London Film Festival: the stars, the films, the parties... the point?

This week-long event failed to seize the attention of the capital

Share

Tomorrow night a gala screening closes the London Film Festival. The event has been running a while now, there have been several galas, lots of films, and sightings of Hollywood stars such as Tom Hanks and Kate Winslet. Not much change there then. London has galas, movies premieres and sightings of stars pretty much every week of the year. Few Londoners, I reckon, have been remotely conscious that there has been a film festival going on in their city.

It is, when you think of it, rather odd for the BFI, which organizes the festival, to put it on in the capital, a capital already bursting with culture, not least film. The Cannes Film Festival is not in a capital city, likewise Venice. And they are two of the oldest and most important film festivals. Part of the joy of those festivals comes in visiting a glorious location that is not the capital and seeing, certainly in the case of Cannes, a town totally given over to film. No resident of Cannes in May could be unaware that a film festival was taking place.

Britain has indisputably been going through a golden age for the arts, and London has indisputably been the centre of much of that activity and innovation. But it’s a lazy gesture to take advantage of that and plonk a film festival in London.

A film festival is not just another date on the arts calendar. It should dominate its surroundings, bring film-goers and tourists to its location, and put a national and international spotlight on that location. By holding it in a city already overflowing with events, it fails in all those aims.

Brighton, Birmingham, Cambridge, Newcastle, Norwich... there are a host of places that could have enjoyed that spotlight and could have given greater national prominence to the festival. A film festival should be a pilgrimage for fans, in a relatively compact place like Cannes or the Venice Lido, where they can gather and feel they are the main event, not an unnoticed cog in a much bigger arts machine.

The London Film Festival has, no doubt, had some great movies, parties and talks. But it has failed to cause a real stir because of its uninspired choice of location. Worse, it has failed to stimulate a local economy, its shops, restaurants and hotels, bring temporary jobs and publicity to a British town or resort, and failed to give us our own Cannes or Venice. The BFI should think again about its prestige festival, and this time use more imagination.

Is there really any need for previews?

Sir Tim Rice has told The Stage newspaper that he thinks there are too many previews in theatre (and he knows, as his own new musical From Here to Eternity has previews from here to eternity). He’s right, of course. Previews are glorified rehearsals, and increasingly don’t even offer reduced prices to audiences seeing these glorified rehearsals. Why, indeed, are there previews at all? Directors talk about the need to hone a show in front of a real audience. But the one point they never address is that other art forms seem to have their shows magically honed without the need for previews. A short walk from West End theatres is the Royal Opera House, where every opera and dance production simply has a dress rehearsal and then it’s the first night. No previews at all. If opera and dance can manage without a single preview, then so can theatre.

The bank bigwigs who needed some Persuasion

There was a wonderful postscript this week to the decision to put Jane Austen’s face on a new banknote. It was revealed,  under the Freedom of Information Act, no less, that the Bank of England had checked her out  to see there were “no issues in her private life”. Yes, this is for real. I’d have loved to have been in the room when Jane was positively vetted.

“OK, so what have you found out about this Austen woman?”

“There’s definitely cause for concern, chief. She claimed to be a novelist but only wrote a handful of books. Never married. Leaves some unexplained gaps in her private life. And I’m particularly concerned that there is a cult following that calls itself the Janeites. The cult meets regularly. Seems to consist of obsessive, middle-aged women, who gather at locations in the west country for unminuted discussions. Clearly they can’t be meeting time after time to  discuss those same few  books. Recommend further investigation.”

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
 

Costa Rica’s wildlife makes me mourn our paradise lost

Michael McCarthy
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence