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LEN PHELAN reports on a new film venture showcasing progressive cinema at this year's Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival

This summer's Tolpuddle Martyrs festival in July will see the launch of a unique initiative in encouraging and promoting radical film in Britain.

Filmmakers from this country and around the world are being invited to enter their work at the inaugural Tolpuddle Radical Film Festival.

Its organisers have just announced an exciting new competition, the Small Axe award for radical short film with categories for student and activist films.

"There's only one requirement if you want to enter your work," says festival organiser Chris Jury, whose face may be familar to fans of the Lovejoy TV series and who's worked as a writer and director on TV soaps like Eastenders and Holby City. "It must contribute to a radical agenda for progressive social change."

Other than that proviso, any kind of film can be entered as long as its running time does not exceed 30 minutes.

The films will be screened at the festival in the Vintage Mobile Cinema, the last of the mobile cinema units produced in the late 1960s. They were commissioned by Tony Benn when he served in Harold Wilson's Labour government.

Unsurprisingly, Jury is convinced that there'll be a big response. "The festival is part of an exciting new wave of social activism in the British film world," he says.

"Today there is near universal access to film on the internet either as a producer or viewer. Such a communications revolution has not been been witnessed since the invention of the printing press and the spread of mass literacy."

The social and political power of that phenomenon can be seen in the so-called Twitter revolutions of the "Arab spring" and the rapid spreading of activist films globally through Facebook, Twitter and social media.

But Jury is convinced that "real people in the real world" need to meet face-to-face and work together. "This is a chance for activists to meet and celebrate each others' work, to give it the tangible value it deserves," he says.

Supported by veteran filmmaker Ken Loach, the festival is being run by volunteers. But it needs to raise £3,000 to prime the initiative and the organisers have launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign.

"If you are a supporter of radical film please back our project by making a modest financial contribution online," says Jury, "especially if your definition of 'radical' is work that's original, rebellious, unusual, subversive, militant and, above all, inspiring."


n Information on the Tolpuddle Radical Film Festival is available at and donations can be made at


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