Edinburgh based plus size style and fat positive blogger AmandaApparel recaps her recent trip to the Manchester Animation Festival.
Although I haven't visited loads of times, I'm a pretty big fan of Manchester. My old employer's headquarters is in the city centre, so I used to make an occasional day trip to the city for meetings. Was I tempted to egg their building for making me redundant? Yes. However, I was an adult and just gave it the stink eye as I walked past. This visit was even better because I was off the clock, with my main squeeze, and got to stay for 4 days and 3 nights!
Bear and I stayed in the Ibis Styles Hotel on Portland Street, and it was in a word: quirky. It's been newly refurbished with a weather theme (I guess?) and it felt like it was trying very hard to be young and cool. Now, don't get me wrong. I'd absolutely rather stay in an over the top themed hotel than a boring old Premier Inn (no offence Premier Inn, your beds are majorly comfy). It's just a little difficult to compete when your go-to hotel chain is citizenM, ya know?
My biggest gripe is that the included breakfast was mehhh. There was bread for toast, cereal, and a couple mini baked goods. The only option for eggs was hard boiled (ew!). The coffee machine was out of order which was mega disappointing. But on the bright side, that gave us the opportunity to go out for brunch, which is the greatest meal of all time in my humble opinion.
When in Manchester, you have to go to Home Sweet Home. It's mandatory. I'd visited previously for cake (omg their cakes are incredible!) but I'd never been for brunch before. I got chicken & waffles and it was scrumptious. The portion size was just right for me as well. They have good coffee and good atmosphere, and if I lived in Manchester I'd definitely be a Home Sweet Home regular.
Since we had limited time between screenings, we had to hit up a couple chain restaurants that were close to the festival location like Pizza Express and BarBurrito, but it was either that or spend a fortune Uber-ing around the city. Plus we got discounts with the festival pass, so what can ya do?
I did try Japanese cheesecake in a small bubble tea joint though! I'd never had it before, so I was intrigued. Turns out it's pretty similar to New York style cheesecake, just with less cheese and less sugar. It had more of a cakey texture, rather than the usual creaminess of NY cheesecake. The more you know!
So the whole reason we were even in Manchester was for the animation festival! As an animator, this wasn't Bear's first time at the rodeo. It was mine though, and I had a blast! He attended more screenings than I did, but I spent alone time in the hotel writing, so it worked out really well.
The festival was held at HOME Manchester, which is one of the coolest venues I've ever visited. HOME is so much more than a cinema. It's also a theatre, gallery, cafe, bar, and event space. Their upcoming events calendar is full of exhibitions, performances, talks, workshops, classes, and more. We have a few good indie cinemas in Edinburgh, but I don't think we have anywhere that does everything that HOME does. I gotta admit, I'm pretty jealous!
Several of the screenings were compilations of many short films by many different creators, some of which were students and some of which were professionals. It was really interesting seeing so many different styles telling different stories back to back in that format. I quickly learned that it's customary to clap after each short. Again, the more you know!
The short film collections had ratings like any other film, but I wish there had been an explanation (or a trigger warning, honestly) detailing why they merited that rating. One of the screenings we attended was rated 18. That rating could be given for any host of reasons. It turns out that the programme featured a (multi-award winning) short film that was extremely troubling with my particular brand of trauma. If I had known that ahead of time, I could've either a) mentally prepared for the experience, or b) made an informed decision to opt out of that particular screening. Both outcomes would've prevented me from breaking down crying during the film.
Now that I've had some time to process that situation, I plan to contact the festival directly and bring this to their attention. Odds are I wasn't the only one troubled by this particular film, and I definitely think that the festival would appreciate the opportunity to grow and improve.
Two of my favourite events within the festival were masterclasses that had experts in the field sharing stories and experiences with the audiences. The first one we saw was the making of Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs, which was so cool! My absolute favourite session though was with a couple dudes from London based animation studio The Line.
This studio has an amazing body of work, but most relevant to my interests is the music video for Humility by Gorillaz (above). Like, imagine getting to not only meet but work with the artistic genius that is Jamie Hewlett. I was a little second-hand-starstruck to be honest. I'm so glad this was the final screening of our trip, because I don't think anything could've topped that.
And then I caught the stomach flu, spent the entire train journey home in the loo, and had to cancel my birthday party, but it's cool. I'll totally get over it. Sniffles.
For real though, this trip was a blast, and I'd love to spend more time in Manchester. If you have any tips on where to visit in the city, be sure to leave them in the comments below!