Sapphormation

Even the shortest of amateur films can be more enjoyable than many a mainstream release, and that was certainly the case with the ultra-short shorts shown at last night’s “Sapphic screening”, an hour long event organised by Tanya Smith and Amelia Lee as part of Manchester’s newest lesbian festival, Sapphormation. As their promotional material states, Sapphormation is intended for “women who love women, who also like to think, discuss, debate, try new activities, experience culture and basically do a lot more than the usual things found on the gay scene”. It aims to present a less stereotypical, more inclusive, and culturally richer alternative to the glittery Village-centred events that many people say they find far too predictable, commercial and unchallenging. Chorlton’s Irish Club was an excellent and unusual choice of venue that suited the laid back and clearly enthusiastic audience.

The common link between the films is that they celebrate and foreground multiple and complex issues of identity, self, society, and both lesbian and bisexual experience. But while all of them were engaging, warm, and very well made, they were an otherwise eclectic collection. Two of the most memorable were Love Skate Relationship, by Georgia Rooney and Rachel Tavernor, a straightforward documentary/interview style piece about the women who compete in the Brighton Rockers roller derby, and the darkly tragic Paris/Sexy by Edinburgh-based Ruth Paxton, about a girl and her father dealing with isolation and mental illness. That one had a little more budget behind it, being funded by Scottish Screen and BBC Scotland among others, with the excellent David Liddell as Director of Photography. Everybody wanted to see Hannah Beadman’s experimental and erotic Homecoming, but sadly some technical issues meant that the visuals were too dark. Luckily her tantalising and colourful “queer re-edit” of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome made up for it.

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Although both of Manchester’s Universities have helped support Sapphormation’s organisation, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – something of a holy grail for academics seeking funding – have made an interesting and admirable move in looking beyond their usual University projects to help create something valuable for the LGBT community. Sapphormation’s lineup of events (which included political debates, comedy shows, live music and a “Women in Business” Seminar) took place at venues across the city over only two days, meaning that as I write this it’s all just about over. Hopefully the festival’s organisers will find ways to transcend this year’s shoe-string budget and become an even bigger and annual social fixture.

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