Film star in Suffolk festival appeal

HOLLYWOOD star Bill Nighy last night made an urgent appeal for the business community to back Suffolk's promising new theatre and filmmakers' festival as he declared his deep affection for the county.

Danielle Nuttall

HOLLYWOOD star Bill Nighy last night made an urgent appeal for the business community to back Suffolk's promising new theatre and filmmakers' festival as he declared his deep affection for the county.

The star of films such as Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Constant Gardener, who has lived in Suffolk for 25 years, said Halesworth's HighTide Festival - of which he is a patron - had the potential to become one of the world's greatest platforms for new writing talent.

But he said it was facing an “emergency” in its second year through a lack of cash and needed to raise £30,000 to ensure this year's showcase - due to be held in May - went ahead as planned.

The festival is designed to premiere new plays annually to give emerging writers a chance to establish themselves in the industry and produce new work.

More than 1,000 people turned out for last year's inaugural festival, held at the Cut in Halesworth, and the event gained widespread media coverage nationally.

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Mr Nighy, who is passionate about developing new writing talent for theatre, television and film, said: “The extraordinary success it had, given the first year, was one of the most satisfying things to ever happen to me in my professional life; the fact that Suffolk is somewhere I have lived for 25 years and is very close to my heart, the fact that it's outside London and it's good that major things of this kind do occur occasionally outside the capital, and the fact that it happens somewhere as beautiful as Suffolk has encouraged people to support it.

“There is no question why it should not become one of the most important festivals in the calendar. The fact that it concerns itself with new writing for films and the theatre puts it on the shortlist of festivals.

“We need new writing. We need young, modern, new talent and attitudes and outlooks and commentaries on the world around us. It is meat and drink to us. We need something outside of the huge media conglomerates.”

This year's festival, which will showcase four full-length plays, is due to get underway in six weeks time but organisers say they need to raise £30,000 to deliver the festival promised.

They are appealing for a handful of Suffolk businesses to invest between £3,000 and £5,000 to ensure HighTide, which also has Sir David Hare, Sally Greene and Sinead Cusack as patrons, can grow into the cultural event it should - and put the county on the map.

Mr Nighy said: “It's an emergency. It's an extremely good cause. It's good for Halesworth and the surrounding area. It is such a great coup for the county if it became established. It would shame the rest of the country.

“We have all supported it to some degree but finally it has to support itself. Rather than asking for a lot of money the idea is we ask for a small amount of money from lots of individuals.

“There are very few places where new writers and actors and directors can introduce themselves. To have something like HighTide is very important. It's difficult to break through and get attention.”

Sam Hodges, artistic director of the festival, said theatre and filmmakers from across the country are already set to descend on Suffolk for this year's event.

“This year we have expanded the programme to incorporate a full film programme, and to that end, are screening short films by emerging filmmakers, and feature length films, followed by Q&As by leading directors and writers,” he said.

Any business or individual able to contribute to the festival should contact Mr Hodges on (0207) 5209092 or email: sam@hightidefestival.org.

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