Projectile debating

This post is coming a little later than would be usual, as I just took my first proper (non-anarchist-related) break in what seems like ages after Projectile finished and only just got back from it.

Submitted by Rob Ray on June 2, 2008

For those of you who aren’t up on what the Newcastle-based Projectile anarchist film festival does, it really provides the main northern answer to the London Anarchist Bookfair as the place for libertarians to get together (though Manchester, Bradford and Glasgow all have their own regular bookfairs, none are on quite the same scale). While this was my first year attending, I’ve been following the festival’s progress from down south for a while, and had interviewed a member of the collective about it in 2007, so I was really looking forward to finally meeting a good number of the people I’ve corresponded with over the last few years.

The truly impressive thing (other than Newcastle’s weirdly over-size architecture – it’s like the population is wearing a suit three times too big for it) was the venue. The Star and Shadow cinema is a voluntary project jointly organised by a bunch of art/cinema junkies and some local lefties – though various festival workers noted repeatedly to me that it was the former who really got things organised in terms of building the venue and keeping it open.

It has a capacity of 180 or so in the café/gig space, a full 100 (?) seat cinema, an arts space for people to work in, and a huge back office area set behind a warren of corridors. To be honest, I’m not sure even London has something this cool, certainly not on this scale, that isn’t likely to be served with an eviction order.

As such, though the cinema is too small to hold the sorts of numbers that the London bookfair pulls in, it is more than able to hold a full Friday-to-Monday event, allowing for a far better atmosphere and spacing the talks and films out so you can get to everything. By the end of it, I and my partner were on nodding or speaking terms with a far higher number of new people and had between us attended more of the talks and films than I’ve ever found possible at London’s hectic Big Day Out.

And those were pretty good. The Mid-June issue of Freedom is running copy on a couple of the main talks, namely Noam Chomsky’s (somewhat short) appearance to a packed lecture theatre via video link on the first evening and an important get-together of community activists from the IWCA, LCAP, and Praxis in Scotland, but others included an excellent history of the Paris Commune by the BBC’s Paul Mason and a recollection of ’68 in Newcastle by Dave Douglass.

The films varied wildly from a short on the Edinburgh solidarity campaign which has helped finance a medical clinic in Chiapas to aid the Zapatistas, to Raspberry Reich - quite possibly the most hilarious piece of political porn ever made and well worth watching if you’re not easily put off by lots of cock-sucking and/or declarations that heterosexuality is an enemy of the revolution.

In the evenings, the music was a wide mix of styles, only some of which managed to capture the imagination – though fortunately the room was pretty well sound-proofed, leading to a stream of refugees hiding out in the cinema room or the foyer/art space when some of the more *ahem* experimental work came on.

Some of the interesting figures I managed to get a proper talk with included Tom Jennings, whose work I’ve been publishing for years now but who I’d never met before in the flesh (I dragged him into an interesting chat about the surveillance state), Matt from HSG, Projectile organisers Mr. Jolly and Steve and the exuberant author, ex-miner and anarchist unionists Dave Douglass – who we stayed with and was an extremely generous host, ta for that Dave!

This year’s Projectile apparently had a lot more arguments this year in the organising collective, partly as money has been tighter, and by halfway through the Saturday (bearing in mind I’d never met them before, most of them made a point of chatting to me – really friendly folks) several were swearing blind “Never Again”. However a barrage of support and praise, and a decent wind-down curry on the Monday seemed to put them in a better mood, and it’s to be hoped that they have another crack in 2009 – the possibility of sorting out more than one venue, to link the festival in to a wider part of the city, sounds particularly interesting…