Convention Review

The 33rd Festival of Fantastic Films

Jonathan Cowie reviews the event at the Pendulum Hotel
Manchester, 20th – 22nd October 2023.


This was my first Festival since 2012, as since then life had thrown me a few curved balls: I had used to go regularly with our co-founding editor Graham and Donna and a few other semi-regulars.  Back in the 1990s to early 2000s, those gatherings were a chance to meet and have a catch-up with the Fest's co-founder and leading light Harry Nadler as well as with his since school days friend, and subsequent business partner, Charles Partington: I had originally met Chuck and Harry back in my postgrad year, 1982/3 (I spent that year in Salford, a 45-minute walk from Manchester's centre, and enjoyed the fortnightly MaD SF meets (Manchester and District SF, not to be confused with BaD SF – Bolton and District)).  Both Chuck and Harry, of course, were die-hard science fiction fans.  So, after a decade's absence from the Fest, my 2023 return was long overdue.

Fest logo

For a number of years following Harry's sad passing, his successor principal organiser found it (ahem) difficult to delegate, but at least the Fest continued. When he too passed in 2020, a new, broader committee formed composed of past Fest regulars and the first of this new incarnation of Fests took place in 2021 (the 2020 Fest itself was cancelled due to CoVID lockdown).

Fortunately, since my last visit Darrell Buxton and then Ian Taylor have been providing Fest conreps for SF² Concatenation (2021 Fest review here and 2022 Fest here).  Since my last Fest, 2012, the Fest has been on a bit of a rollercoaster, with attendance down to about 70 in 2021 (that was fewer even than the 90+ that attended the Harry Nadler and Tony Edwards organised first Fest). However, with the new committee, Fest attendance rose to around 100 in 2022, and it was this year (2023) up yet again to around 150.

As would be expected, there were some changes – in most part for the better – and a few things that remained the same, some good, some bad, and some of which were completely out of the organisers' control.

First up, the programme book.

Here there was really great news….

It was a major upgrade to what had recently gone before as over the years since Harry's passing the programme book had become reduced to little more than the programme schedule plus some notes. The programme book that greeted us this year had a bigger page count and was closer in information content to that of an SF con programme book of the 1980s and '90s but with higher, early 21st century reprographics: A3 folded to A4, saddle stitch, full colour print on gloss art paper. It looked the business with: Guests of Honour (GoHs) profiles, photomontage of the previous Fest; Delta Awards article, articles on various programme items and films; and, of course, the programme schedule.

Programme book

The only down side to the convention package is that the convention badges were missing: a badge with a large font name on it helps greatly when trying to remember someone's name from years ago let alone identify strangers, and to have different colours for Guests of Honour (GoHs) so that one knows that they may not be familiar with Fest customs etc. But apparently, something happened with the badge-making machine…. Still, the much-improved programme book made up for this.

Guests of Honour
Despite the Fest's small size compared to other conventions and film fests, there were a good few GoHs – dare I say possibly too many (more does not always equal better) – which meant getting to see them all was impossible if one was to do other things such as see films, socialise etc.  This year's hefty roster included:  actor Andy Nyman (Kick Ass 2, Shaun the Sheep Movie);  Madeline Smith (actress in countless horrors, and in Bond's Live and Let Die cf. the magnetic watch unzipping);   Jenny Runacre (actress in many horror films and notably Miss Brunner in The Final Programme adapted from Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius novel of the same name and which was also screened at the Fest);   Jane Wymark (actress in some horrors and Morwenna in the Poldark series as well as Joyce Barnaby in the Midsomer Murders series);  David McGillivray (actor, producer, playwright);  Toby Hadoke (actor, writer, comedian);  and horror author Ramsey Campbell who is the longstanding president of the Fest (his 2022 novel is reviewed here).

(Actually, I am not sure if I saw Madeline Smith at the Fest? Well, there were a heck of a lot of Guests of Honour – as many as this year's (2024) a few thousands of attendees strong SF Worldcon – but maybe she could not make it due to work commitments? Someone will no doubt let me know.)

Guests of Honour 2023: Stephen Volk, David McGillivray,
Jenny Runacre, Andy Nyman & Jane Wymark


The programme
And of course there were the films (the Festival of Fantastic Films is, after all, a film festival), this year – dare I say, possibly too few (19 features)? – and most of a certain ilk (16 horror features), with science fiction and fantasy firmly pushed to one side.

Naturally, all SF film fests have their own respective foci – for example, Sci-Fi London's forté is recent international, independent SF films – and the Fest of Fantastic Films is these days vintage horror, sadly since Harry's passing, with much else of the fantastic film spectrum is now greatly diminished.

Jonathan, after too much partying,
and the radiant Jenny Runacre

Indeed, this afore bias was this year so much so – and in desperate need of a fix of quality, recent Science Fiction – that Saturday morning saw a few of us abandoned the Fest for the nearby Manchester's IMAX (one of the largest in Europe) to see Gareth Edwards' (whose break came at another genre fest with his short presented at Sci-Fi London over a decade ago) latest film: the visually stunning, artificial intelligence, war film The Creator.  (In the cause of researching this article, I dug out the films shown in the Fest's first decade and the changes became stark: today there are fewer films overall (as said, only 19 features this year), no films dating from the past couple of decades, and the SF content very greatly reduced.)

The Fest's genre focus was reflected in the short film submissions to this year's Delta Award competition: 40% horror; 38% fantasy; and just 21% science fiction (ignoring figure rounding). (The Delta Award being named after the former Delta SF group that the Fest's founders, including the late Harry Nadler and the still extant, Knight of St. Fantony, Tony Edwards, belonged to and which turned out homemade SF shorts, including with SF luminaries such as the author Harry Harrison.)

Delta Awards

For comparison, back in 1990 there were 33 films screened of which 17 were SF or SF-horror of which five had been released within 15 years of that con and yet this year there were far more attending than (93) back then, so registration income should have been much higher (hence budget available for films greater) in real terms.  Indeed, a look at the films shown at each Fest over its first two decades reveals a far more balanced spectrum of fantastic films were represented. (I knew that the book Over 20 Years of Film Fandom: A Tribute to the Delta Group and The Festival of Fantastic Films (2012) would come in handy one day.)  Sad.  Harry Nadler's and Tony Meadows' ability to obtain a wide range of films, both old and recent, was simply an art form itself.

Short film submissions for the Delta Awards this year came from: Britain; Canada; China; France; Ireland; Italy; Macedonia; Slovenia; Spain; Taiwan; and the USA.  The winner of the Delta's SF category was Sincopat (Spain). That offering looked at a new technology, on the verge of a mass roll-out, which transmitted sound/music directly into the brain. What could possibly go wrong…? (I have to say it was rather good.)  I attended the Delta Awards SF short-list screening session and enjoyed nearly all of them.

The Best Fantasy Delta winner was Opulence (France) and the Best Horror Family Night (Ireland). The judges' Norman J. Warren Award (Norman being a cult director who had been a Fest regular) for Best Short in Festival went to the aforementioned Sincopat, it was a worthy winner. The Audience's Choice Award went jointly to The Script (Macedonia) and Voyagers From Eclipse Sea Coasts (Spain).

The films and GoH interviews, were held across two programme streams, with the GoH and principal items held in a larger auditorium and a retrospective programme held in a much smaller room somewhere at the back of the hotel.

The retrospective stream films included:  The Hands of Orlac (Austria, 1924);  Atom Age Vampire (Italy/France, 1960);  Gamera vs. Guiron also known as Attack of the Monsters (Japan 1969) which I am told was bad but in a delightful way;   and The Yesterday Machine (1965) which I did catch and it too was bad (but not in a good way).  That last saw 90 minutes of my life evaporate I'll never get again. I did do a search for its trailer on YouTube to give you a link as a taster but could not find it: I did though find the whole film in open access, but have not linked to it to spare you (if you really want to see it you can search for it yourself).

Tony Meadows for many years at the Fest did a sterling job curating the retrospective programme, but he sadly dropped out of doing it a decade or so ago.  His departure from programming, along with that of Harry – they both set the bar high – has left a really big programme organising hole that would go a long way to fill the Albert Hall.

To my mind, one of the best films shown at this year's fest was the afore-mentioned adaptation of Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius novel The Final Programme. The screening at the Fest took place half a century on to the month of that film's original release!

(As an aside, it should be noted that the author, Michael Moorcock, of the novel The Final Programme regularly contributed to the British SF short story magazine New Worlds and Michael went on to edit a few editions of that magazine himself. Here, Manchester's Charles Partington (friend since school days and subsequent business partner of the Festival's co-founder Harry Nadler) was involved in publishing three editions of that magazine.  In short, there is a very clear connection – a direct line – across time between the film, The Final Programme, and Manchester's Festival of Fantastic Films. (I am not sure if the younger, 2023 Festival organisers were aware of this connection linking the film and the Fest, though the now elderly Fest co-founder, Tony Edwards – who was at this year's Fest – certainly would have). It was therefore very appropriate to have one of The Final Programme's stars, Jenny Runacre, at the Fest.)

Jenny Runacre as the quasi-vampyric Miss Brunner in The Final Programme.
'Brunner' being named after fellow (rival?) British SF author John Brunner
with whom Michael Moorcock's occasionally rubbed shoulders.


Book launches
The Fest also saw a number of book launches including one about Nigel Kneale's The Beasts series.

Book launch of Nigel Kneale's The Beasts series.

Ramsey Campbell had a new book out – non-fiction for a change – about The Three Stooges and he gave a talk about them plus a showing of the short 'Spooks' (1953). (Ramsey's horror books are invariably sought by a few members of our, SF² Concatenation book review panel members. You can find Campbell reviews under the 'C' in our book reviews index.)

The Fest ended Sunday night following the traditional quiz and curry.  However, despite the bar having closed, chat continued on in the hotel's foyer lounge to gone 01.00 (at which point I retired, what with my stamina these days having the breaking strain of a chocolate Mars bar) and apparently beyond.  The Fest has never fully embraced the SF convention tradition of the past few decades of having the bar open late on the last night (albeit with reduced staff) for a 'dead dog party'. OK, so there was the dead dog session scheduled in the programme but it was part of the quiz and curry session, which ended early. Yet clearly, there was an appetite for serious dead dogging as – barred from the closed bar – socialising and chat continued in the foyer on its comfy chairs and sofa, as well as outside the front for many hours. (Perhaps proper Dead Dogging is something for future years the committee could consider more seriously and it might encourage a few more to stay on for an extra night, which the hotel itself would like?  And surely the hotel would welcome extra bar takings?).


The Hotel
The Pendulum Hotel as it is now (since 2014) known, is literally four minutes walk from Manchester Piccadilly rail station, which really does make life easy, and it is also five minutes from Piccadilly Gardens, the de facto centre of Manchester with its pubs and restaurants.  So no problem nipping out for a bite (or, as we'll come to later, a beer).

Now, and this has always puzzled me, at the hotel's foyer for some reason folk are greeted by a wooden block figure of Lucca Pacioli whose 1494 book, Summa de arithmetica, geo- metria, proportioniet proportionalità, re-popularised double-entry book keeping which was previously used before this (Florentine bankers used this for tracking merchants accounts in 1211 and even Pliny the Elder 70AD used something close to it).


Lucca Pacioli
Jonathan and a wooden statue.
Lucca Pacioli is on the right.

This wooden statue is placed to greet guests to the hotel and was unveiled in 1994 by the President of the Institute of Financial Accountants IFA in celebration of 500 years since the publication of Summa. It was commissioned by the IFA, the International Association of Book-keepers and the Manchester Conference Centre (the Pendulum Hotel's former name) back in the days when it was owned by the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology (UMIST).

OK, those of you that are aware of little old me, will know what's coming... Time for 'the science slot'...

Less of a mystery, is the hotel's current 'Pendulum' name as there is a pseudo-Foucault Pendulum at the hotel's heart: 'pseudo' because it rotates with the Earth and not independent of it as its swinging is powered by an electromagnet that disrupts its natural motion but does keep it going without the need of a push every half day or so.

The pendulum is suspended through four floors of the hotel, through structural girders and struts to above the ground floor foyer conference section. This meant that the heads of everyone going to and from the conference halls, into the bar area and so forth, passes a few feet beneath its swinging weight.

The idea of a true Foucault pendulum is that it continues swinging in the same vertical plane once set in motion.  The pendulum is so large that small disruptions do not impede it. What this means is that Newton's second law (effectively the conservation of momentum) rules and so the pendulum continues to swing but not seemingly in the same plane as the Earth's rotates beneath it so its swing slowly appears to change direction: so, as the Earth rotates beneath, it gives the appearance (illusion) that the direction of swing changes with time when in fact it isn't – it is swinging in the same direction with respect to the universe as a whole. A true Foucault's pendulum is proof that the Earth is rotating (and not the Sun going around our world).

(Pedants, please don't say, ahh, but the Earth goes about the Sun, as this is a simple science slot, otherwise I'd be forced to confound you with frame drag and other possible misdirection.)

(But, of course, you knew all that from school physics.)  Alas, with the hotel's pendulum, the electromagnet that keeps the pendulum swinging disrupts this effect: it continually nudges the pendulum's swing so that it appears to keep swinging in the same plane (with respect to an observer standing on the rotating Earth's surface and not in an absolute sense with respect to the universe at large which is what is meant to happen with a real Foucault Pendulum). But with this pseudo-Foucault Pendulum something else is also going on… What is happening is that the hotel's pendulum in this instance is actually slowly slowing the Earth's rotation down!  Do not worry, this is a miniscule effect.  A far bigger effect is the tidal drag of the Moon which is far larger, and more massive, than the hotel's pendulum.  The Moon's tidal drag itself is also slowly slowing the Earth's spin.

Jonathan beneath
the pseudo- Foucault pendulum.

Today, the Earth's day is 24 hours, but over 100 million years ago (just before the beginning of the Cretaceous and in the middle of the dinosaurs' reign) the Earth was spinning faster with days of just 23 hours. Go back further still, 1.4 billion years ago, a day was only around 19 hours long!

OK, let's halt the science slot here and get back to the con-rep...

This 'pseudo' nature of the hotel's Foucault pendulum is relevant to this convention report as much of the hotel's management has become really rather 'pseudo': very shoddy, contrary to the hotel's appearance and the friendly service of the guest-facing staff (no complaint to those good folk).  I confess, the hotel was never one of my favourites despite its potentially excellent conference facilities, and this year I found matters even worse!

Here, there is a lot of ground to cover.  Let's start with my own experience of registering.

Back in the old days (up to the 2000s).  What you did was receive a hotel reservation form from the Fest (or if you lost it alternatively, from the early 2000s, print it out from their website) fill it in and send it off.  If you wished you could attach a cheque or alternatively pay on arrival. No problem. Very easy.  These days the Fest and hotel used EventBrite.  Now, if you are one of those that unthinkingly click on 'accept' on websites to their terms then fine, that is your affair.  However, if you do take time read the small print (their privacy policy) you will find that you have signed away your digital privacy: they will collect some of your personal data and will share it with their partners, stakeholders and unspecified third parties and may even sell it!  If you are fine with that then good on you, now you know the likely source of part of those spam messages you continually receive.  If you are not happy with that then you have to do something else, in my case it was, as is my custom, to use our local travel agent to book the room and get the added benefit of their indemnity (the travel agent receives a 10% fee but that's fine with me its worth it even if I do not get the Fest's hotel discount). Yet this year the hotel's processing of the travel agent's booking was awful…

Long story short, the hotel never – according to my travel agent – sent the travel agent the booking confirmation from the hotel. On my arrival, I followed this up but the hotel claimed they had sent a confirmation. I asked to which address and when, but they refused to divulge that claiming data protection (GDPR). I later found out that they had sent a confirmation to an e-mail address of mine I had set up years ago: they had kept my e-mail – without my permission – from a previous visit over a decade ago, so much for GDPR behind which they hid.  Clearly I am not a travel agent, so that message cannot have been the hotel's confirmation to the travel agent.  Consequently, the travel agent was subsequently kept out of the loop.

Now, this problem was not unique to me as I discovered at breakfast the next day from the conversation at my and neighbouring tables: a few had ended up paying the full rate for one reason or another.  On returning from the Fest, I checked with the travel agent, they still had no confirmation and they never received their 10%! Some might say this was sloppy on the hotel's part, others that something deeper was going on: perhaps it might be prudent of the company that ultimately owns the hotel to do a deep, forensic, accounts audit? Someone, either the hotel itself or it staff, appears to be ripping customers, and/or travel agents, off?

The other registration issue was that if you booked through a travel agent, you did not get the Fest's discount which I personally did not mind but I cannot see why I could not get the discount and I pay 10% more to ensure the hotel was not out of pocket as that would still give me some saving. As I found out at breakfast, another Fest registrant had booked through a travel agent and they too did not get the Fest discount. Indeed, as said, half a dozen on our and neighbouring tables (I suspect more were also affected that did not breakfast with us) did not get the Fest hotel discount for one reason or another, so there was clearly a hotel booking issue affecting a good number, even if only a minority(?) of the Fest!

This was not the only registration issue. Those with whom I was attending the Fest this year tried booking through the registration link on the hotel's website. Long story short: they ended up going through a central reservation system run by the hotel group that insisted in payment in US dollars. These Fest registrants simply were not, as British residents, going to pay in dollars to stay at a hotel in Britain, and so they ended up going through a third party online hotel booking service but the best deal they got demanded an exorbitant amount for breakfast so they spent the first couple of mornings going to the rather good students' café next door and then managed to book their final day at hotel reception at the Fest's discounted rate.

OK, let's put the registration hassles/rip-off/issues (you decide) behind us and go to the hotel room.  Here, checking things out, I found that the hotel had not programmed the room's TV/radio with a channel index: the index page was there but it had not been programmed. (Hotel TV/radio systems typically are set up with channel indices that are automatically checked and updated daily in the small hours of the morning, but not Manchester's Pendulum Hotel). This is not a big thing but I do like to have the news on when waking up and doing my ablutions: I don't like having to flip through channels one by one to see what is on – a channel guide let's you scroll through a list everything that's on at that time.  As said, this is not a big issue, but then the solution is an easy one to solve.  I am guessing, that as the hotel relies on passing trade with fleeting stays, that they just don't care.

Never mind, let's go to the bar and have a beer.  Alas, here too there was an issue. The bar had completely run out of draft bitter and that was before the Fest actually began! A very friendly bar person explained that they had not had a delivery that week. An equally friendly fellow Fest-goer contributed that the same thing had happened at the previous year's Fest!  What is going on?  If you are a hotel and playing host to an event then you make sure that you are fully stocked at the event's beginning. This is 1-0-1 hospitality management!

(This lack of bitter was not a problem for those with whom I came to the Fest this year as there were plenty of city centre pubs nearby, some serving good value food, and so we nipped out each night for a couple of pints and a bite.  The hotel's loss; not our problem.)

I did feel for the bar staff: the hotel simply had not provided extra staff the busy Friday and Saturday evenings, so that the poor bar folk were nearly always rushed off their feet which meant that things like clearing the outdoor patio tables was as often as not left to paying Fest attenders.  Still, the bar must have made a fair profit for the hotel.

No matter, on to the event itself, let's go to the first event in the Fest's principal hall… And, you guessed it, here there was yet another hotel issue, this time with the hotel's mobile microphones panellists were meant to use.  This issue was to re-surface throughout the Fest. Indeed, at one point there was a panel of five people and, with no working microphone, the person at the end kept speaking sideways to the panel Chair and away from the audience. At this Ramsey Campbell shouted out that as there were no mikes could speakers speak facing, projecting their voices to, the audience. However, this poor fellow at the end of a row of panellists could not break the habit, and continued to speak sideways away from the audience. After a couple of reminders from Ramsey, this continued and so Ramsey stormed out of the hall… The bottom line is that the Fest had paid for the hire of the kit from the hotel and so it should be in working order. I find it hard to believe that the hotel could not have sorted this out the first time there was a problem. A more suspicious person than I might imagine that this problem had happened before with other events (I find it difficult to believe it was a one-off)…  (My unfounded suspicion is that the problem could have been as simple as the hotel not putting fresh batteries into the mobile microphones at the start of the Fest: it is unlikely that all the mikes developed mechanical problems at the same time.)

All this makes the grumble of one fellow breakfaster's comment that the hotel had ditched the orange juice for orange squash, a really trivial moan in the context of much else. (But if they are that penny-pinching that could explain all the other failings?)

One cannot but help feel that the hotel takes the Fest for granted: they have had repeat visits from the Fest for almost two decades.  As said, the front-line staff were wonderful.  The thing is I can't understand the hotel's management's apathy unless they are so underpaid that they simply do not care?

It is actively in the hotel's interests that they get the bar stock replenished before any event's commencement: they cannot sell what they do not have in stock.  It is in the hotel's interests that the bar is open while there are customers prepared to pay their good money, such as at a dead dog bar till late Sunday evening. (Though I suspect that despite any profitability to the hotel in having a late Sunday night bar, the hotel would try to stiff the Fest an extra charge to keep the bar open Sunday even if the hotel was making good money from it.)  It is in hotel's interest that the hotel is known for its hotel room facilities (such as TV radio) and conference kit (such as microphones) are in working order.  It is in their interest that registration for accommodation not to be a one-size-fits-all (especially as not everyone has secure access to the interweb: 30% of over 65s in the UK do not for a start).  It is in the interest of the hotel that the conference facilities do work lest they lose repeat business.  And they certainly need to sort out their GDPR issues: GDPR mandates an active 'opt in' to have data stored and a separate active 'opt in' if they are keeping data (e-mail addresses and so forth) beyond the period of a visitor's stay. (Here there is another GDPR stricture affirming this need but I will not bore you with the finer details of data protection regulation.  Suffice to say that the hotel are playing footloose with folk's data, and burying current practice in their terms and conditions simply doesn't cut it.)

The bottom line is that the current Pendulum hotel's management's treatment of the Fest and its attendees truly sucks, and this is something that we, and importantly the Fest's organisers, should not accept lying down.

'Sincopat': Winner of the Delta Award 'Best SF Short'
and Norman J. Warren Award for Best Short at the Fest.

The Fest's organising committee have undoubtedly come far and have had a steep learning curve as the previous organiser, Gill, kept his conrunning cards close to his chest. The Fest's reincarnation the past two Fests has undoubtedly seen it come a long way, and that the attendance numbers the past couple of Fests are up is certainly a good thing. (Though it might be an idea when marketing the Fest to focus on Manchester social media (relevant Manchester genre groups genre students union societies at Machester, UMIST and Salford Us etc, promotion/advert exchange with Forbidden Planet Manchester and so forth) to encourage non-hotel resident participation as the bar at the Pendulum physically cannot cope with much larger evening numbers that more hotel residents would engender. A Fest that grew too large would lose its intimacy and be a less welcoming gathering. This is something the organisers really need to watch, consider and actively monitor.)

There are things that need doing, so it would be understandable if the committee felt, 'oh no, not more hurdles'. However, much of the points raised herein really are work for the hotel; all the committee has to do is stand firm and possibly consider a move to elsewhere either in Manchester or nearby Stockport (which is just as easy to get to from most parts of England) to demonstrate that they cannot be taken for granted. (This has happened before in SF fandom. Birmingham SF Society's Novacon moved out from Birmingham over a decade ago when it transpired that the city centre's hotels seemed to be conspiring over price. Birmingham hotels' loss.)

True, the new committee may be a tad fazed with a steep learning curve, but having come so far, and now having got hold of the basics, going a little further should not be that arduous.  True, conrunning (SF lingo for convention organising) is done by volunteers for the sheer love of it and the SF tradition has always been that the con committee pay their own way and only get their registration and hotel back if the event makes a good surplus. We do it for the love of the genre. And, yes, it is a lot of work – I know as I was on the committee of a number of SF cons from the late 1970s to early 2000s (and for work organised loads of symposia, workshops and events over the decades). But today it is a lot easier. Try organising an international event in the late 1990s before e-mail became ubiquitous: we used to snail mail floppy discs (remember them? Gives another meaning to e-mail).

The Lunar Shuttle from The Creator,
screened the Fest weekend at Manchester's IMAX.

The other thing is the programme. Fantastic films are a broad church but, if as it seems from the past three Fests, the event is moving to become a horror fest then it should have the honesty and decency towards its putative attenders to re-brand as such. (Nothing wrong with change and evolution, just be up front about it.)  Alternatively, take stock and go for a more balanced programme.  Back when Harry Nadler was running the Fest, and even when Gill was, in part to ensure a variety of cinematic offerings, they actively sought requests for films.  Indeed, I did send in some suggestions for this year, including for one recent film (a science fantasy horror) that Putin had refused a cinematic release licence in Russia so whose makers would likely welcome a Fest screening. (Any film that gets Putin's ire deserves attention.) Alas, this time I was not favoured with the courtesy of a reply from the committee. (Here, though mildly disappointed, I didn't mind as I assumed that they had everything in hand for a full, and genuinely diverse, range of fantastic cinematic offerings.)  Nonetheless, the current Fest's organisers should want to address the question of mission creep, or alternatively re-brand if the event is going to principally focus on horror going forward.

The Fest was undoubtedly a success and has clearly turned a recent corner in its near one-third of a century history, even if there are still a good few rough edges to knock off. But these are all fairly easy to sort out with a little thought, some assertiveness with the hotel, and sensitivity to the digital diversity of attendees (one size does not fit all), especially now that the new committee has had a couple of years of experience bedded in.

In short, the future looks bright if not – dare it be said – fantastic.

Jonathan Cowie


Editorial note 1: Charles Partington, lifelong friend and business partner of Fest founder Harry Nadler, sadly passed before this year's Fest, just a few days before the last one. Elsewhere, we have a tribute to Charles Partington. This also cites the Delta SF Group after which the Delta Awards, referred to in the above review, were named.

Editorial note 2: Actually, it was a third of a century since the first Fest as this 33rd Fest was 34 years on from inaugural event as we lost one Fest in the CoVID-19 lockdown year.


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