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Whitley Bay Film Festival sets to make a splash

The scene is set and in just a matter of days it’ll be full-on action in Whitley Bay as the seaside town's annual film festival gets rolling

Concert performer Jonathan Middleton played at last year's festival
Concert performer Jonathan Middleton played at last year's festival

The scene is set and in just a matter of days it’ll be full-on action in Whitley Bay as the seaside town’s annual film festival gets rolling with two packed weeks of drama, comedy and overseas adventure.

For the first time the not-for-profit festival, now in its fourth year and winner of last year’s Best Event Tyneside in The Journal Culture Awards, is venturing beyond the coast: on a mini-cruise to Amsterdam to be exact.

Always keen to tackle something new, it is launching the Whitley Bay Film Festival Movie Cruise, which will see it screen themed movies for two nights on high seas en route to the Dutch capital (passports required!).

It’s just one of the highlights of the newly-announced programme which will showcase 35 films accompanied by art, live performance, music, food and exhibitions between August 16 and September 5.

Its scale is bigger than ever this year in a town that refuses to be deterred by the fact it doesn’t have a cinema.

On board a ship might seem an unusual location, but the festival made its debut in 2010 with a dramatic screening on the beach of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and other events have seen even kitchens and ice-cream vans commandeered for use. St Mary’s Lighthouse, previously used as an atmospheric backdrop for horror classic The Fog, will this time be playing a part in setting the tone for Hitchcock’s Vertigo on August 19.

The Spanish City dome will also be back in use as a makeshift cinema.

Last year a disused back room there also played host to Secret Cinema – the popular night where film buffs solve last-minute clues to discover the film and its location – and provided a suitably eerie setting for a screening of Alien.

This time the dome has more of a starring role, showing up to five movies a day including When Harry Met Sally, which festival fans voted for to fill the Saturday Night Chick Flick slot.

The festival will launch with a 40s-theme Moroccan gala featuring a screening of 1942 classic Casablanca and other highlights of a programme rich in retro films and cult classics include a screening of Ken Loach’s Kes on August 29, complete with a falconry display, exhibition football match by Whitley Bay Football Club juniors and discussion with the film’s star David Bradley.

Festival patron Ian La Frenais, who’s from Whitley Bay, has picked That’ll Be The Day, starring David Essex and Ringo Starr, in celebration of its 40th anniversary.

Screenwriter Ray Connolly will attend a Q&A session with local music and film historian Chris Phipps on August 26. All tastes are being catered for, from sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey through a day of back-to-back superhero movies (with prizes for best home-made costumes) and a midnight screening of horror flick Evil Dead.

Adding colour and spectacle will be such attractions as a Film Mela Bollywood event, which will combine food from an Indian restaurant with a showing of Monsoon Wedding, and a cycle-along screening of Belleville Rendezvous.

Arthouse screenings and installations will also feature alongside new works by local film makers and community groups, independents and archive footage celebrating Whitley Bay past and present, and it will all play out against a backdrop of exhibitions, performances and live music.

For the full programme keep see www.whitleybayfilmfestival.co.uk

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