We Chat to Jay Martin, the Brains Behind the Mansfield Film Festival

Interview: George White
Monday 03 July 2023
reading time: min, words

The first of its kind, Mansfield Town Film Festival is taking over the Palace Theatre later this month for a weekend full of diverse stories from across the globe. Ahead of the event, we catch up with Jay Martin, the brains behind it all… 

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Why did you decide Mansfield needed its own film festival?
The idea came when I had the premiere for my documentary, Redt’Blue, in February last year. We sold out the big screen of Broadway Cinema, and the majority of people that came along to that were normal Mansfield folk, people that you might not anticipate coming out to support this small-budget film.

Alongside Redt’Blue, we showed a range of locally-made music videos, short films, documentaries and so on, and people loved it - so I felt like there was a hunger for more. From there, I went to the local council and told them that I had this idea for a film festival. We pitched it to the Arts Council, we were lucky enough to get funding, and now here we are! 

Nottinghamshire is home to a number of great film festivals already. How will Mansfield’s stand out from the crowd? 
The big one is that we’re obviously not based in Nottingham. We’re up in Mansfield, we’re out of the city, in a working class community. It’s got that Sundance vibe, being in a little town slightly nestled away from where you’d usually expect this sort of event. 

I think that there’s sometimes a stigma around Mansfield, that things are a little bit backwards or old-school, but it’s a brilliant town and it’s had a massive revival in recent years. There are some amazing businesses, bars, restaurants, and I think that’s worth celebrating. We’re also based in the Mansfield Palace Theatre, which is this great venue with a lot of personality, smack bang in the middle of the town. That’s special in itself. 

We want the festival to be for more than just filmmakers, we want a wide range of people to come along and have new experiences with us

The film industry often feels like it can be closed off for certain voices, including those from working class communities. Are you hoping that events like this can help to break down barriers?
100%. I come from a working class background, and none of my family have had any involvement in the film industry, so I’ve had to do it on my own. I’m proud of that, but it did mean I had to work a full-time job to save up the money to invest in these projects, and then put them together in my spare time. That was the only way I could do it, and that is a challenge. It can be a real barrier for people, and we definitely need to find ways to increase access. 

What I will say is, the industry is now crying out for working class stories, but they can often be quite fetishised. A lot of the time there are people who have no association with working class life making working class stories, and they speak on our behalf without any qualifications for it. If we can make sure actual working class people have the right connections and opportunities to come through, we’ll be in a much better place in terms of both representation and the quality of storytelling.

Why are film festivals important more generally?
They’re great for opening people’s minds to new stories and new perspectives. At a film festival, in a single day, you might watch a documentary about a family in Iraq, and straight after watch a story about a rapper in St Ann’s. You’re constantly being exposed to narratives that you might never experience otherwise. 

We want Mansfield Town Film Festival to be for more than just filmmakers, we want a wide range of people to come along and have these new experiences with us, as we’ll have a brilliant selection of films to check out. 

Mansfield Town Film Festival will take place from Friday 14 to Sunday 16 July. Tickets are available on the Mansfield Palace Theatre website


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