"Our heart is in Sheffield": world-renowned Film Festival cancelled 'one or two days' before it was due to start is going ahead this year with exciting changes

The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival was supposed to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary in 2020, but lockdown pulled the plug on the event only days before.Now thanks to support from its followers, a fundraising initiative, and embracing the online world, it is coming back better than ever this summer.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:00 am

Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (known as ShAFF) showcases the best new adventure films from filmmakers all around the world, from rock climbing and exploration, to more introspective and ‘thoughtful’ pieces.

Following its inception at the turn of the Millennium, ShAFF would have celebrated its fifteenth anniversary in 2020 with its event based at the Showroom Cinema on Paternoster Row in the city centre.

However, disaster hit only ‘one or two days’ before the festival was due to start when the UK was plunged into a Coronavirus-enforced lockdown for the first time.

The Showroom Cinema

Thankfully, supporters and sponsors stood by the festival and the team had to unanticipatedly come up with new, inventive ideas to still give the people of Sheffield, and around the globe, their adventure-fix.

Anna Paxton, the new director of ShAFF, said: "Lockdown came in the same weekend that the festival was due to happen, so the festival was cancelled with a day or two to go and that is where we were left.

“Fortunately our sponsors stood by us and didn’t pull all their funding and our followers, the people that buy our tickets, are actually very loyal and decided it was fine this year, they kept their tickets and didn’t ask for their money back – so in the beginning it was very uncertain and nobody knew what was happening.

"We started by putting some content online; free films that had featured in the festival in previous years.

The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival in 2013.

"They were really popular and from that we worked really hard on what we could offer online, because it’s Sheffield-based festival, so normally we focus on the people on Sheffield, but as we started to create the online content we found that a lot of people from around the world, not just the UK, were engaging with what we were doing.

"So we used a time when we didn’t now what was going on to bring out a channel online and weekly Zoom talks – which we could have up to 1000 people in the room – and then we would ask people to pay some sort of contribution.”

Anna became co-director of ShAFF this year alongside Matt Heason, who founded the festival in Sheffield 16 years ago.

Each summer the directors watch hundreds of ‘exciting’ and ‘invigorating’ films submitted to ShAFF and decide which ones should be shown in The Outdoor City – a name that nicely echoes the festival’s themes.

Festival director, Anna Paxton

This year’s edition will take place in July at the Showroom Cinema, but after the success of the online content in 2020, Anna says it will be incorporated to continue to engage with people not just in Sheffield, but also further-afield.

Anna said: "The films are exciting and invigorating, and range from everything like rock climbing and exploration, to more thoughtful pieces.

"One film might be someone adventuring Yosemite, and then there might be somewhere more obscure – and this can be anywhere around the world, but we want to focus on Sheffield people and a Sheffield audience.

“We want Sheffield people in the room to watch, and we hope at the moment that this will be possible, but we don’t know what the capacity will be at the Showroom given all the security they will have to put in place, so we will also now have the ability to put these film sessions on our online shop.

"So, although our heart is in Sheffield, we can garner this online audience now that can all celebrate adventure films.”

The festival also set up a Patron scheme, called ‘Friends of ShAFF’ – meaning patrons can support the festival monthly, and in return get access to online films, or a ticket when the actual event is going ahead.

This has led an exciting development, with Anna announcing that the funding through the ‘Friends of ShAFF’ scheme has allowed them to get young people from Sheffield involved through a filmmaking competition.

Anna said: “We are also taking a proportion of the monthly money to fund a young people filmmaking competition.

“We are going to be launching very soon, so that is now going to fund a competition where we ask people in Sheffield to submit their ideas for a film, and we will actually make one of those films and show that at the festival next year.”

As well as this, the festival also has a ‘Made in Sheffield’ session as part of the three-day event, championing adventure filmmakers from the region and giving them a big screen platform to showcase their work.

The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival will take place from July 9 to 11 at the Showroom Cinema and online, and more information can be found online at www.shaff.co.uk.