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.

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

2017 Programme Launch

The full programme of events for The Great Northern Creative Festival has been unveiled.

The programme for The Great Northern Creative Festival, in partnership with its principal sponsor Arriva Rail North, has launched presenting this year’s diverse selection of special guests, films and events.

The Festival will screen an array of fiction and documentary features, including the British premiere of Christopher Sykes’ award-winning documentary Golan: A Farewell to Mr Cinema and a special preview screening of SOLO!. There will also be screenings of short films, including documentary, live action and animated works.

The 2017 festival features a stellar line-up of directors, cast and crew to take part in career interviews, Screen Talks, Q&As and Industry Talks, including George Costigan (Shirley Valentine; Rita, Sue and Bob Too), Henry Normal (PhilomenaRed Dwarf) John Thomson (Cold FeetThe Curse of the Were-Rabbit) & Ovidio Assonitis (Piranha Part Two: The Spawning; Beyond the Door).

Taking place over 6 days, the Festival’s screenings are at venues across Preston, including UCLan’s state of the art Media Factory.

We round off The Great Northern Creative Festival with the Arriva Rail Festival Awards. Various prizes will be handed out on the evening including TGNCF Outstanding Award 2017 and TGNCF Lifetime Achievement Award.

Student wins award for radio documentary exploring his own eye condition

Mohammed Salim Patel with his award from The Great Northern Creative Festival

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) student has been recognised for his journalistic talents after winning an award for a radio documentary he made about a degenerative eye condition that he himself suffers from.

Mohammed Salim Patel, a 21-year-old final year journalism student from Blackburn, was handed the Excellence in Journalism Award at the first ever Great Northern Creative Festival which is hosted by UCLan and sponsored by Northern Rail.

Known as blogger TheBlindJournalist, Salim produced a 23 minute piece called An Insight into Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) for his final year project. The documentary explores how the condition, which causes a deterioration of the retina, affects sufferers as well as looking at what causes it, the research that’s being done to find a cure and the support available for people with RP.

The former Blackburn College student said: “This documentary has allowed me to raise awareness of an eye condition that affects 3.5 million people across the world and show what I’m capable of at the same time. I am ecstatic about winning this award and feel like all of my hard work has paid off.”

Senior broadcast journalism lecturer Deborah Robinson nominated Salim for the award. She said: “Salim is an exceptionally talented person. It is remarkable that he has managed to secure interviews with such powerful contributors to create a documentary that is both informative and moving.

“Salim has completed several industrial placements and I’m sure that in the future we will hear him broadcast professionally.”

Salim was one of 15 winners at the inaugural Great Northern Creative Festival awards ceremony which recognises the outstanding creative talents of UCLan students in media, film, photography and journalism. It is sponsored by Northern Rail, which has a longstanding reputation of promoting UCLan talent through an annual rail safety film script writing competition. More recently, Northern Rail commissioned an Instagram residency art project for UCLan student Riley Arthur to showcase her journeys through Northern Rail’s Northwestern routes for a month on the social network site.

For more information on Salim’s work follow TheBlindJournalist blog at or follow him on Twitter. To learn more about Riley’s project follow her on Instagram.

GREAT NORTHERN CREATIVE EXTRAVAGANZA

A free four-day media extravaganza is taking place at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to showcase creative talent.

The Great Northern Creative Festival, which runs from 22 to 25 April, will bring together some of the biggest creative talents in the north and from across the UK, as well as showcasing the outstanding creative talents of UCLan students in media, film, photography and journalism.

Over the four days students can attend a mixture of workshops, pitching sessions, industry talks and specialist lectures. Most of the events are also open to members of the general public.

Opening the festival is renowned author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, who will do a Q&A with the audience in Darwin Lecture Theatre, before a screening of his classic 2002 film 24 Hour Party People. He is one of the most respected screenwriters working in the English film industry. His career has seen him work alongside the likes of Danny Boyle on the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. He has been the screenwriter on films and has written for some of the most classic shows on our screens today, in the likes of Doctor Who and Coronation Street.

He said: “I’m delighted to support this year’s UCLan Student Creative Festival to offer support and advice to its creative students. Events like this are absolutely vital to help young creative people have a voice and motivate them to get out there and have a future in the creative industry.”

Also passing on her invaluable experience is Red Production’s Emily Feller. Emily has script edited and worked in development on dramas such as Bodies, Emmerdale, Scott and Bailey, and The Driver. She has recently been promoted to in-house Producer at Red Production Company having overseen Russell T Davies’ new E4 drama, Banana. Emily will talk about her career from script development to producing and will offer career advice. Tying into Emily’s event is ‘Mediating the North’ with Dr Peter Atkinson and Professor Ewa Mazierska. The academic symposium will analyse the huge BBC hits Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax.

A student only event, CJAM 2015, will see industry professionals from across the board visit, with undergraduates getting the chance to pitch their ideas and network.

Andrew Ireland, Executive Dean of Journalism and Media at UCLan, said: “This is a really exciting time to be involved in the creative industries at UCLan. Events such as the Great Northern Creative Festival give our students amazing access to top industry professionals and engage in debates and career planning. It’s a great opportunity to showcase our talented students and their work.”