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Next Stop, Swintonia

Next Stop, Swintonia

So this has been in the works for a week or two now, but for fear that it would somehow fall apart I avoided mentioning it. But now its just 8 days away, and everything is pretty much set, so barring alcohol poisoning or a bicycle accident during my last week in Berlin… it seems like I’m about to find myself in an alternate universe. I’ve signed up for 8 1/2 days with A Pilgrimage, Tilda Swinton and Mark Cousin’s road trip/film festival follow-up to last year’s fascinating-sounding Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams. I really have no clue what exactly I’ve got myself in to, though below is Tilda and Mark’s explanation via e-mail, and below that, a map of our route. I have a feeling internet access isn’t exactly going to be plentiful as I help pull a mobile movie theater across the Scottish Highlands, but you can be certain that if I make it back alive, there will be photos.

Dear Friends,

Last year we sent some of you an email telling you about something called The Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams, a wee community film festival in Nairn in Scotland. It was a figment and a lark, a shot in the dark. We hadn’t a scooby if it would work.

Many of you came, disarmed. We tilted at movie windmills together. We had as much fun as Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. As you probably know, our wee flock was talked about a bit. Posh newspapers in distant lands said that what we were doing was so different. But to us it wasn’t different. The Ballerina Ballroom was just how we see movie going.

This email to you today is to give you the details of our latest covenant of movie kinship. As you might have heard, we – our Highland film clan – will pull the wayfaring Screen Machine from Scotland’s sublime Atlantic coast to the dolphin waters of the Moray Firth on the East. We’ve told our plans to some of the great movie people in the world, and they went Wow!, which was very nice. But when some people heard that we would be pulling a cinema, they asked why. We were baffled. Why go to Colonsay? Why play Kitty Lester’s Love Letters full blast? Why watch Norman McLaren films at 3 in the morning?

The reason we are pulling a cinema across Scotland is because it feels natural – like dancing is natural, or holding your breath when you see a deer is natural. It’s our state of mind. It says how much we love movies and the Scottish horizon and the open road and the open heart.

If you love movies or the open road or the open heart, please please join us. In any way you can. We need pullers, and fellow travellers, and people to stand at hedgerows in the gloaming to cheer us on, and people to sing David Bowie and Billy McKenzie songs as we pass. We need a roving, raving, ambulant, perambulant circus of grannies and firemen, walkers, skateboarders, mountain bikers, hobblers and totterers on stilettos to join our happy breed. There’ll be a lovely routemaster double-decker bus for our fellow travellers with bunions, wheelchairs or gammy legs.

A Pilgrimage is a far more complicated thing than the Ballerina so we’ve set up a detailed website this time which will give you the route and films and how to book tickets and, with time, all the details of pulling points and whatnot – www.a-pilgrimage.org. It’s live now.

Please read this site and keep checking back as we fill in all the details. Our fears tell us that naebody will show up so we will have to pull the 37 tonne Screen Machine ourselves, but our heads tell us that we might be a bit oversubscribed. In case our heads are right, please book your b&b very soon. As in the Ballerina, we are doing no free tickets (sorry) so book your tickets soon too. If you’d like to join us for the whole journey, book a Fellow Traveller ticket.

Also, PLEASE remember the midges on the West coat at this time of year. Skin So Soft slathered everywhere = good time. Nae Skin So Soft = bad time.

A few crucial things:

(1) Almost all our films are child friendly, and pulling a sparkly cinema is very much so, so bring the bairns.

(2) As our website shows, A Pilgrimage is the sort of malarkey that we hope you, our international pals in China, England, Canada, America, Finland, France, Japan, Ireland and elsewhere can follow. Please watch some of the films (they are fab) and check in on our adventure.

(3) Fantastic theatre designer Claire Halleran has once again agreed to come on board and transform the familiar – in this case a big blue truck – into the fabulous.

(4) The massively talented John Byrne is designing our poster and teeshirt, which will be available to buy during A Pilgrimage, and, if stocks last, afterwards through our website.

(5) Said website was designed and put together by the brilliant and sleep-deprived Darri and Mike Donnelly of coob.co.uk.

(6) We want to get down on our knees and thank the sainted Matt Lloyd for agreeing to indulge us again. He’s the neeps in our haggis, neeps and tatties.

(7) We couldnae even think of this without Iain and Graham of the Screen Machine and Ron Inglis of Regional Screen Scotland.

(8) Event Scotland were the first to support us with some cash, so we owe them a lot.

(9) Trish Shorthouse of Highlands and Island Screen Commission once again has seen the echo in what we are doing, so thank you Trish.

(10) Colin (Lord) Cawdor has again been fab.

Please join us in not being different, just ourselves. We are SO excited.


Mark Cousins and Tilda Swinton

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