Welcome to the inaugural Scarborough Film Festival. Co-director reveals what’s on, where and when and why it’s happening

Elizabeth Boag: Co-director of Scarborough Film Festival

THE inaugural Scarborough Film Festival is running from today until Sunday.

“We’ve put together a really fantastic programme of films that includes feature films, both arthouse and mainstream, short films, documentaries, animation, locally made films and artist moving images,” says co-director Elizabeth Boag. “We hope there really is something for everyone.”

A familiar face to theatre audiences from her Stephen Joseph Theatre performances, not least in Alan Ayckbourn comedies, actress Elizabeth is joined in the directorial team by Martha Cattell, archivist at the Yorkshire & North East Film Archives.

Elizabeth had decided to move back to Yorkshire from London in April 2021, after the pandemic, with a new son to bring up as a Yorkshireman and teach to walk in the sea.

“Having worked at the SJT, where they still show films in the McCarthy auditorium in what was the old Odeon cinema building, I messaged the theatre about setting up a film festival, as I’d love one to be held in Scarborough,” she says.

“I’d done a scheme in London called Firehouse Films [“a film lab with a difference”], where the principle was to give fledgling filmmakers the chance to work with actors and crew at a South East London location, without having to pay to pay for any of those.

“Each director would have a month to make a short film, with Firehouse Films providing a database and crew, and the actors would work for free for two days. That was in January to March 2013, producing 12 films, before I ended up coming to the SJT to do Alan Ayckbourn’s Arrivals And Departures that summer.”

Elizabeth admits she “didn’t know short films were a thing until I started acting”, but the seed was duly planted in her head to establish a film festival to “show amazing films to the people of Scarborough”.

Roll the years forward, and serendipitously Martha Cattell also had approached SJT artistic director Paul Robinson over the possibility of launching a film festival at the East Coast resort.

“Paul asked if I knew her and said she had some very cool friends that I did know,” recalls Elizabeth. “We met and got on really well, and while we come from different angles and our areas of interest are quite different, our tastes are similar. I’m more in touch with the narrative side and Martha more with artist films and documentary films.”

Martha was working as the curator for Crescent Arts in Scarborough [October 2020 to December 2022] when they first met and is now the project delivery manager for the Yorkshire & North East Film Archives, exploring how the moving image can be used in environment and climate narratives.

Profiled on LinkedIn as a freelance film programmer and creative producer, she gained a PhD from the University of York in 2019 in the ethics of representing the whaling industry in art and film. Earlier, she had chaired the York Student Cinema on campus.

An artist too (who works with seaweed), Martha’s diverse career has taken in programming and coordinating the Gateway Film Festival in Peterborough, involvements with the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest and Hebden Bridge Film Festival, and co-directing and programming Sea/Film, an organisation committed to bringing alternative film and cinema to Yorkshire, the Humber and the North East.

Pooling their skills, Elizabeth and Martha decided “we wanted to make a film festival that would be very accessible, make it something for everyone, something they may not have seen before but would speak to them”.

More than 30 years since York entered the modern age of cinema-going at Clifton Moor, Scarborough still awaits its first multiplex cinema, although multi-million-pound plans were approved in March for one to transform the Brunswick shopping centre. In the meantime, Scarborough cinephiles must head up the stairs at the SJT or to the Hollywood Plaza Cinema, in North Marine Road, home to a weekly programme of Hollywood blockbusters and newly released films.

“One of the reasons we were keen to partner with the SJT for the festival was to help it survive as an arthouse cinema, presenting a cross-section of films. The SJT was the obvious hub for the festival as I’d worked there so much that I had a natural ‘in’,” says Elizabeth.

“I grew up in Pickering, where there was the Pickering Castle cinema, but sadly it closed when I was in my teens [in 2006, later to be converted into apartments in 2013], but we loved going there. It was such a wonderful place to go.”

A love of cinema was born. “For young people growing up in Scarborough, I want to give them the chance to go to the cinema and enjoy it as I did and still do,” says Elizabeth.

To that end, she and Martha are encouraging children and school groups to partake in the festival, whether in a Q&A, workshop or family screening.

Film aficionados will note that the debut Scarborough Film Festival is running in the same week as the 13th Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York. “In our planning, we said, ‘we have to avoid our weekend clashing with Aesthetica’…but our festival has a very different remit, with a very different offering, and next year we will make sure we don’t clash.

“If people are going to Aesthetica and spot something that attracts them in our programme, then maybe they’ll come over here too.”

CharlesHutchPress’s guide to the Scarborough Film Festival programme

Ken Loach’s The Old Oak, screening on Friday with a Q&A with lead actor Dave Turner, pictured right

November 9, 5pm: Opening event, McCarthy Cinema, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Bait and The Tide, plus Q&A with local cast and crew of The Tide. A night of films exploring the tensions faced by coastal communities. Suitable for age 15 plus.

​SHOT on a vintage 16mm camera using monochrome Kodak stock, Mark Jenkin’s timely, funny, poignant Bait goes to the heart of a Cornish community facing up to unwelcome change.

Made in Scarborough, with support from Film Hub North through the BFI Network Short Film Fund, Dan Hartley’s 2021 film The Tide charts the fate of a rusting trawler and its beleaguered crew as they struggle to eke out a living from the waters of the North Sea beyond Scarborough.

Producer and cast member Liam Thomas will lead the Q&A session. “This will be the first screening of The Tide in Scarborough, and we’re delighted that cast members and the crew will be attending,” says festival co-director Elizabeth Boag.

Fehinti Balogun in Complicité’s Can I Live?, Friday’s digital performance at Scarborough Film Festival. Picture: David Hewitt

November 9, 8pm, McCarthy Cinema, Stephen Joseph Theatre: Complicité presents Can I Live?,plus Q&A with Fehinti Balogun. Conceived, written and performed by Fehinti Balogun. Suitable for age 12 plus. Captioned screening.

​WHY don’t we talk about it? Fehinti Balogun asks this urgent question and offers an invitation in Can I Live?, a new digital performance about the climate catastrophe, exploring his personal journey into the biggest challenge of our times.

Addressing themes of racism and classism as he weaves his story with spoken word, rap, theatre, animation and the scientific facts, Fehinti charts a course through the fundamental issues underpinning the emergency.

In doing so, he identifies the intimate relationship between the environmental crisis and the global struggle for social justice, and shares how, as a young Black British man, he has found his place in the climate movement. 

In the face of a sense of helplessness about the climate catastrophe, Can I Live? is an outstretched hand, inviting audiences to recognise they are not alone – and that through understanding the issues and connecting with the many powerful activists around the globe driving change, we can find a sense of hope for the future.

Caribbean Stories: Film programme from Caribbean International Film Festival on Friday afternoon

November 10, 1.45pm, McCarthy Cinema, Stephen Joseph Theatre: Caribbean Stories short films programme, curated by Barbadian journalist turned filmmaker, programmer and exhibitor Denyce Blackman. Age: 18 plus

PRESENTED in partnership with the Caribbean International Film Festival, this collection of varied, stirring stories from around the Caribbean showcases the richness of culture, language and experiences in portraits from Bahamas, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Martinique.

November 10, 5.30pm, Woodend Gallery & Studios, The Crescent; Queer Shorts: Liquid Thoughts short films programme. Age:18 plus

A SERIES of short films exploring themes of water and queerness, showing in collaboration with SJT, Crescent Arts and Scarborough Museums and Galleries alongside their exhibitions Always Been Here; and Garth Gratrix: Cheeky Felicia.

“There’s a vibrant queer artistic community in Scarborough and we’re very keen to invite them into the festival,” says Elizabeth.

November 10, 8pm, McCarthy Cinema, Stephen Joseph Theatre: Ken Loach’s The Old Oak, plus Q&A with lead actor Dave Turner. Age: 18 plus

KEN Loach partners again with screenwriter Paul Laverty for what is reportedly his final film at 87. In a once thriving North East mining community, The Old Oak is the last pub standing, kept afloat by a few remaining locals who feel abandoned by the system.

When a group of Syrian refugees arrives to be placed in the former pit village’s cheap, vacant homes, tensions begin to rise, but an unlikely union forms between the pub’s affable landlord, TJ Ballantyne (Dave Turner), and an aspiring young Syrian photographer, Yara (Ebla Mari).

Song Of The Sea: Family Film screening on Friday morning

November 11, 10am, McCarthy Cinema, Stephen Joseph Theatre: Family Film, Song Of The Sea (PG)

TOMM Moore’s enchanting Irish animation tells the story of Ben and his little sister Saoirse – the last Seal-child – who embark on a fantastic journey across a fading world of ancient legend and magic in an attempt to return to their home by the sea.

November 11, 11.45am to 1.30pm, Boden Room, Stephen Joseph Theatre: Animation Workshop. Age recommendation: perfect for families with children aged four plus.

​CHILDREN’S author and self-taught animator Terenia Edwards leads an Introduction To Animation workshop. Learn the basic mechanics of animating and make your very own thaumatrope – a spinning toy that creates a visual illusion – inspired by Song Of The Sea. Free event but book to ensure a place.

November 11, 3pm, McCarthy Cinema, Stephen Joseph Theatre: Competition Selection, film programme of Yorkshire Shorts  with presentation and Q&A

“INITIALLY, we did an international call-out asking for submissions on the themes of Coast, Community and Environment, but we had so many submissions – more than 2,000 – that we decided to narrow it down to Yorkshire films, either filmed in Yorkshire or made with Yorkshire talent in them,” says Elizabeth.

“Our selection panel watched them and then Martha and I made the final decision on the choice of films to be shown.”

The panel of industry judges for Saturday’s competition will be: BAFTA-winning TV drama director Jordan Hogg; broadsheet film critic, Tim Robey; Zoe Naylor, from the BFI Academy, and Scarborough Film Festival’s resident blogger, freelance journalist (and Elizabeth’s cousin to boot) Laurence Boag-Matthews.

A Q&A with attending filmmakers will follow the screening, whereupon the panel will announce the winner and runner-up.

Terenia Edwards: Leading an Introduction To Animation workshop at the SJT on Saturday morning

November 11, 5pm, Stephen Joseph Theatre bar: Gala Drinks Reception, Celebrating The Filmmakers

SCARBOROUGH Film Festival partners with Brass Castle to celebrate East Coast filmmakers and their work. Those purchasing a ticket for the Yorkshire Shorts film programme automatically will book a place at the drinks reception and receive a free Brass Castle beer when they show the ticket at the bar.

​This is an opportunity for audience to meet the filmmakers and judges in an informal setting, for people to network and for plans for future collaborations to be hatched.

November 11, 7.45pm, McCarthy Cinema, Stephen Joseph Theatre:  Revive, live performance

REVIVE combines live music and spoken word with a chance to see archive film through a new lens. Environmental archive film from Martha Cattell’s Nature Matters project for the Yorkshire and North East Film Archives will be given new music or spoken-word scores by five performers with links to Scarborough.

Step forward: musical comedian Charlotte Brooke, poet and actor Tanya-Loretta Dee, rap artist Charles Kirby, poet Charlotte Oliver and singer-songwriter Jon Plant. Book a ticket for the Yorkshire Shorts programme to attend this event.

Stories Of The Sea: a morning of artist moving image work at SeaGrown, Scarborough Harbour

November 12, 11am, SeaGrown, Scarborough Harbour: Stories Of The Sea: Artist Moving Image

STORIES Of The Sea explores the work of artists who have focused on communities living in or near the sea.

Julia Parks’s Seaweed Stories looks at the relationship between people, seaweed and landscape, in the past, present and future. Webb-Ellis’s For The First Baby Born In Space was filmed during the long, hot summer of 2018, recording teenagers from Whiby and elsewhere as their coming of age coincides with a time when so much else is in flux.

Both Julia Parks and Webb-Ellis will attend a Q&A after the screening. Please note: unfortunately the SeaGrown boat is accessible only via a series of steps, so this venue is not suitable for wheelchair users or people with mobility issues.

What is an “artist moving image”? “Not necessarily narrative or documentary, though there is a narrative to both these works but they are pieces of art on film that move,” says Elizabeth.

November 12, 4pm, Railway Club, next to Scarborough railway station: So Which Band Is Your Boyfriend In?, film exploring real-life experiences of non-male participants in the UK’s DIY/underground music scenes, plus Q&A with local musicians

THROUGH a series of interviews with members of the music community, this film looks at their experiences – both positive and negative – and investigates what can be done to make music more accessible to everyone, regardless of gender. Screened in collaboration with Record Revivals, the record store next to the SJT.

Franco Rosso’s film Babylon: Screening at Railway Club, Scarborough, on Sunday

November 12, Railway Club, Scarborough, 7pm: screening of  Babylon preceded by premiere of visual companion piece to The Hydrogen Trees’ debut album Secret Arcade and followed by Rebel Radics Sound System live set

IN Franco Rosso’s Babylon, a 1980 cult classic that pulsates with an irresistible dub soundtrack, a young Blue (Brinsley Forde) aims for success at a Reggae Sound System competition.

Presented in collaboration with Record Revivals, the screening will be followed by a live dub set by Dan from Scarborough’s very own Rebel Radics Sound System, who will give a brief introduction to the film and sound system culture. The film will be played through Rebel Radics sound system too.

BA Acting students from CU Scarborough presenting Vida at Scarborough Film Festival: right to left, Joshua Parker, Ellen Ramos, Guilherme Nogueira, Lawrence Scott Sanders, Chloe Thompson, Liam Farricker, Jamielee Squires and Heather Taylor

November 9 to 12, at Mandy Apple Artspace, 44, Newborough, Scarborough, Developing Filmmakers, Thursday, 10am to 2pm; Friday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm

IN response to Scarborough being home to vibrant young film-making talent, Scarborough Film Festival will showcase a selection of their films on a loop in Mandy Apple’s intimate lounge space throughout the four days.

​Featured work includes: Vida, devised, shot and produced by BA Acting students from CU (Coventry University) Scarborough; Birds On The Edge, produced by Arcade, in partnership with North York Moors National Park Trust and Scarborough Pupil Referral Service; Written In The Waves, devised, shot and produced by CU Scarborough BA Acting students Chavez Idjerhe, Crystal Jackson, Selwyn Peterken and Luke Simpson; The Wait, written, directed and starring first-time filmmaker, Jessica Vautier. 

This event is FREE and unticketed; feel free to drop in any time.

Scarborough Film Festival tickets can be booked at https://www.scarboroughfilmfestival.co.uk/festival.

The Wait, written, directed and starring first-time filmmaker, Jessica Vautier

REVIEW: Esk Valley Theatre in Deals And Deceptions, Robinson Institute, Glaisdale; the plot thickens until August 26 ****

Clara Darcy’s Jen takes on a new life in the North York Moors in Mark Stratton’s thriller drama Deals And Deceptions. Picture:Tony Bartholomew

YORKSHIRE countryside shapes lives, from Wuthering Heights to All Creatures Great And Small, Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country to…Mark Stratton’s debut thriller drama for Esk Valley Theatre, his moorland home for nigh on 20 years.

“The presence of the North York Moors looms large in the play,” said EVT’s director in his CharlesHutchPress interview.

Londoners Danny and Jen Stevens (Dominic Rye, Clara Darcy) have had to hurry north to an isolated cottage, finding little more than an echo, a bare light bulb, one picture at a tilt on the wall…and a loose floorboard that opens a cupboard when walked on. That quirk will go on to play a significant role…

Leaving behind a flash lifestyle, they set up home with the impermanence of camping equipment: fold-out beds, a small table and misbehaving fold-up chairs. Needs must, but what was the reason for the midnight flit? Only Danny knows why.

In the presence of Darcy’s Jen, Rye’s Danny is reassuring, jack the lad, everything will be OK. Alone, he is as twitchy as a malfunctioning kettle (or that cupboard door), on the lookout, because everything could be KO, not OK.

The clue is in the title: deals and deceptions are afoot, dark deeds at work, dark forces at play. Not wishing to give everything away, let’s just say Danny’s deals may not be as clean as the Yorkshire air, and off back to London he heads to sort things out. Only a few days, he says, in his latest act of deception to Jen. Before leaving, he will buy her a little runaround car, but tell her to keep her encounters with the locals brief and to the minimum.

Yorkshire, however, has a way of introducing itself to these incomers as Stratton relishes the chance to play to a home crowd with sounds and happenings familiar to us. The alarming screams of screech owls; peacocks from the neighbouring country house tapping at the door; the snuffling and shuffling of a farmyard pig. Not so much ‘introducing’ as intruding, you might say, but each one loosens the  release valve for humour, after the initial shot of fear, as the truth is revealed.

Stratton’s cameo role, rooted in two decades of encounters with the Esk Valley farming community, is the very personification of Yorkshire introducing/intruding. Without invitation, his frank-speaking farmer, Wink – short for Winston – Towson, arrives at the door. His accent and phraseology are a mystery to Jen, but this gentle giant is a helpful sort.

In dodgy Danny’s absence, Jen makes a deal with God’s own country and begins a deception of her own by necessity, creating the new persona of a Yorkshire lass from Barnsley, as she Teaches Thissen T’Talk Tyke in a delightfully humorous transition to begin a journey of shell-shedding self-discovery.

This North-South divide is superbly delineated by the impressive Darcy throughout the resulting scenes. Jen grows to love the new life, bonding with gardener Jed Winter (part two for Rye), her blossoming summer of content as she takes up gardening. Rye is so convincing in this second role that at the end, as the cast took its bows, a whisper could be heard enquiring ‘where’s Jed?’!

Stratton combines licorice-dark humour with Yorkshire wit as dry as a moorland stone wall, and even knowing nods to Four Yorkshiremen stereotypes, while revealing a storytelling sleight of hand and a feel for suspense, twists and timing of arrivals to recall the manipulative noose-tightening of Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslighting and the intrigue of Peter James’s psycho-dramas.

The last “arrival” is The Woman, a suitably evasive name for Elizabeth Boag’s climactic cameo in Milk Tray advert black and an accent not from around here. A hit performance, in every way, just like Stratton’s debut play. Replete with deceptions, new beginnings, intrigue, murky mystery, the joy of gardening, farming folk and a love of Yorkshire, it is the real deal.

Esk Valley Theatre in Deals And Deceptions, Robinson Institute, Glaisdale, near Whitby, until August 26; Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm matinees on August 22 and 24. Box office: 01947 897587 or eskvalleytheatre.co.uk, 10.30am to 1pm; 3.30pm to 7.15pm.

What will Mark Stratton uncover in Esk Valley Theatre premiere of debut moorland ‘thriller drama’ Deals And Deceptions?

Clara Darcy’s Jen Stevens in Esk Valley Theatre’s premiere of Mark Stratton’s Deals And Deceptions. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

IN artistic director Mark Stratton’s first play for Esk Valley Theatre, Danny and Jen leave London and head to an isolated cottage in the North York Moors. City clashes with country, dark forces are at work and humorous situations arise.

“We may think we know the person we are married to, but do we?” asks Stratton, who is joined in the cast by Clara Darcy, Dominic Rye and late addition Elizabeth Boag at the Robinson Institute, Glaisdale, near Whitby. “What someone chooses to show the world is not always who they are. If they trade in deals and deceptions, then a day of reckoning will surely come.”

Here Mark discusses triple threats, London versus Yorkshire, debut plays and the impact of making a house move with CharlesHutchPress.

What prompted you to write a play for Esk Valley Theatre and why now, Mark?

“Ever since Esk Valley Theatre was formed, we’ve looked for a contemporary play that reflected something of life in the North York Moors and haven’t discovered anything suitable in nearly 20 years! So, I thought it was time for me to have a go at writing one and Deals And Deceptions is the result.”

Does your experience as a director and actor help you to write a play?

“Certainly. Actors and directors probably absorb more knowledge of play writing than they realise. I think it was Stephen Joseph who thought that all actors should have a go at writing. It definitely makes you appreciate the craft and gives a greater understanding of what makes a play work.”

A Rye look: Dominic Rye as investment company boss Danny Stevens in Deals And Deceptions. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

What inspired you to write Deals And Deceptions?

“Over the years I’ve had a growing fascination with the way people manipulate their personality to suit a particular situation.  Deals And Deceptions looks at some of the ways people shift personality and that is the driving force behind the play.”

What is the style of the piece?

“Good question. I personally find it difficult to put a label on it, but some people have described it as a thriller drama. Having said that, it generates good amounts of laughter and if you have any knowledge of farming and life in the Moors then I think it reflects something of the dry Yorkshire humour that exists in our communities.”

What is the tone? Gravely serious or darkly humorous or both?

“A bit of both, although the tone is lighter to begin with and gradually shifts to a darker place as the narrative unfolds.”

Leaving London for the North York Moors…dare CharlesHutchPress mention American Werewolf In London?!

“I guess leaving London for the North York Moors is where the similarities end and there are no attacking wolves!”

Mark Stratton as North York Moors farmer Wink Towson in Deals And Deceptions. “He’s an amalgamation of a number of farmers that I’ve met over the years,” says Mark. “He’s got a twinkle in his eye and a wry sense of humour”. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Why do people learn more about themselves when they change their living environment?

“I’m pleased you’ve asked that, because one of the central themes is about the journey of self-discovery that Jen goes on. She’s forced to adapt to a new way of life and finds joy and enlightenment through leaving her past behind.”

How much does the isolated North York Moors setting add an extra character to the play?

“The North York Moors is definitely an additional character and the presence of the Moors looms large throughout the play.”

What attracts people to move from London to Yorkshire?

“The dream of a better way of life with cleaner air to breathe? A romantic vision of country life? I guess there are many reasons, but in Deals And Deceptions Danny and Jen leave because they have to. They are on the run, but only Danny knows why.”

Elizabeth Boag: Answering the late call to return to Esk Valley Theatre for summer 2023

Describe the characters of Danny and Jen Stevens…

“When we first meet them, they appear as a thirty-something city couple who’ve done well for themselves, and it seems that Danny runs some kind of investment company. But is Danny speaking the truth? They have to leave London in a hurry… and I can’t give away any more than that!”

Why pick Dominic Rye and Clara Darcy for these roles?

“We held our usual round of auditions and Dominic had all the attributes we were looking for. They are tremendous.

“We also had a late addition to the cast with Elizabeth Boag stepping in at the last minute to play ‘The Woman’. Liz is a phenomenal actor who was in our production of Same Time Next Year and luckily for us, she was able to join the company at a moment’s notice.”

How much does the isolated North York Moors setting add a fifth character to the piece?

“The North York Moors is definitely an additional character and the presence of the Moors looms large throughout the play.”

Esk Valley Theatre’s poster for the premiere of Mark Stratton’s debut play Deals And Deceptions

Writing, directing and performing the role of farmer Wink Towson: the triple threat, Mark Stratton style! Discuss…

“It’s something I always said I would never do! I guess I always thought it would signify an out-of-control ego. However, I wrote the play initially with two actors in mind to play five characters and we’ve now ended up with four actors. Because Wink is older than the others it made sense for me to take it on. It’s very much a cameo and I hope the ego remains firmly in control.”

Have you sought any advice on writing a play from esteemed Esk Valley Theatre supporter Sir Alan Ayckbourn?

“Not directly, but I have had the great pleasure of working with Alan as an actor and also working with him as an assistant director last year. I’ve seen a huge number of his plays over the years and he remains the foremost influence on everything I do in the theatre. He is a giant in the industry and a master of his craft. It would be a fool who couldn’t learn something from him.”

Esk Valley Theatre in Deals And Deceptions, Robinson Institute, Glaisdale, Whitby, until August 26; Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm matinees on August 10, 12, 15, 17, 22 and 24. Box office: 01947 897587, 10.30am to 1pm; 3.30pm to 7.15pm, or eskvalleytheatre.co.uk.

Cast: Clara Darcy asJen Stevens; Dominic Rye as Danny Stevens and gardener Jed Winter; Elizabeth Boag, The Woman; Mark Stratton, Wink Towson. Writer and director: Mark Stratton.