Review: Sensoria 2016 (II)

Mark Perkins reluctantly bids farewell to Sensoria for another year.

If there’s a night out that has my name on it, a live band playing the soundtrack to a silent film is it. There’s been a few memorable ones over the years in Sheffield, with recent DocFest events, but only after our own In The Nursery led the way with some outstanding events in previous years. Wednesday night in the Drama Studio was the venue for the screening of the early cinematic work of Georges Méliès, with music from three-piece band Stems. You may well know the iconic picture of the Man In The Moon with a rocket embedded in his eye. The film it came from, A Trip To The Moon was the main event tonight. It was astonishing how accomplished the film was, with pioneering special effects, but what was even more impressive was the fact that, despite being made in 1902, it was a ‘colour’ film. Before it was released, twenty one women hand-painted a part of each frame in a production line in Méliès’ factory in Montreuil. One advantage of doing this, as well as adding some realism to the film, was that he was able to charge more to see the coloured version. These films are always better to watch projected on a big screen and tonight we came a little closer to how it must have felt to see those early pioneering images. The music from Stems was so good, and so fitted what we saw, that it became part of the film.


The TV show Our Friends In The North has been regarded ever since it was shown in 1996 as a true television landmark. This year is the twentieth anniversary of its debut on BBC2, and to mark this Sensoria showed the first episode, and arranged a Q&A from the writer Peter Flannery, Ian Neil a director of Music and Film and Christopher Eccleston, who was almost unknown before being in the show. Worryingly, the discussion started without him, and it seemed touch and go as to whether he’d make it, but, to rapturous applause, he turned up, slightly late, and was no less welcome for that. This session was as fascinating as the series itself. Peter Flannery talked about how and why he wrote it, and Christopher Eccleston showed that he had such great affection for the programme it was clear why he’d made the effort to attend. Events in the show had resonated with him in his own life in the intervening years, and as the sweep of the show was such that the characters aged around 30 years, he has had to deal with the same issues of getting older that his on-screen character had to. He was as charming and welcoming to anyone who wanted to chat to him at the end. I even had the obligatory selfie taken. A fabulous night.

Sensoria 2016

Friday during the day was when Sensoria put on their ever popular Pro Day. Interested professionals and keen amateurs alike assembled in the Showroom this year, for discussions, demonstrations and talks on the latest developments in the world of music, film and sound. The packed day ended with the annual delegate favourite, the scoring competition, and this one was the best one I’ve seen. Composers from around the country provide a score to a short film clip; this year provided by the Discovery Channel. Their efforts were impressive to say the least, and even managed to make one of the judges, Ben McAvoy, who earns his living by doing just this, jokingly fear that he might soon be out of a job. Tremendous.


The climax of the Sensoria week was the Three Ring Circus on the Saturday night, with Richard Hawley, John Grant and Bill Ryder-Jones playing three gigs in three venues, and dashing between them all, but I was due to take my folks out for their wedding anniversary, so for me the week climaxed a little early with Wrangler. This is Stephen Mallinder’s latest incarnation as he teams up with Phil Winter of Tunng, famed for their weird sounding folk music and Ben Edwards, who as Benge is a renown electronic musician. Something of a ‘supergroup’ for many of us. It was, in case you  forgot, Stephen Mallinder’s pioneering and still-influential group, Cabaret Voltaire who recorded the song Sensoria, without which, this festival would be looking elsewhere for a name. To no-one’s surprise at all, they ended the night with an updated 2016 version of the song. What a night, and what a week. Sensoria will be 10 years old next year, and I’m intending to be there to bring you all I can of the celebrations. So, as Fred Pontin used to entreat us every Boxing Day… Book Early.

Head to for more info about the festival.

Head here for more from Mark Perkins’ Up The Narrow Stairs blog, including the first installment of his Sensoria 2016 review.

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