Behind the scenes of Grimmfest 2023: Manchester’s female-focused horror festival

Grimmfest returns to Manchester’s Odeon Great Northern for this year’s female-focused horror festival. Mancunian Matters’ Olivia Hughes spoke to acting director Dr Linnie Blake about what to expect and the complexities of the horror genre. 

This year’s festival is being run by Dr Blake and Leonie Rowland. 

Both come from an academic background with Rowland being a PhD student in the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, which Blake co-founded in 2013.

Dr Blake said it was a “steep learning curve running a festival when coming from an academic background”.

“We hope to speak to a more diverse audience of people with this festival, and the sheer variety of films on offer should mean there is something for everyone,” Blake added. 

Grimmfest 2023 is focusing on women in horror, whether that be female writers, actors or directors or female-focused stories.

“Horror has always spoken to the plight of the marginalised and now the formerly marginalised are beginning to make and write horror,” said Blake.

She was also clear that “however praised or popular a film may be, if a film goes beyond the pale in terms of gratuitous use of violence, we would not screen it – anything that we considered gratuitous in its depiction of women, people of colour, queer people”. 

In the past, the idea horror films are inherently misogynistic is one which has put many women off attending horror festivals or even getting into the genre in general.

Grimmfest have assured they want to treat their audience with respect and “open the door to people who are a bit afraid of the genre because horror enriches your life,” said Dr Blake. “Horror exists to enlighten, not to degrade.” 

The city itself is well suited to such a festival, Dr Blake argues. “Manchester is a very warm and friendly and embracing city, but it has a dark undertone.”

There’s plenty for guests to see and do at the festival, with a plethora of feature films and 22 short films to catch.

There are also market stalls for customers to peruse, as well as podcasters from The Evolution of Horror, who will be doing Q&A’s and a pub quiz throughout the weekend, and a live ghost story performance from theatre company The Book of Darkness and Light.

The films themselves are from all across the world with submissions from Latin America, USA, Europe and East Asia.

One particularly exciting feature is Door by Banmei Takahashi, which was previously thought to be lost for over 30 years but has been recovered for its first UK screening.

Grimmfest will run from the 5th – 8th October. Tickets can be purchased at grimmfest.com

Featured Image courtesy of Grimmfest website

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