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past festivals


The hilarious feelgood comedy The Broken Arrow was our Opening Gala presentation. Members of the cast and crew, including Chris Simmons, Ste Johnston and Alan Ford, joined our patron Vicki Michelle on the red carpet, giving the festival a wonderful lift-off. Local cinema historian Chris Izod excelled himself, with two presentations of local interest - Southend on Film and Southend's Theatres - and a third, Treasures from The White Bus Archive, in which he was joined by Festival Director Paul Cotgrove, during which they chatted about their respective careers in the film industry while watching some true rarities from our own Film Archives. Festival regular Daryl Easlea was with us in a more personal capacity: Usually, he is the interviewer, but this time around he was the subject, as he celebrated his 45 years in the pop world since he sold his first record at the counter at Southend's WH Smith. Leigh on Sea based artist Sheila Appleton was profiled, and the hugely successful Mostly Made in Southend short film strands made another welcome appearance. Also returning was Mark Joseph, with another tribute to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, including special guest Terry Adlam, creator of Dick Spanner, P. I. Sadly, the festival ended on a very poignant note, with a celebration of the life of local actor, director, writer and producer Darren Kent, who passed away last year. Tributes were fulsome, interspersed with some of his films. Darren was a festival regular, and is much missed. 

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Our Opening Gala was the very moving drama A Bit of Light, and we were delighted to welcome members of the cast and crew, including director Stephen Moyer and writer/actress Rebecca Callard. We closed with the World Premiere of Best Geezer, a hilarious take on British crime thrillers. In between, a very special highlight was the evening we spent with The Kursaal Flyers. This Southend-based group had been the subject of a documentary back in the 70s, and this was followed by interviews with members of the band - and a wonderful live rendition of their famous hit 'Little Does She Know'! Transport on the River Thames and the devastating Canvey Island floods of 1953 were recalled in our heritage presentations, while an innovation that proved to be a huge success was two programmes of locally-made short films. These demonstrated just what wonderful filmmaking talent we have in our city. Of course, Laurel & Hardy were back, together with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson: on Film, and all the favourites that added up to a wonderfully successful festival. 


Back in our usual slot, in May, the 'Made in Essex' initiative from 2021 was followed by 'Made in Southend', another fascinating collection of short films, this time filmed in and around our very city. It really is amazing what talent we have in this corner of Essex! Our Opening Gala was the bittersweet comedy/drama There's Always Hope, and we were absolutely delighted that star Colm Meaney was able to join us, alongside other guests including director Tim Lewiston and producer Victor Glynn. Colm flew in with his lovely wife Ines, and they had a wonderful time 'at the seaside'! Southend's very own Kursaal and Pier featured in heritage presentations and super-fan Mark Joseph presented a very special Gerry and Sylvia Anderson show on 16mm film. And for the Closing Gala Phil Davis, having enjoyed the festival so much in 2021, returned to celebrate his 50 years in showbusiness with a screening of I.D. (from 1995, which he directed) after which he was interviewed by SFF patron Vicki Michelle in a wonderful chat that memorably continued into the small hours in the adjacent casino!


With the COVID-19 pandemic inevitably putting paid to the 2020 festival, we were very relieved to be 'back in business' in 2021. The ongoing situation still had its impact, however, with the gradual easing of the national restrictions resulting in the festival being put back from May to September. Nevertheless, the festival was another great success, with patrons clearly eager to resume their pre-pandemic filmgoing. The Opening Gala, Brighton, set the tone, with director Stephen Cookson and star Phil Davis joining fans on the red carpet. All the festival favourites were back, while an innovation was 'Made in Essex', a collection of locally-produced short films that proved to be extremely popular. And the Closing Gala was a rather special presentation, as Killing Dad had been filmed in and around our main venue, the Park Inn Palace Hotel (or Palace Hotel, as it was then) in 1990! It was wonderful to see the hotel (including its bingo hall!) long before its multi-million pound makeover into the luxury hotel it is today.


Our Opening Gala was a re-run, of sorts, of our 2016 Closing Gala! Since that screening, Simon Frith's wonderful documentary Under the Radar: The Mike Edmonds Story had been extended and re-cut, and we thought it would be lovely to give this new version a proper red-carpet showcase. Mike was on hand to make this another very memorable evening. Our Closing Gala was also a little different, as we presented a programme of short films, all of which took 'our town' as their starting point.

Otherwise, it was the usual eclectic mix of classics, documentaries and World Cinema - and heritage presentations, which this time took a look at 'Old Leigh Through the Ages' and the iconic EKCO factory


This year's Gala proudly linked with the Lindsay Anderson Foundation to present the official screening of if…., the classic, biting satire from director Lindsay Anderson, in the year of its 50th anniversary.  This star studded evening saw the attendance of cast and crew and proved a fitting celebration of the Film Festival's own 10th anniversary.

The Lost Films of the Kursaal made a welcome return after two sell-out shows in 2017. Local musician Adam Ramet will once again provided live accompaniment.

Elsewhere, alongside World Cinema, classics and special presentations and events, was a full programme of new British features and documentaries, including the Closing Gala, the amazing One Man’s Madness, featuring Lee Jay Thompson, co-founder and saxophonist of iconic band Madness.

Yet another successful Festival!


The highlight was undoubtedly the screening of The Lost Films of the Kursaal. Filmed by Jay Morehouse, owner of this famous amusement park, from the 1940s to the 1960s, they had been thought lost, but were rescued from obscurity and provided us with one of our most exciting Opening Galas.


They were repeated, to another sell-out crowd, during the festival. Another sell-out show was the screening, on 16mm, of the complete print of Laurel & Hardy's classic comedy The Battle of the Century, which had also been thought lost. We were also delighted to welcome collector Mark Joseph, who presented, on 16mm, episodes from TV's Thunderbirds and Space 1999, accompanied by wonderful displays of memorabilia and original models.


By complete contrast, the Closing Gala was the wild and wacky AmStarDam, made by the equally wild and wacky Lennox Brothers! This wonderful comedy provided the perfect finale for what was a terrific festival!


This year’s festival opened with a bang, with the World Premiere of the powerful thriller London Heist. We were especially delighted that lead actor Craig Fairbrass could join us on the Red Carpet.


By complete contrast, but equally enthralling, was the Closing Gala screening of Under the Radar: The Mike Edmonds Story, at which the diminutive actor (Return of the Jedi, Harry Potter and many more) joined us alongside director Simon Frith.


Another World Premiere was Essex Disco Fever, a documentary about those wonderful disco nights in Southend, while Respectable: The Mary Millington Story received its Festival Premiere. In other screenings, new British features, including Anna Unbound, The Carrier, K-Shop, Bonded by Blood 2 and The Family Outing, rubbed shoulders with the best of recent World Cinema, documentaries and classics.


The Opening Gala screening of the new British thriller Age of Kill and the Closing Gala screening of the unnerving, powerful drama Still, another British feature, book-ended this year’s festival and cemented our reputation as the home of UK independent productions. 


Other new UK productions included My Horrible Love, The Liberator, iWitness, Blood and Carpet and Solitary. And the “house full” signs went up especially early for Abusing Protocol, co-directed by celebrated local actor Darren Kent, which played to a hugely enthusiastic crowd. In between, the usual mix of classics, World Cinema, documentaries and audience favourites provided, as they say, ‘something for everyone’. 

2014 was a very special year indeed, when we presented to the world ‘The Lost Films of Peter Sellers’. The remarkable story of how these short comedies, long thought to be lost, were salvaged from a skip in London and presented at our Opening Gala quickly became the stuff of legend.


Many celebrities, and friends and family of the late iconic comedian, joined us for a fantastic occasion. The films were given a second showing at a sold-out screening that preceded our presentation, as our Closing Gala, of the legendary black comedy The Magic Christian, at which we were honoured to have director Joseph McGrath as our very special guest.


In between these very special events, the festival showcased the usual range of films, documentaries and events, from Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple to appearances by rock stars John Otway and Bruno Wizard.


We were absolutely delighted that Phil Davies was able to join us, together with rising co-star Theo Barlem-Biggs, for the Opening Gala screening of Borrowed Time.


Many other members of the cast and crew came along for a fantastic evening which set the tone for the rest of the festival, where, among many wonderful presentations, Fred and Ginger rubbed shoulders with Laurel & Hardy! Chris Fenwick, manager of famed local group Dr. Feelgood, presented a programme of shorts filmed on his beloved Canvey Island, while Ray Cooney and Vicki Michelle introduced Run For Your Wife, fittingly at the Palace Theatre, where the stage version has enjoyed tremendous success.


The cast and crew from N.F.A. [No Fixed Abode] joined us for a wonderful Closing Gala, bringing the curtain down on yet another hugely successful festival.


The fourth Southend-on-Sea Film Festival started in fine fashion with the cast and crew from our Opening Gala, Hard Boiled Sweets, joining Festival Patron, Ray Winstone, at the red-carpet screening at the Odeon.


Films screened during the festival ranged from classics (Swing Time, No Orchids for Miss Blandish) through World Cinema (The Salt of Life, The Light Thief) and family films (Tintin, Bugsy Malone Sing-A-Long) to wonderful new documentaries (Casuals, East End Babylon) with much more besides! Once again, we were joined by many actors and filmmakers. Our Closing Gala was UK Premiere of the drama Lost in Italy, with the actors and filmmakers joining us for this wonderful occasion.

To celebrate the third Southend-on-Sea Film Festival our Opening Gala was a 30th anniversary presentation of iconic British gangster film The Long Good Friday, starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren.


We were joined by producer Barry Hanson, writer Barrie Keeffe and stars P. H. Moriarty, Paul Barber, Kevin McNally, Karl Howman and Gillian Taylforth (and her sister Kim). Our patron, Ray Winstone, was also on hand. Screenings during the festival included The Ballad of Mott the Hoople, Taylor Made: My Life in Lights, Grave Tales, Do Elephants Pray?, Room 36 and its companion documentary Room 36: Eleven Years in the Making, Never Take Sweets from a Stranger and Day of the Triffids.


As ever, many of these screenings and events were supported by actors and filmmakers. Our Closing Gala was a special screening of the new British comedy Being Sold, with the actors and filmmakers joining us for this wonderful occasion.


The second Southend-on-Sea Film Festival was opened by the powerful drama Fathers of Girls.


Star Ray Winstone and directors Karl Howman and Ethem Cetintas, together with many others from the film, were our special guests at the Opening Gala. Special screenings during the festival included Oil City Confidential, Witchfinder General, The Birdbrook Ghost Hunt, The Devil’s Music and Morris: A Life with Bells, with many of the filmmakers and actors joining us to introduce their films.


The festival closed with a special screening of the gritty police drama SUS, with cast and crew in attendance. After the festival, Ray Winstone generously agreed to become our Patron.


This was the very first Southend-on-Sea Film Festival. Our Opening Gala was the premiere of the acclaimed urban drama Shifty, with many of the cast and crew in attendance. 


Other highlights included Q&As by guests such as Cass Pennant (Cass), Jim Groom (Room 36) and the cast and crew from Special People, short films from South East Film Makers, archive footage in Southend Past as well as favourites such as Mamma Mia!, Time Bandits and Singin’ in the Rain.

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