bull Ring had lost its definite article and become the human lobster pot known simply as Bullring. Those seemingly modern, twin communication landmarks of the city, the Post and Mail building and Pebble Mill studios, had been reduced to rubble. But a vague sense of disorientation and loss was always the background hum to life in Birmingham, so the demolition and redevelopment failed to really shock. What was more unsettling was the sense I had that something less tangible but more important had also shifted while I’d been away. I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
Someone who lived in my house during my absence had left a mysterious sticker on the bedroom window. A black and white image of a man with a camera and the words ‘7 Inch Cinema’. It seemed a clue worth following up.
Trish Keenan of Broadcast at Dream Within a Dream in 2008. Image by Richard Short.
After that I attended 7 Inch Cinema and Flatpack Festival events in pubs, in converted factories, in art galleries, in tents, in listed historic houses and once in a bus. In retrospect it seems shameful that previously I had known nothing of the work of Len Lye; or had never, in its 30 odd year existence, seen John Smith’s brilliant The Girl Chewing Gum; or heard Mark E. Smith read the football results. But the 7 Inch agenda was never to make the audience feel reprehensibly dumb. It seemed driven by an inclusive kind of enthusiasm, albeit enthusiasm of a nicely understated, softly spoken variety.
Flatpack is not a parochial affair. The programming embraces the global and showcases work from around the world, that most of us would never otherwise stumble across. Somehow they manage to combine that internationalism with a solid sense of community and place and that goes a lot further than just showing films by local filmmakers or playing Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham. It’s a more generalised celebration of artists, performers and writers working in the city: collaborations with musicians like Pram or Broadcast, or screenings to accompany Stan’s Cafe’s 24 Hour Scalextric.
Back in 2005, after finding the sticker on my window I signed up for 7 Inch Cinema mail outs. I discovered a listings service that was nicely curated but generous; expansive but intimate; and a valuable source of new sandwich venue recommendations. It was there that I learned of other mysterious organisations and events that had sprung up while I’d been living away, amongst them Ikon Eastside, The Rainbow pub and the Supersonic Festival. I’d returned to Birmingham because I’d had a perverse hankering for a certain kind of mediocrity, for empty Sunday afternoons, for anonymous A-road carveries and mosaic lined underpasses. It was a little disorientating then to find so much stuff going on, and yet stuff that somehow picked up exactly on that certain plangent Betaville tone and turned it into something beautiful or exciting. Flatpack seemed to me to embody that and still does.