The Great Northern Creative Expo Announces 2019 Dates

The Sixth Edition of TGNCE 18th – 23rd November 2019!

The Great Northern Creative Expo in association with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) today confirms the dates for the Expo’s sixth edition which will take place at venues across the university’s Preston campus, including the state-of-the-art Media Factory facility, from 18th-23rd November 2019.

Alan Keegan, Director of Business Development – UK Partnerships for the Faculty of Culture and the Creative Industries at UCLan, and the founder of The Great Northern Creative Expo will return as Festival Director for this sixth edition.

“I’m very excited that once again we are offering both the general public and the student base the opportunity to engage and be part of a unique event that has got bigger and better each year.” says Alan Keegan, “Over the years we have keynote guests such as author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, James Bond director John Glen, internationally acclaimed artist and photographer Ian Beesley, actor George Costigan, along with the General Manager of BBC North Adrian Mills and Stanley Kubrick’s producer Jan Harlan. The Expo will continue on in the spirit of its original founding principal of delivering the best events across the creative industries.”

Last November, The Great Northern Creative Expo presented over ten short and feature film premieres from both established and emerging talents. A new programme of almost 15 workshops and industry masterclasses proved popular across both UCLan’s student base and from attendees from farther afield. Highlights included a working masterclass from Stanley Kubrick’s producer, Jan Harlan; a feature screening of the independent motion picture Bliss! with director Rita Osei; and a guest lecture from the General Manager of BBC North, Adrian Mills.

Risa Jaroslow at The Great Northern Creative Expo 2018 (#TGNCE18)

In addition, the 2018 edition of the Expo also welcomed the local, national and international talents of Afrodeutsche, Jamie Badminton, Andrew David Barker, Steve Barker, Matthew Bennett, Paul Birchall, Abbie Bradshaw, David Bunting, Andy Chapman, Salma Chaudhry, Kezia Davis, Stuart Felton, Kieran Fletcher, FMA+12 Gage, Jing Fu, Flora Gillet, the Global Sound Movement, Candy Guard, Dominic Hodge, David Hothersall, Tristan Hunt, Risa Jaroslow, Johnny Jay, Chris Leslie, Gerry Linford, Karen Livesey, Lorna McCoid, Iakovos Pangopoulos, Patrick Pulsinger, Dr Theresa Saxon, Greg Saxton, Fiona Shields, Hannah Spikings and Mark Strange.

Fiona Shields, Head of Photography at The Guardian, at the Fieldwork Conference at #TGNCE18

Attendances at the Preston Campus for the Expo in 2018 reached above 1500 for the first time in the Expo’s six year history. 

For the first time in 2018, The Great Northern Creative Expo launched Expo Extra, creating satellite events running outside of the Expo’s traditional one-week format. The first Expo Extra events included a filmmaking masterclass from Lancaster-based production company, Intense Productions, who released horror-thriller RedCon-1 into British cinemas in September; and an Audience with broadcaster Chris Packham. Both events, held on the university’s Preston campus, were sold out and were warmly received by audiences.

(Left to right) Host Bill McCoid, with Iakovos Panagopoulos, Andy Chapman, Lorna McCoid and Matthew Bennett at the Three Northern Premieres event. 

Bill McCoid talks Kubrick, Spielberg and more with Jan Harlan

Stanley Kubrick’s executive producer Jan Harlan to shared stories from his 50-year career.

Veteran film producer Jan Harlan made his first ever visit to the North West to speak at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) as part of this year’s edition of The Great Northern Creative Expo.

The 81-year-old, who worked with Stanley Kubrick on most of his films, spoke in an ‘Audience with’ style event hosted by UCLan scriptwriting lecturer Bill McCoid. The event took place in UCLan’s Media Factory Creative Innovation Zone to a packed house.

Harlan discussed his career at length, which has spanned almost fifty years and shared many of his life experiences. He was Kubrick’s executive producer for Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut and was an assistant to the producer for A Clockwork Orange. In addition, Harlan has also worked as an executive producer for Steven Spielberg on the 2001 film AI: Artificial Intelligence.

Jan Harlan’s visit is part of UCLan’s The Great Northern Creative Expo, which aims to showcase creative talent in media, film, photography, journalism and performance at the University.  The event began as a platform to promote top quality student work and now attracts well-known national and international names, allowing the local community, students and staff to come together and enjoy a wide variety of events.

Risa Jaroslow and UCLan dancers deliver unique performance

An internationally renowned choreographer has worked with local dancers to deliver a unique performance to celebrate a milestone in the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) history.

Risa Jaroslow has worked alongside five third year BA (Hons) Dance Performance and Teaching students to create Project 190.

The dance theatre performance, which celebrated 190 years of the Institution’s history and the community surrounding the University, featured students, staff, alumni and members of local dance/arts organisations. It was debuted to a full house at UCLan’s Media Factory.

The American, who has been involved in the dance industry for nearly 45 years, has worked with the students while also coaching and mentoring the volunteer performers.

Risa said: “Everyone involved in this project has been great to work with.  The third-year students in the dance performance and teaching department were helpful co-facilitators, they were full of good ideas that they brought to every rehearsal. They were eager, open and they were attentive and supportive to the project participants, who were brand new to dance and performance, which I very much appreciated.  

“The faculty and staff of the department were wonderfully supportive, and all the project participants worked hard and with generosity to each other and to the work we made together.”

As well as running her own company, Risa Jaroslow & Dancers, she has taught dance, performance and choreographer at institutions across the United States and Europe, while working with diverse communities on New York arts programmes.

“The faculty and staff of the department were wonderfully supportive, and all the project participants worked hard and with generosity to each other and to the work we made together.”

Adriene Turner was one of the undergraduates who took part in weekly planning meetings with Risa and delivered her ideas and exercises. The project was part of a module for students to work alongside professional dance artists to see how they balance the demands of creative, artistic pursuit and facilitation.

The 21-year-old, from Birmingham, said: “Being able to witness people from a variety of ages and dance experience interact with one another, support each other through the creative process and construct unique and personal movement phrases for the final performance was inspiring to see. Also seeing the confidence level of the performers who had not done previous dance training grow more and more each week was wonderful. 

She added: “Working with Risa has been such an enriching learning experience. As a facilitator she has been really encouraging towards me. She has made me feel I have a better understanding that as a facilitator there are multiple strategies throughout the process that I can enlist to bring the most out of the performers to make the dance the best it can be.”

The special evening also saw the launch of three in-house dance companies; Aboutime Dance Company, Preston Youth Dance Companies and Lisa Simpson Inclusive Dance.

Ruth Spencer, Co-Course Leader BA (Hons) Dance Performance and Teaching, added: “It’s been really inspiring as Risa has come with a whole new international perspective. She’s worked across different contexts and has so much wisdom to pass on. She’s been amazing.”

Springwatch’s Chris Packham attracts crowds at UCLan

One of the country’s leading wildlife broadcasters has shared his life story with students, staff and visitors at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Chris Packham, who has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, discussed his lengthy television career during a question and answer session with students and staff while he told an audience of invited business people how people with autism are huge assets to companies.

During the two sessions, held on UCLan’s Preston Campus, the presenter of The Really Wild Show and Springwatch, talked about his favourite animals, his vocation to inform the public about the world’s wildlife and how to tell interesting and different stories.

“When I started out I was very lucky that I had help and the support of a good group of people and that was invaluable.”

Chris, who is also a writer, photographer, conservationist, campaigner and filmmaker, showed clips from his documentary, Asperger’s and Me, and spoke with brutal honesty about how he struggles in social situations and has difficulty with human relationships. He talked about his wish for people to better understand his condition and that of others with neuro differences and most importantly how those differences can be an asset in life.

Speaking after the student session, he said: “When I started out I was very lucky that I had help and the support of a good group of people and that was invaluable. I now feel very strongly that I should give something back and come and speak to the next generation of TV producers, writers and filmmakers because they are the future of the industry – they are the ones with endless ideas, plenty of energy and they don’t follow the rules.”

Jack Dinsley, second year BA (Hons) Journalism student from Kirkham, was among the listening crowd. The 19-year-old said: “I really enjoyed hearing about what he’s achieved during his long career and the hurdles he’s faced to deal with his Asperger’s.”

The 2018 Programme

The Great Northern Creative Expo returns for it’s 2018 edition with a progressive and inclusive celebration of Northern creativity. We are once again proud to present a wide variety of talents from The University of Central Lancashire and beyond from every corner of the Creative Industries including Film, Photography, Performance, Music, Media and Journalism. The Expo’s wide array of events, conferences and screenings will take place over the six days at venues across Preston, including UCLan’s state of the art Media Factory.


The Great Northern Creative Expo continues to attract some of the country’s leading creative talents and continues in it’s founding commitment to offer student, staff and guests this unique opportunity to share in their common passion to present their work to an audience and gain invaluable insight into their chosen careers from industry professionals at the pinnacle of their careers. 

This fifth edition of the Expo promises to be it’s most diverse in its breadth of programmed events and is again able to offer this fantastic opportunity through the generosity of The University of Central Lancashire and our other Expo Partners.

New Year, New Name!

The great northern creative experience is back again for 2018 under a brand new name, The Great Northern Creative Expo!

The Great Northern Creative Expo will run from Monday 12th-Saturday 17th November. The Expo’s wide array of events, conferences and screenings will take place over the six days at venues across Preston, including UCLan’s state of the art Media Factory.

The Great Northern Creative Expo has evolved from a commitment to promote and showcase the creative talent that has been developed at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and to also introduce to the world, the fantastic students and professionals that we have working at the University, whilst opening our doors to the city, to the North and the world beyond.

Once again, the expo will introduce a variety of talent which will include film, photography, media and journalism with performances, workshops, masterclasses, music, monologues, networking, animation and inspiration to one and all.

The expo has attracted some of the leading creative talent (nationally and internationally) and we are pleased to offer students, academics and the general public the opportunity to share a stimulating experience of creative talent which can be viewed, evaluated and enjoyed by everyone!

The programme of events is yet to be announced but the Expo will conclude with the Arriva Rail Festival Awards.

Brian Klein hits Top Gear at Great Northern Creative Festival

Ex-Top Gear director Brian Klein takes us on a Grand Tour of his career highlights at this year’s Great Northern Creative Festival, and tells us why he feels the new Top Gear is failing.

Brian Klein is one of the UK’s most sought after television directors.  With almost 30 years’ worth of experience in the business.  He has a number of impressive directing credits on his CV.  He also boasts a number of famous friends and collaborators:

“I can’t tell you what Freddie Flintoff puts in our WhatsApp group chat” Brian exclaims, whilst recalling his time directing the A League of Their Own USA road trip.  “You’ve got him, Jamie Redknapp, Jack Whitehall and James Cordon.  It’s my favourite few weeks of the year.  You go out for dinner with them every night and you’re spending company with these guys who become your friends.  It’s a real privilege of the job”.

As well as the League of Their Own lads, Brian has also developed a strong bond over the years with Top Gear’s most prominent presenting trio. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.  He worked with the trio between 2002 and 2015 on the show whilst he was director.  Brian has a particularly good relationship with Clarkson, who he first worked with back in the mid-90’s, and was heavily involved in the early stages of developing Top Gear:

“Jeremy came up with the idea and it was called ‘Carmageddon’, and I remember having lunch with him in 2001 and him saying I’ve got this new show and I want you to direct it. When I asked what it was he said “Well we’re going to have a racing driver called ‘The Gimp’, and he’s going to be in black leather in a cage and we’ll throw meat at him when we want him to drive”

Brian went on to explain that the Gimp name had to be dropped, as the BBC feared that they may be sued by Quentin Tarantino, who had a character of the same name in his hit film Pulp Fiction.  One slight name change later, The Stig was born.

He also was not surprised by Top Gear’s decline following the departures of Clarkson, Hammond and May:

“I think it’s a bit like Friends, I said to the executives at the BBC, which was probably as big as Top Gear.  Imagine if they all leave.  Then Friends comes back: same theme tune and the same layout, but with different actors.  Meanwhile the original cast goes off to make the same programme but with a different name.  What are the public going to watch?  Whoever took over Top Gear, you couldn’t make it a success”

Brian still works with Clarkson, May and Hammond today, on The Grand Tour where he is studio director.  The second series of the Amazon Prime exclusive show becomes available to watch from the 8th of December.

Words by Daniel James Morris

John Thomson: The man behind the name

“The actors got on me nerves”. A strange comment you might think from a man who has made a living appearing on our screens in some of the best-loved TV dramas.

Addressing myself and a full crowd at The Great Northern Creative Festival, John took his engrossed listeners on a journey through his career, highlighting the highs and lows of being a working actor, trying to make his way in the ever-competitive industry.

John’s passion for acting originated at what was then known as Manchester Polytechnic Theatre. Having a passion for film and TV, he took it upon himself to make friends with as many people in the creative department as possible. Spending his early college days being a typical student and enjoying most of his evenings in a pub, John managed to immerse himself in to a group of people who would cast him in their college productions, helping to ignite his passion for TV acting even further.

Despite this though John did pay gratitude to the amateur dramatics scene in Preston, in particular Preston Musical Comedy Amateur Dramatics Group, saying it helped him realise he would rather have friends in the industry than push his way ruthlessly to the top but end up with no one to support him. “You’ve got to have ambition’ he said, ‘There’s quiet ambition which I have… I have no time for ruthless ambition”.

It may be this sense of subtle self-assurance that helped him to achieve his role in Coronation Street. Despite already having a cameo part in the early 90’s, John returned to the soap in 2008, cast as Jesse Chadwick, a children’s entertainer and Electrician. The role, was perfect for John who said convincingly “I just love the sound of laughter and I love to make people laugh” (something that was obvious form his enthusiastic demeanour at the festival).

He also explained how his time on the famous street often saw him overcome with a term coined as ‘Rover-phobia’. This was known amongst the cast as being the overwhelming sensation of being stood in Coronation Street’s iconic pub, the Rovers Return. John explained how such feelings of utter disbelief would often lead to actors forgetting their lines.

“People go to pieces, its called Rover-phobia and I got it a bit, it was quite scary” said John with a reminiscent look across his face.

Before his role on the cobbles, John played Pete Gifford, an insensitive husband who had a glass half-empty outlook on every aspect of his life. The TV show was a hit and alongside his co-stars, including James Nesbitt and Fay Ripley, John’s career was at its prime. The show then returned to our screens in 2016, much to the excitement of the cast and viewers. John was given a more challenging role this time after Pete was diagnosed with depression.

John says he was able to draw on experiences in his own life to help him portray his character in a sensitive but truthful way. He explained how 2012 and 2013 were particularly hard years and after spending time in Los Angeles but with not a single audition to go to, he found himself and fellow actor Bradley Walsh, helping each other out as they both struggled to crack the industry in America. “Me and Bradley saved each other’s mental bacon” said John.

While his acting career had hit a quieter patch during 2012, John continued with his other love for doing stand up and impressions. He treated us to some hilarious examples, with the room in hysterics especially over his very convincing take on Bill Clinton. Now clearly feeling at ease with his audience, John even shared with us the little secret that he auditioned to be the voice of Shrek in the early 2000’s and after hearing how he would have portrayed the lovable ogre, I personally was left puzzled as to why he was not cast. John put it down to the fact that he was not famous enough to star alongside Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz.

Nevertheless, ogres and Hollywood stars aside, John is now focusing on the future.

He has recently been helping musical theatre students form the University of Central Lancashire put on a 45 minute musical in order to raise proceeds for Children in Need. The event has been scripted rehearsed and performed all in the space of five days and John’s experience of performing both on stage and in front of the camera has been invaluable.

His career has also been looking up after the return of Cold Feet. A six part series coming out next year means Pete Gifford will once again be gracing our screens and with John having co-written the next series it is sure to be a funny one.

John will also be starring in a short film out next year called ‘Talking of Dangers’ and you can catch him in this year’s Christmas special of ‘Trollied’.

Words by Eleanor Beth Cutts

The Visitor and the madness of cult films

What makes a great cult film? A fascinating host of characters who you can dress up as at a yearly convention? A complicated plot that takes a number of viewings to understand? Or is it seeing a faker than fake bird produce a hidden blade from its beak and stab Lance Henrikson in the neck?

Cult films are something of a phenomenon, as Ovidio G. Assonitis explained when he spoke at the Great Northern Creative Festival. 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, cult films should have “enduring appeal to a relatively small audience”, and be “non-mainstream”, but it isn’t as simple as that really.

There are generally two sorts of cult film. The first sort is genuinely good films which, for whatever reason, were misunderstood upon release and didn’t do well at the box office. Films that fall into this category include The Rocky Horror Picture Show, A Clockwork Orange and Donnie Darko.

The second, and much more baffling types of cult film are those truly terrible films, which by some minor miracle get latched onto by a small group of rabid fans.  The kind of people who see through a films many flaws and find a real charm and ‘so-bad-its-good’ appeal.

The Visitor,  based on a story written by Assonitis, is a cult film that sits firmly in that second category.  The 1979 sci-fi horror flick is a true cinematic experience. Despite its plot leaning heavily on other, more successful 70’s horror films, it’s a truly unique spectacle.

The film is directed by Giulio Paradisi (credited as Michael J. Paradise so as to appeal to American audiences more). He is best known for his numerous B-movies which tended to blatantly rip off major films of the time.  An example of this would be his 1977 production, Tentacles.  Which essentially took everything from Steven Spielberg’s box-office smash Jaws, but replaced the titular shark with a giant octopus.  Already you can see why this film has garnered such cult status.

Unlike many of Assonitis’s projects at the time, The Visitor actually boasted a cast featuring some reasonably notable names, including the aforementioned Lance Henrikson, who would go on to feature in many of James Cameron’s biggest films. Legendary director John Huston, whose films include cinematic classics The Maltese Falcon and The Man Who Would Be King, also features prominently. Lord knows why.

This film is made (or ruined some would argue) by the utter madness that is the films plot… The Visitor is essentially a story of an ancient warrior from a distant world, who comes to earth to prevent the evil Sateen (who’s definitely not any relation to Satan), from spreading his evil across the world.  Sateen has taken the form of an eight-year old girl Katy, and his plot involves getting Katy’s mother pregnant so she can deliver a devilish baby boy in Sateen’s image.

As you can imagine this leads to some utterly cringe worthy dialogue, a staple of any good cult film, where Katy says to her mother’s potential suitor “You and momma could make love and give me a baby-brother.”, but that can be forgiven for sheer amount of wild wacky moments this films throws at you.

To be clear this is in no way a good film, it’s awful.  But whether it’s intentional or not, The Visitor is just so entertaining.  There’s such a charm to its madcap, randomly put together plot.  One minute you’re at a basketball game where the ball explodes in actual Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s hands, the next we’re at a child’s birthday where the mother is ‘accidentally’ shot in the back and lest we forget Lance Henrikson’s death scene.  He meets his maker by way of a switchblade wielding bird and not just any bird, but literally the fakest bird ever seen on screen. That is no exaggeration.

It really is a fascinating piece of film.  You can’t take your eyes off the screen because there’s literally no way of knowing what’s going to happen in the next scene.  Say want you want about the film, but you can’t deny that the team behind it are doing all they can to entertain you.

The Visitor could possibly be the cult film to end all cult films. It certainly ticks all the cult boxes.  You need to go out of your way to see this film.  You’re guaranteed to see something you’ve never seen in film before and you’ll probably never see again!

Words by Daniel James Morris