Stoke Your Fires was the official film festival for Stoke on Trent. It ran for eight years before falling under review at the end of 2015. The future of the festival is now uncertain.
I’ll not go into the reasons why mainly because I am not privy to the inner details. What I shall discuss is what the festival meant to me and how its omission weakens the creative community of Stoke On Trent.
Stoke Your Fires presented me with my first award. For that reason alone, the festival will always occupy a special place in my heart. It afforded me (and the cast/crew) the opportunity to have our work viewed by a respected panel of experts, and our efforts to be validated. I remember the excitement of hearing that our £500 film, (the first project for myself and many others who were involved,) had been accepted into the festival. That feeling was eclipsed by the news that we had won an award for Best UK Short Feature. News of the award was well received and I know that all involved with the film look back on the project with a sense of accomplishment. Stoke Your Fires played a vital part in instilling those emotions.
Now that the festival is gone, local filmmakers have nowhere to submit which represents the film commuinty of Stoke On Trent/Staffordshire . I cannot speak for the film making the community at large, but I suspect the absence of a locally based film festival is felt deeply. Those making films at all in the area would have looked towards Stoke Your Fires not only as a valid submission opportunity, but as an accomplishment of note that they could add to their CV’s/Show reels etc. As a creative, I want my work to be seen, to be recognised locally first. I see that as the beginnings of a solid foundation for a career in the arts, and I suspect that I might not be the only one to do so.
As it stands, local filmmakers do not have the opportunity that I was fortunate to have. They will not feel the pride that I did at having their work recognised by their peers, and must look further afield to submit their work. I think this is a shame, and the powers that be are missing a trick here, especially with the current aim of bidding for the City of Culture 2021.
We are a city without a film festival. That is a glaring weakness. If for no other reason than to strengthen the bid, the festival must return.
It put Stoke On Trent on the radar of local, national and international filmmakers.
It raised the profile of the city.It inspired people like myself to create and submit work by its presence.
It inspired people like myself to create and submit work by its presence.
Without it, we are doing the filmmaking community and the bid for the city of culture a massive disservice.
It may not have been the biggest, star-studded or most prestigious film festival that the world had ever seen, but it was ours. I for one wish to see it reinstated as part of the Art programme. It is time that the council and the powers that be to back the creative community, and to push the area’s talent to the forefront of public attention.
It is time for the council and the powers that be to back the creative community, and to push the area’s artistic talent to the forefront of public attention.
Back the bid. Back the artists working within the area. Bring back Stoke Your Fires Film Festival.
For more information on Dan and his work visit http://www.fatherdarkness.co.uk