Sensoria Festival 2021: What’s On

Finally, after an enforced break because of you-know-what, Sensoria Festival is back in town! Sheffield’s very own festival celebrating the fascinating world of digital arts, film and sound was forced to take 2020 off, but it’s now back with another exciting, unique and downright special series of events that, in truth, we’ve become used to from this special get-together.

The 2021 programme features a fair proportion of emerging talent from Sheffield too. It will run, as ever, at various unusual atmospheric venues across the city, and offers the usual mixture of films, live soundtracks and art installations. It all takes place from the 2nd to the 9th October, and this year the themes linking the events are Supernature and Better Together.

The recent film Bait, directed by Martin Jenkin, was in cinemas for all too brief a time, so its return, with an added live soundtrack, is a must-see for me. It was deservedly picked by many as the stand-out film of 2019, and is like no other film I’ve seen in years. Set in a Cornish fishing village, and shot on vintage 16mm film, it tells the story of simmering tensions between the tourism industry and the traditional industries that used to be the main source of income for the people who live there. Gwenno Saunders is performing a live accompaniment, so this really is going to be something special. The film was intriguing, haunting and strangely hypnotic when I first saw it. No doubt this will add a further dimension.

Gwenno will provide a live soundtrack to the film ‘Bait’

If you’ve not discovered the S1 Artspace yet, here’s your chance. Local musician Jim Ghedi and photographer Laura Merrill have worked together to combine field recordings and images, and the result is an installation called From The Estate, which will be held at the Park Hill-based gallery. It will attempt to show the relationship between where we live with the nature and green spaces that surround us, and how Sheffield combines the urban and rural in a unique way. The photographs and sounds originate on the estates of Gleadless Valley, Herdings Park, Jordanthorpe and Stannington, and the free show will be on throughout most of the festival.

Another event at the S1 Artspace will be the film Afropean Express, featuring another live soundtrack to immerse yourself in. The work is a collaboration between Sheffield journalist, writer and photographer Johny Pitts and his longtime collaborator Chris ‘Finguz’ Morris. They explore the lives of black communities across Europe, and the film itself was made on a week-long trip exploring some of the places he features in Johny’s book, Notes From Black Africa. There will be a Q&A, and also a special chance to see the film Spirit Of Dead Buildings, which is the first chapter of a project based on the histories and lives of the residents of a since demolished block of flats.

‘From the Estate’ is an audio-visual exploration of four estates in Sheffield by photographer Laura Merrill and musician Jim Ghedi

Sensoria seems to specialise in the unique and unpredictable – and Udagan is one such project. Traditional folk music from Sakha, Northern Siberia, will be fused with contemporary technology: live coding, synthesis and sampling, electronic khomus and more. Saydyy-Kuo and Oscar South have relocated to Sheffield from Sakha to bring us this multi-media show, which sounds as intriguing as it does unusual.

What looks like another intriguing event is at the Drama Studio, and is a double bill of That Long Moonless Chase and Race/Daud. The first is a three-way collaboration between animator Noriko Okaku, musician Helen PaPaioannou and sound designer Basar Under, promising a mixture of sinister folk-horror with fantastical and mythical imagery. This will be followed by another animation, Race/Daud, with live action by Nihar Palwe; a story about a father and son trying to overcome their loss of the boy’s mother. Adi Anhane and Laura and Rob Skeet will be there too, helping to provide a live soundtrack.

Animation and live soundscapes unite for That Long Moonless Chase and Race/Daud

Along with all this glorious, alternative and unique entertainment, there will be the usual opportunity for the city to welcome media professionals from far and wide for the Sensoria Pro Day. The team behind the phenomenon that is Everyone’s Talking About Jamie will be talking about the very recent transfer of the successful musical to the big screen. Another couple of guests are Gwenno, who will be talking about her new soundtrack to Bait, and also a talk from successful composer, Paul Farrer. Although you might not have heard his name, you will know his music, as he’s the composer of the theme tunes to The Chase, The Weakest Link, The Wheel, Dancing On Ice and The Krypton Factor.

All in all, another exciting week beckons, and shows how, despite the serious difficulties the team have had to work with, the spirit of Sensoria continues and grows. Long may it continue!

There are extra events being added all the time so check out their online posts for an up to date lineup at

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