Friday, February 15, 2008

Sheffield Adventure Film Festival 2008 - ShAFF

ShAFF - February 29th to March 2nd 2008

Baffin - an Island of Children

NB. all photos are authorised publicity stills from actual films shown at ShAFF; click on image for full size pic.

Above; Aerialist

Above; Committed

Next week sees the opening of what is becoming one of the UK's premier film festivals, the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, or ShAFF for short. Organised by the ubiquitous and industrious Matt Heason, who also organises the Cliffhanger Festival in August, it is perhaps a little different from the various other 'mountain' film festivals in the UK and around the World.


Different? Well, although Sheffield is unarguably one of the cultural meccas of the UK climbing community, due to its proximity to the Peak District's prime rock, coupled to the self-contained climbing 'scene' which has long been a feature of the city, ShAFF reflects not just this specific heritage but also that of other outdoor activities, adventure 'sports' if you will (though I loathe the term 'sport' applied to climbing and the like - sport has rules, these activities are anarchic and self-governing, without formal structures).


These other activites include many familiar to Sheffield's climbers: mountain biking, in all its forms (and to the non biker, you'll be surprised how varied it is); skiiing (and we aren't talking ski Sunday here!); skateboarding; BASE jumping (jumping off big cliffs with parachutes); kayaking; surfing; high-lining (tightropes, sort of); kiting; ice-caving and many more.

No Friends on a Powder Day

Cerro Lautarro - Patagonia's Ice Volcano

There's even climbing animation!

Coast to Coast

Climbing itself is represented in all its disciplines: bouldering; traditional rock climbing; soloing (ie. climbing without ropes); ice climbing; big wall rock climbing; mountaineering. These disciplines have evolved over the past 30 years to the point where they are almost separate activities, and some climbers nowadays specialise only in one or two, unlike the past, when climbers would do a bit of all of these, as well as caving when the weather was too wet to climb!


The Tower

Whether you climb, ride, chuck yourself off cliffs or just want a couple of hours of sweaty-palmed excitement, I urge you to go to the ShAFF website, look at the film programme and pick yourself a film in the early part of the festival. Most are on at the Showroom cinema which is, quite literally, a stone's throw from Sheffield train station.

24 solo -XC mountain biking at its most gruelling

Just in case you're thinking that this smacks of macho flexing and testosterone-fuelled willy-waving, enshrined in narcissistic, self-referential films, let me tell you that not only will these films give you an insight into the mindset of the people who do these sort of things (who are, by and large, surprisingly normal), but you'll find that there are a lot of films featuring women, and not a few featuring people who aren't old enough to buy a pint yet.

Contrary to media portrayals of 'adrenaline' or 'extreme' sports, we're not all air-punching frat-boys, straining for the ultimate rush. Most of us find such portrayals laughable and embarrassing. Come to the bar after filming and you can probably meet a good few of the people portrayed in the films.


Tickets for each show cost around a fiver, and the reason I urge you to get a ticket for an early show is that I guarantee you'll want to see more! I ought to point out that some of the films are short, and where this is the case, they are grouped together so that no programme is less than about 80-90 minutes, and some are way longer. If you wanna see a few, use the film selection tool at the top of the ShAFF website programme.

Ama Dablam

The Showroom itself also has a large and comfy bar which serves excellent food by daytime, and is a great social venue at al times. Beer choice is restricted to quality continentals (Leffe Blonde and Hoegaarden) or generic keg beers and guinness.

The Showroom, from just outside the train station entrance

Should the Showroom prices or choice not appeal, then the Rutland Arms is one of Sheffield's finest real ale pubs and lies 150m along the road (walk along the road past the giant 'kettles' of the HUBS student's union,
and keep going til you come to the Rutland on the corner). If the weather is nice, it has a superb outdoor beer garden. This is one of the few pubs where you can sink a pint of real ale whilst listening to the Cocteau Twins, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Miles Davis or a variety of 60s ska or 70s punk, jazz, soul or folk.

Close to the Edge

The full programme is available in list format here.

20 Seconds of Joy


My name is BrianT. If you see me there, say hi, and you'll find that I'm a very friendly bloke. Hope to see you there. If you need any advice about Sheffield (pubs, food, transport, where is it?), don't hesitate to mail me at, and if you are on facebook, feel free to add me to your collection of friends.

My glamorous partner, Sheffield author Jude Calvert-Toulmin, has also blogged about ShAFF. She was recently interviewed on a local radio station, so the ShAFF entry is beneath the most recent one, about the interview. She will be taking time out from her full-time job as her own PR Manager, to attend many of the screenings at ShAFF.

Jude Calvert-Toulmin

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