The Bristol media festival season is in full swing and Lynn Barlow is in her element
"Mists and mellow fruitfulness” means festival season in Bristol. This is when the city’s creative sector comes together to celebrate its talent and share a sense of belonging.
A festival is all about entertainment. Those festivals with a specific focus on cultural groups often seek to inform community members of their traditions and involve elders who share stories and experiences.
That couldn’t be a more fitting description for the creative-industry family that calls Bristol home.
We welcomed the autumn with the Encounters short film and animation festival, along with the Bristol International Festival of Cinematography and Wildscreen, the world’s largest gathering of natural history producers.
This month, we’re staging an RTS Futures Festival. This is aimed at the hundreds of creative-industry students who study in the city and surrounding region. When they graduate, the vast majority stay in Bristol and provide an important seam of emerging talent for the industry.
Who can blame them for wanting to remain here? It’s said that Bristol is a disproportionately creative city: it has more than 140 small, medium and large companies involved in content creation. The city is the leading tech hub outside London.
Bristol now has a thriving film studio, The Bottle Yard. Broadchurch, Poldark and The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies were made there.
Our success has evolved organically over more than 80 years and began when BBC Radio first arrived in Whiteladies Road. It was followed by the Natural History Unit, which celebrates its diamond anniversary next year. Aardman Animations planted its roots here 40 years ago and helped to fuel a highly successful local film, TV and animation community.
Both the BBC and Aardman are generous elders in the production, planning and delivery of Bristol’s festival season.
"Festival season is our chance to show each other, and the world, why Bristol is the first choice for anyone who wants to learn from the very best."
At Encounters this year, Aardman Executive Chair David Sproxton premiered a world-first – a 30th anniversary, re-mastered version of that iconic Peter Gabriel track Sledgehammer. Remember the fruit on the ex-Genesis front man’s head?
Other treats were journalist Paul Mason’s “Desert island flicks” and a conversation with renowned author and screenwriter David Nicholls. His most recent novel, Us, is being adapted for television.
Set that alongside 500 young filmmakers and animators from across Europe showing us why short-form is so exciting, and our season was off to a great start.
On the other side of the city’s floating harbour, at the cinematography festival, Bond director Roberto Shaefer was discussing light and pictures.
Meanwhile, Philippa Lowthorpe, still the only woman to win a Bafta for fiction direction, was unpicking that special relationship between director and DoP with her DoP, Matt Gray.
A retrospective with double Oscar winner and festival patron Chris Menges was the icing on the cake. The Killing Fields, The Mission, Local Hero, Kes… I could go on.
Netflix made the journey to Wildscreen for the European premier of The Ivory Game. Leonardo DiCaprio was an executive producer on the project but, no, he wasn’t in town.
Sir David Attenborough talked to Chris Packham about the future of our fragile planet, while the “wildlife Oscars” – the Panda Awards – filled 1,000 seats at the Colston Hall.
Comedian John Bishop was among the winners. His Gorilla Adventure, made by Bristol company Tigress, won the Panda for Popular Broadcast.
These glorious festivals are great news for everyone in the sector, including the city’s brilliant technical specialists. They encompass camera crews, editors, producers, musicians, researchers and the burgeoning digital teams.
Festival season is our chance to show each other, and the world, why Bristol is the first choice for anyone who wants to learn from the very best and why it is such an inclusive, exciting place to work.
Lynn Barlow is a journalist and documentary producer, as well as director, creative industries, at the University of the West of England. She chairs the Bristol Centre and recently joined the RTS Board of Trustees.