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The feast after the film famine

16 Aug 2021

Timothy Spall, Phyllis Logan, Gillies MacKinnon and Joe Ainsworth get the Festival going in grand style.


On my opening gala list: Brasserie Blanc table for Roger (Festival artistic director) and Jo Gibson – tick. Table for director Gillies MacKinnon – tick. Table for film producer Sol Papadopoulos – tick. Table for Timothy Spall, star of the opening film, The Last Bus, and wife Shane – tick. Or should that be table for Mr. Turner, Churchill (The King’s Speech) and LS Lowry (Mrs Lowry & Son), sir? Right this way, sir. I sit the multi-talented Timothy next to Roger and Jo, his wife, an artist who gets on like the proverbial with new painter Timothy who learnt his craft playing those two iconic men, his first art exhibition soon in London.

Phyllis Logan, his The Last Bus co-star and well-known as Mrs. Hughes in Downton Abbey and the sidekick alongside Ian McShane in Lovejoy, is seated with actor husband Kevin McNally (The Crown, Pirates of the Caribbean) next to one of the two film’s producer Roy Boulter and also with Sally Austin, representing the film festival’s main sponsor Greenwood Wealth Solutions, known to many as the managing director of Spirit FM before the radio station was taken over by Bauer’s Planet Radio.

Soon all 20 guests are seated and delicious food and wine overflows, all other opening event ticket holder in the restaurant ordering their three-course meal, many returnees after the Covid film famine. I sit opposite Sol Papadopoulos, also producer of the film and two-time BAFTA nominee and winner of six UK Royal Television Awards, he’s next to Gillies MacKinnon, the film’s director who has worked with some of the best including Judi Dench, Mark Rylance, Albert Finney, Jonathan Pryce, Kate Winslet – the list is endless.

The film’s writer Joe Ainsworth, who is much in demand as a scriptwriter, takes a place opposite Donna Ockenden, a generous film festival sponsor. Initially wanting to be a singer, his passion for writing took over, working for soap operas such as Brookside and more recently, Holby City. Writing stories ahead of their time for Brookside, Joe became renowned for his contributions to hard-hitting storylines. He’s a funny, engaging companion, full of stories and is working on The Last Date with producer Sol who runs Hurricane Films. Director Don Boyd talks over his next film with John Cairns, CEO of Parkland Entertainment in-between bites of mackerel pâté and lamb kebab with spicy couscous.

The final course will be the much-anticipated The Last Bus followed by the Q&A with director, actor and writer, to continue the buzz felt on this much-missed film reunion. Will those colourful voting jars on the way out from the film fill up with voting marbles, mostly 5 for good, not 1 for poor for this UK Premiere? But before we can make our way to the cinema, lights are dimmed as Walter Francisco, Cinema Director & Programmer, snaps pictures as a chocolate and gold decorated cake from the kitchen passes through the restaurant for Roger. Roger has planned this well!  His birthday falls on the return of the much-loved and missed Film Festival, the 110 guests singing the Song. Now for the film – or films, shall I say, all 130+ of them to choose from. What a feast!


Carol Godsmark, Hospitality Manager and Guest Relations