Festival time

The Pleasure Garden, from http://festival.london2012.com

2012 will of course see the Olympic Games in London, and the nation is cranking itself up in readiness. One of the things we’ve been promised was called the Cultural Olympiad, and was designed to be a jamboree of art and culture for all those people who don’t like sport. The name ‘Cultural Olympiad’ was awful, and the whole thing was staggering along badly, enthusing no one, until it was given a sharp kick by a new head (Ruth McKenzie), and now we have the London 2012 Festival officially announced, a nationwide festival of ambition, imagination and great variety – though still for people who don’t much like sport.

Well, this is all very good, and though I’m one of those who stubbornly thinks the Olympic Games is about sport, if we have a show or two thrown in, well who’s going to complain? And among the rich offering announced so far, which range from a World Shakespeare Festival to plans to have all the bells of the United Kingdom ring at the same time (in the name of art), there is going to be a place for silent film. From 1 June to 31 August there will be The Genius of Hitchcock, which will feature three of Hitchcock’s nine surviving silent feature films screened at venues across London, with new scores. A while ago the British Film Institute announced its Rescue the Hitchcock 9 preservation appeal, and while one has a nagging feeling that, of all the silent films out there, those made by Hitchcock have been quite well looked after so far and aren’t in any iminent peril, nevertheless is nice that they are getting the attention and being presented to new audiences. The Lodger, with a score by Nitin Sawhney, will be screening at the Barbican on 21 July; The Pleasure Garden, with a score by Daniel Patrick Cohen, at Wilton’s Music Hall on 28-29 June; while the venue, date and composer for Blackmail have yet to be announced. (By the way, someone should tell the Festival people that the still they have for Blackmail is actually Hitchcock’s The Manxman …)

Doubtless the Bioscope will have a few Olympic-themed posts in 2012, if only an update to our Silent Olympics post on the history of the Games’ coverage on film during the silent era, as new films have been discovered since we wrote the post in 2008.

But while we are celebrating this new festival, let’s also be thinking of festivals we won’t have the pleasure of experiencing. The Bird’s Eye View festival of women’s film, which has had a strong commitment towards programming silent films, has had a 90% cut in its funding for 2012, and consequently isn’t taking place next year. It hopes to return in 2013, and is continuing other activities, including its current Sound & Silents touring programme of films with new score by female composers. But it’s a sad loss.