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With horror geeks everywhere just about getting over last weekend’s FrightFest excitement, we here at Horror DNA are always looking for our next instalment and we’ve found it. Grimm Up North is a promising annual horror festival based in the creative hub of the North West of England, Manchester. Over the past two years it has premiered exciting new films and showcased upcoming British talent and it looks set to do the same again this year.


It’s one we’re all excited about so we had a quick chat with festival director Simeon Halligan and Festival Programmer Steve Balshaw about this year’s event.


Charlotte Stear: How did Grimm Up North come about?


Grimm was the result of a meeting between Producer / Filmmaker partnership Rachel Richardson-Jones and Simeon Halligan, and Film Festival Programmer Steve Balshaw. Rachel and Simeon had just completed their first feature film,  Splintered, and were looking to put together an event to showcase it, alongside a couple of other British features. The more the three of them talked, the larger and more ambitious  the proposed event became, and as they started to put out feelers to filmmakers and distributors, as well as potential punters, it became clear that there was a real hunger for a festival of this kind. We built it, and they came.


CS: Grimm Up North is a fantastic name for a festival, was it important for you to have the north covering events like this?


The name came initially from Steve, who always thought “Grim Up North” was an obvious name for a horror festival based in the region. Simeon suggested the modification to “Grimm” to reflect our focus not just on horror, but also the weird, the fantastic, and the fairytale. The Grimm team are all based in Manchester, Salford, and the North West, and we are keen to attract more film premieres to the region. The UK is far too London-centric, and this has an effect on filmmaking elsewhere in the country. With the arrival of Media City in Salford, there is a real need for a high-profile film festival, with a strong brand identity and international recognition, which can offer a platform for work produced locally, nationally, and internationally. Grimm has already started to put itself on the map with filmmakers and distributors around the world and to attract unique international premieres and guest stars.


CS: What makes Grimm Up North different to other film festivals out there?


The Grimm Team features a Film Maker and Producer, a festival programmer and film curator, and a film journalist among its core team. We are all of us fans of genre cinema, but each of us has a very different attitude to what constitutes genre and very different tastes. We see the festival as exploring the darker, edgier, more extreme aspects of cinema in all its forms. Grimm Up North focuses on Horror, Fantasy, SF, Crime film and thriller, and even black comedy, but is not limited to mainstream notions of genre cinema. We try to mix it up, screening arthouse alongside grind house and underground cinema; to transcend and bend genre expectations, expand the parameters, and trample all over acceptable boundaries; to offer films which challenge our audiences as much as they shock, thrill, and entertain them.



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A mixture of new and classic movies will screen at Grimmfest 2011



CS: You have a new venue this year, the AMC cinemas. What will this new location mean for the festival?


Partnering with the AMC Cinemas gives us access to full digital screens as well as 35mm. We will be able to screen from DCP. We will even have the facility to use the screens for Gaming tournaments. In addition, AMC Cinemas are offering a lot of technical, logistical and publicity support, which means that this will be the smoothest-running, best presented festival yet.


CS: People have the opportunity to submit their own films to your festival, what will you be looking out for? Why do you feel it is important to have this incorporated to the festival?


We are always looking for something new, something unexpected and startling and challenging. We want to be surprised, and we are looking for wild, maverick talent. Every festival programmer hopes to discover the next big thing, the unflinching little shocker or off the wall cult hit that no other festival has had. It is vital to have an open submission, rather than simply approaching distributors and established filmmakers to secure the films already making a noise on the festival circuit, because this is the only way you find out just what is actually out there.


CS: When do they have until to submit?

Submissions closed at the end of August.


CS: I think most people will desperately want to know what screenings you have this year! What do you have lined up so far?


We’re still finalising a lot of things on this year’s festival, but we promise it’s going to knock people’s eyes out. For now, though, we can reveal that we’ve the World Premiere of Martin Kemp’s directorial debut, Stalker, with Martin and some of the rest of the cast and crew in attendance, and a totally crazy pulp splatter action movie called Adam Chaplin, which is going to be the big grindhouse hit of tomorrow.


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CS: Any other exciting festival surprises you can share with us?


That would be telling. Expect the unexpected. Start sleeping with one eye open!

CS: When do tickets go on sale?


Tickets are on sale now at http://www.grimmfest.com/grimmupnorth/category/tickets/

CS: So far, what have been the greatest moments from previous years?


Steve: It’s all been a blast, but I have fond memories of the riotously funny Q&A session Simeon and I conducted with Doug Bradley, Nick Vince and Simon Bamford, who played the Cenobites in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser film – it was one of those sessions that could have gone on all night. I also loved chairing the highly revealing seminar on literary adaptations with Christopher Priest, Ramsey Campbell, David Moody, and Conrad William – some of those anecdotes were priceless.  As a film programmer, I was particularly pleased by the standing ovation received by the Thai film Slice, which confirmed our belief that our audience would respond favourably to films that moved outside of safe genre tropes, and was delighted to have the UK premiere of Dead Hooker in a Trunk, which proved one of the biggest hits of last year’s festival.



Grimm Up North have announced two films to their line-up. Stalker, which is the directorial debut of Martin Kemp (fans of ‘80s pop sensation Spandau Ballet will be thrilled!) will play on Friday October 7th. Kemp will be joined by producer Jonathan Sothcott and actress Jane March to take part in an exclusive Q&A after the screening. Grimm Up North have also announced they will be previewing The Woman directed by Lucky McKee over the weekend, which is the must see controversial film of the festival season. We can’t wait.

The festival will run from October 6th-October 9th. Grimm Up North will be announcing lots of exciting news about the line-up and ticket sales, so keep checking their website http://www.grimmfest.com/ for updates!






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About The Author
Charlotte Stear
Staff Writer
Charlotte is a lover of all things spooky and macabre. If she's not reading Shirley Jackson or Stephen King, she's watching The Lost Boys for the millionth time. She loves to travel, mainly to places that are super haunted in the hopes of meeting some friendly ghosts.
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