Friday, 31 October 2014

Bletchley Park's top secret Station X prepares for an invasion of sci-fi movies

Dr Strangelove
Bletchley Park, home of Britain’s code-breaking operations during the Second World War, will provide a day of science-fiction films as part of the BFI’s nationwide Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder festival.

Station X at Bletchley Park, which takes on Saturday 8 November, will be a family friendly day of immersive film screenings complete with moon buggies, a crashed spaceships site and eerie soundscapes. The day’s programme explores future war narratives, totalitarian dystopias and the fear of the power of science

Known to those who worked there as Station X, the event provides an opportunity to visit site of Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, where wartime code-breakers cracked the Enigma Code and which was the birthplace for the world’s first electronic computer, Colossus.

This year also marks 60 years since the death of Alan Turing, one of Bletchley Park’s leading cryptanalysts who pioneered thought in computing and artificial intelligence. His story his told in the new release The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Monsters: Dark Continent
The Station X event will see a total of 14 feature films will be screened at locations across the park including the iconic Museum of Computing, WW2 code-breaking huts, the Enigma Cinema and Teleprinter Hall.

The event is resented by the Cambridge Film Trust and funded with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from The National Lottery.

Details can be found at:

Station X’s film programme includes a special pre-release Q&A preview of Monsters: Dark Continent with director Tom Green. The film is set ten years on from the events of the critically acclaimed Monsters in a world where the 'Infected Zones' have now spread worldwide.

The alien abduction comedy The Search for Simon (2013) will be screened with a Q&A with director Martin Gooch. The film stars cast Tom Price (Torchwood), Carol Cleveland (Monty Python) and Simon Jones (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

The Search for Simon
Family-friendly films include Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds Are Go (1966), Forbidden Planet (1956), Aardman Animations Wallace and Gromit short in A Grand Day Out (1989).

Musicians John Sweeney and Jeff Davenport will perform a live score for Cosmic Voyage, a Russian film from 1935 which sees the first humans, including a young boy, embarking on a trip to the moon.

Sci-Fi classic titles include Hammer Films, X The Unknown (1956) directed by Leslie Norman and starring Dean Jagger and Leo McKern. Mixing sci-fi and horror, the film follows a group of scientists and army officials faced with a destructive, radioactive mass that has escaped from the earth's centre, terrorising a remote area of Scotland.

Hammer Films’s star Peter Cushing plays Winston Smith in Nigel Kneale’s original BBC TV adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 (1954). There will also be a screening of Val Guest’s The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961), newly restored by the BFI National Archive with support by Simon W Hessel.

High Treason
Other films include HG Wells’ adaptation Things to Come (1936), Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war satire Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1956), the rogue computer thriller Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) and the big screen version of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967). There will also be a screening of the sound version of 1929 thriller High Treason.

In addition there will be a special ‘Surprise screening’ on the Saturday night, details of which will be revealed closer to the event.

Tickets are on sale through Eventbrite and prices start from £12 for concessions after 4pm, up to £28 for a full-day/evening adult ticket (which includes a year long passport to Bletchley Park). All tickets also include entrance to the National Museum of Computing, home of Colossus and The Witch. Under 12s go free. Tickets can be booked at:

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Curzon's Jason Wood is HOME's first director of film

Jason Wood
Jason Wood has been named artistic director: film at HOME, Manchester’s new purpose-built centre for contemporary visual art, film and theatre. Wood has spent the past five years as director of programming at Curzon.

HOME has been formed from the merger of two of Manchester’s best-loved cultural organisations, Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company. Wood joins Walter Meierjohann and Sarah Perks, in charge of theatre and visual art respectively, in the artistic directorate for the £25m multi-arts venue that will open to the public in spring 2015. Besides programming films into HOME’s cinrma, Wood will commission, curate and encourage cross-art form collaboration in conjunction with his co-artistic directors.

Cornerhouse is one of nine leading BFI Film Audience Network Hubs, a position which will transfer to HOME. As a BFI Film Hub, HOME will work with the BFI and regional partners, to bring diverse, specialised and independent British and international film to audiences.

As a joint appointment with Manchester Metropolitan University, supported by the BFI, Wood also takes the position of Research Professor of Film at Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Wood said: “HOME will offer a recognition of cinema’s rich heritage, historical importance and ability to inspire, provoke and challenge. Film at HOME will act as a space for learning and engagement and a home for curiosity seekers. It has been an immense pleasure to have worked at Curzon and I wish the company the very best for the future at what is an extremely exciting time for the group.

Chair of trustees of HOME, Jim Forrester, said: “To have someone of Jason’s experience, passion and reputation join our artistic team is fantastic. The reputation for excellence in film that has been built over the years at Cornerhouse will continue to grow and develop at HOME under his direction.”

Curzon praised Wood's service to the company, his passionate commitment to cinema, immaculate taste and wealth of expertise and thanked Jason for his contribution to all aspects of the group. CEO of Curzon, Philip Knatchbull, said: “We are immensely sad to see Jason leave Curzon. Jason embodies everything we stand for as a company - with his passion for cinema and his standing in the industry.  Jason has been at the forefront of our development as a company and he has been a constant and loyal supporter of our vision for the future.

“In the past week alone, new Curzon venues were launched at Canterbury and The Mondrian Hotel on the Southbank, our film Leviathan won the Best Film Award at London Film Festival, our distribution team won Best Independent UK Distributor at the Screen Awards and Curzon Home Cinema launched on Amazon Fire TV.”

HOME will form the cultural heart of the First Street North development and was formed from the merger of two the Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company. The new building, designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo and built by Wates Construction, will feature five purpose-built cinema screens as well as digital production and broadcast facilities, a 500-seat theatre; a 150-seat flexible theatre; a 500m2, 4m high gallery space; five cinema screens and a café bar and restaurant.

Manchester City Council has committed £19m to fund the creation of HOME. The overall budget for the project is £25m, with £5m being met by Arts Council England Lottery funding and the remainder by fundraising. £250,000 has already been contributed by the Garfield Weston Foundation and £150,000 by The Granada Foundation. 

Cineworld promises no redundancies for Ritzy staff following calls for boycott

Ritzy staff have long campaigned for the London Living Wage
Cineworld, the owner of Picturehouse, has called off plans to make third of the staff at Brixton’s Ritzy cinema redundant. On Tuesday Picturehouse, Cineworld’s arthouse brand, had warned the south London’s staff up to 34 jobs were at risk due to higher costs resulting from a staff campaign to increase their pay to £8.80, bringing it in line with the current London Living Wage.

Staff were told management posts had be due to be axed along with eight supervisors, three technical staff and other front-of-house ushers, putting 34 of the cinema’s 93 staff at risk.

The author Will Self launched a call for a public boycott in The Evening Standard. “The truth is that the bean-counters are trying to cut costs and boost profits by attacking their own employees, employees who often take this part-time employment precisely because they themselves are aspirant purveyors of cultural capital – wannabe musicians, writers, actors and filmmakers,” he wrote. “Enough is enough: until the Picturehouse management resile from these redundancies I shan’t be darkening their darkness. I suggest that any Standard readers who really care about London’s cinematic culture do the same.

The revelation led to accusations that the cinema operator was seeking ‘revenge’.  The author Owen Jones wrote in The Guardian: “Workers at Picturehouse cinemas in Clapham and Brighton – inspired by the example of the Ritzy – had been organising to gain union recognition. But cinema bosses want to make an example of the Ritzy. The message appears transparent: if you fight for a living wage and workers’ rights, then you face the sack. Or we will crush you if you dare to stand up for yourselves.

Football and actor Eric Cantona joined the Ritzy staff protest this year
However, today Cineworld’s chief executive Mooky Greidinger told the Evening Standard: “Group management was not aware of plans to enter consultations for redundancies at The Ritzy, which is managed by Picturehouse. I am now making this a group matter and I have decided together with Picturehouse management to put an end to the consultation process.”

Cineworld’s finance director Philip Bowcock added: “There will be no redundancies at this time. You can never say anything is indefinite. We operate Picturehouse as an independent, standalone business. Communications can get mixed up, and unfortunately this played out in the public domain.”

Willy Donaghy of media union Bectu said: “We welcome this development but the union will not drop plans for a strike ballot until we get guarantees about our members’ long-term job security. We want to thanks our tens of thousands of supporters who have brought about this change through social media and campaigning.”

Rival independent circuit Curzon Cinemas has announced that it will link its staff's salaries to the Living Wage.