Boldly exploring futuristic and heritage film at the Winter Gardens Film Festival this February

Blackpool’s very own film festival is back, having announced a programme of screenings, talks and workshops full of futuristic film and vintage delights.

Following last year’s comeback event, The Winter Gardens Film Festival returns to the iconic venue from the 11th to 12th February 2023 and will include its usual variety of classic and contemporary film. Main screenings will take place in the wonderful Opera House at the Winter Gardens. Built in 1939 as a cine-variety theatre, combining a super cinema with a world class stage for theatrical performance, the venue’s capacity of just under 3000 makes it the second largest theatre in the UK. More recently a permanent HD/surround sound cinema projection system has been installed amongst the Art Deco luxury giving a real sense of 1930’s Hollywood glamour to the event.


Saturday’s theme is based on Blackpool’s motto Progress. Screenings and events will reflect on the ways that our dreams, hopes and fears about the future are represented in film. There’s a programme of futuristic films from across the ages such as the 2022 Afrofuturist sci-fi punk musical Neptune Frost, the 2001 anime favourite Cowboy Bebop and Fritz Lang’s 1927 pioneering sci-fi classic Metropolis, which will be screened with a live accompaniment performed by David Ivory on the Mighty Opera House Wurlitzer.

Focusing on a more sustainable future, the festival is pleased to bring audiences a preview of the brand-new documentary Fashion Reimagined, which follows fashion designer Amy Powney of cult label Mother of Pearl, who embarks on a three-year journey to create a sustainable clothing collection from field to finished garment, and transform the way we engage with fashion. This special screening will be followed up with a Free Repair Café Sew & Swap event hosted by Fylde Repair Cafe, where visitors can bring their old clothes to swap or repair, thus helping to reduce clothing waste.

New Work

Saturday plays host to two Blackpool on Film events, showcasing two new films filmed on location locally. Mr Blackpool is a brand new production by performance artist Harry Clayton-Wright. It features a “post-apocalyptic Liberace” hosting an end of the pier show at the end of the world – an all singing, all dancing, visually arresting, summer season seaside special. Ahead of the production’s premiere in 2024, Harry will talk through the development process so far and give audiences a very special first look at the glamorous world of Mr Blackpool.

Mars is an exciting original scripted short from Mercury Studios shot in November 2022. It features Yasmin Finney as a Trans teenager finding her way as she grows up in Blackpool. Produced by Cat Marshall, Stefan Demetriou and Dominic Harrison (Yungblud), whose song Mars directly led to the idea for the film. The Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival will also share a diverse selection of outstanding short films, showcasing unique stories from around the world and Iris Prize director Berwyn Rowlands joins the audience to introduce this stunning collection of films.

A Very Vintage Valentine

On Sunday things get romantic with a variety of classic films such as Brief Encounter, (Filmed on location at Carnforth Railway Station, Lancaster) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Piccadilly to get you in the Valentine’s mood. The Winter Gardens Pavilion will host a free day of vintage entertainment with vocalists Aaron Whiteside and Hattie Bee singing the greatest hits of yesteryear. Showtown Blackpool will lead a fascinating history talk on seaside fun and fortune-telling, plus there will be stalls selling fabulous vintage clothing, accessories, artworks and art deco posters. BA Filmmaking students from Blackpool School of Arts have designed a green screen experience where you can dress up in vintage gladrags and act in your very own classic film. The ever-popular vintage tea dance will run throughout the day, so don’t forget those dancing shoes!

The weekend ends with a celebration of local history as director Gillian Wood and writer Michelle Crane host a screening and Q&A session featuring their short films Flyte of Fancy and Granny inspired by real stories from our Lancashire heritage.

Festival director, Catherine Mugonyi said “We are delighted to be back for 2023. We’ve always wanted to give people the opportunity to share their love of film and explore new independent work. This year we’re really aware of the effect of the Cost of Living crisis locally, so we’ve worked hard to keep tickets affordable. Many of our films are ‘pay as you feel’ so that people can pay what suits their pocket – that could be £2.50, £5 or even free.

We’ve introduced a new special concession for young people and we’re also very pleased to offer a sing-along family screening with free child tickets, as we love welcoming children to the cinema to experience the magic of the big screen.”

The Festival is presented by the Winter Gardens Trust and Blackpool-based arts group Aunty Social supported by Blackpool Council and the Winter Gardens venue management. The full programme of films and events is available on the website: https://www.wintergardensfilm.co.uk/programme-2023/ or searching for Winter Gardens Film Festival on Facebook.


Tickets are available range from FREE to PAY WHAT YOU FEEL or £45-weekend wristbands which give entry to all events.

A perfect way to spend the beginning of Valentine’s, half term for some, while gaining access to very special spaces in iconic Winter Gardens theatres and spaces in Blackpool.


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