Sheffield-based Warp Films are almost synonymous with the best of British filmmaking. Last weekend the Sheffield based Production Company celebrated their 10th anniversary at MAGNA, South Yorkshire’s ex-steelworks adventure centre, with an occasion that truly captured the essence of their work.
MAGNA is an imposing location for a party, lost on a dark industrial estate between Sheffield and Rotherham, it’s an oddly labyrinthine and giddy mess of high ceilings, long corridors and dark rooms. We remembered visits to the science centre as children, but for one of us it was also the location of a slightly psychologically scarring indoor bungee jump, and it was this side of the place which came out as we entered into the starkly lit foyer with a crowd of local film fanatics and artily-dressed students. Despite the creepily cavernous aspect, actually rather reflective of the twisted psychology of many a Warp production, the atmosphere was festive and most attendees bounced around the dark rooms like excited schoolchildren.
The foyer was adorned with Warp 10 posters, along with a rather fabulous wooden sculpture of the gas masked avenger of Dead Man’s Shoes carved by Nottinghamshire-born sculptor Simon Kent. Beyond this was a gallery of stunning artworks inspired by some of the classics of Warp’s back catalogue, painted by feted Sheffield artist Pete McKee in his inimitable cartoon style. One of the more fabulous tongue-in-cheek touches was the exclusive Warp-branded Henderson’s Relish on sale – a true Yorkshire sauce for a truly Yorkshire occasion.
“[Dead Man’s Shoes] was like a f**k you to all the f**king bulls**t that was going on, like this is the place, this is real!”
The opening speeches by producer Mark Herbert, golden-boy director Shane Meadows and musician Gavin Clarke, best known for his work with UNKLE, focussed on the familial atmosphere of the company. It is crystal clear that what Warp cherishes above all else is loyalty and collaboration between some of Britain’s finest talents. They welcomed their actors on the stage, profusely thanked their crew, and it was oddly heart-warming seeing Gavin Clarke pull his old friend Shane Meadows into a one armed hug, words of adoration and f*** bombs reverberating in the dark room: “[Dead Man’s Shoes] was like a f**k you to all the f**king bulls**t that was going on, like this is the place, this is real!”
The central party piece was a projection of Warp’s first feature length film, Meadows’s Dead Man’s Shoes, with a live re-scoring provided by a gang of musicians headed by Clark. It was an emotional, visceral interpretation that complemented the film stunningly, but was in no way overbearing. Clarke’s vocals were haunting, and you can understand why Meadows dropped a career in music after hearing him sing (although I think collectively we were all mighty glad he turned to directing!). Despite watching the film from the dubious comfort of the concrete floor, it was a truly thrilling experience.
After the main event, we were released to explore the rest of MAGNA. In the cinema room, back to back showings of films such as Kill List and recent Berberian Sound Studio were playing for those seeking a full Warp injection, and right down at the other end of the vast steel maze some of MAGNA’s best science exhibitions had been opened: a beautiful but bizarre mix of flame and films laid out for us to discover. After Dead Man’s Shoes, the central room was transformed into an all-night party, with “Friends of Warp” such as Sheffield music phenomenon Richard Hawley playing sets and alcohol flowing until the early hours.
This was a fitting celebration for Warp Films, their stars and their impact. The industrial location of the party reflected the rough and ready attitude of their films, and the attendees were clearly mostly die-hard fans whose enthusiasm was palpable.
For more information about Warp Films and their many other achievements, head to their website.
Isabel Davies & Martin Parsons
Image by Elliott Brown via Flickr