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Stay at Home Comforts: Matt Heason

We spoke to ShAFF Festival Director Matt Heason about home movies and media messages.

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Sheffield Adventure Film Festival is an annual fixture for fans of cinema and the outdoors alike.

Sadly, coronavirus meant the 2020 edition was called off with only a few days' notice. The cancellation reportedly left ShAFF's future hanging in the balance, but for now the team have continued to screen inspirational films for viewers at home and pushed support for other local businesses.

We spoke to Festival Director Matt Heason about home movies and media messages.

Hi Matt, how are you and what are you doing today?

I'm currently furloughed so not a whole lot of work going on sadly. Lots of thinking about how we might move forwards as lockdown continues to ease and the new normal takes shape. I'm looking at drive-in cinema initially, to be phased into cycle-in and walk-in cinema in the outdoors until we're allowed back into the beloved cinemas. Aside from that I'm home-schooling my two boys who are 11 and 13, managing a virtual kids' running club in our village, and trying to keep myself fit and healthy.

If you had to sum up your lockdown experience so far in one sentence, what would it be?

Lockdown has been a wild mix of blissful peace and quiet, as life initially slowed to a snail's pace, but with the horrors of the daily news bulletins and a recent extreme reaction here in the Peak District with an explosion of visitors in fine weather over the holidays.

Are you doing anything in particular to keep your spirits up during lockdown?

Lots of exercise. Cooking. Reading. We've done a number of fun projects with the boys to keep them occupied, but which have ended in me learning some new skills. Have made a few YouTube videos of their antics which has been fun. I quite like the Quentin Quarantino phrase!

Do you have any music, book, film or TV recommendations you'd like to share?

I just finished a book called North to The Night about a couple who sail to the high Arctic in the early 90s to over-winter in an ice-choked fjord. It's beautiful to read about somewhere so distant from here, but it's his description of his personal journey that really resonated. Highly recommended.

Also, written around the same time was a book called The Truth Machine by James Halperin. It's about a Mark Zuckerberg-esque character who invents a machine that can tell if you're lying, which changes the world. It was written in the 90s but is set in current times and up to 2050. It's very thought-provoking.

In terms of film and TV, Normal People is intense. Re-watched Twelve Angry Men the other night, which was amazing, The Last Dance is keeping me occupied right now as I relive my youth playing basketball vicariously with Michael Jordan.

Is there a particular restaurant, café or bar you're missing, or a local delivery you've enjoyed?

Our local pubs in the village (The Sir William and The Maynard) are doing a pretty regular takeaway service which has been great. Not been out for a good curry for a while which feels sad.

What has the public's reaction been - in Sheffield and beyond - since ShAFF 2020 was cancelled? What's the latest on the future of the Festival?

The reaction has been phenomenal. Because we had to cancel with less than a week to go, we immediately posted information to the website on how people could support the Festival, as it all felt very calamitous at the time.

Initially there was a flurry of kind donations, which helped, but since then it's been heartening that we've had a steady stream of new Patrons sign up to the 'Friends of ShAFF' scheme on Patreon.

It's still hard to envisage running any sort of event at the moment, but assuming we do eventually reach a stage where we can get together again, we have a festival ready to go!

During lockdown you've screened all sorts of adventure films for free, via the ShAFF Weekly Watchlist. Have any of these received an especially positive response from viewers?

We've chosen the films carefully, so the standard has been incredibly high. Engagement via our social channels has been pretty good. Four Mums and A Boat was a favourite, as was Dodo's Delight.

There's been quite a bit of discussion on people really valuing their time outside during lockdown - getting into running, cycling etc - and the positive environmental impacts of less traffic. Do you think we can hold onto some of these silver linings in Sheffield?

I sincerely hope so. It's definitely been one of the upsides of the whole thing. It was lovely for a while to go for a local run with my boys and not hear a car or an aeroplane or really see any people. It's not something that's likely to be repeated in their lifetime.

On the flipside, there's an increasingly negative narrative developing on social media, fuelled by the media and frankly some confusing messages from the government, that is pitting people against each other over access to the countryside. There are too many stories about littering, motorbikes and moorland fires, but precious little about a country code, and educating people who, through no fault of their own, are simply not used to wild spaces and don't know how to act or the importance of protecting and respecting them.

I'd like to think ShAFF, The Outdoor City, the Peak District National Park and the countless associated organisations can do something positive to bridge this gap, as it desperately needs bridging.

What's the place in or near Sheffield that you want to visit which you haven't been able to since lockdown started?

The Showroom Cinema is pretty high up there. That and The Climbing Works and Awesome Walls. Probably my three favourite Sheffield places.

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