Getting to know you.

Living and working at home has had a few unexpected consequences! Ever since lockdown (I think we are in week six, could even be seven by the time you read this) I’ve been throwing myself out of bed the second it becomes light. I think in my head it means I am one step closer to the end of this strange time.

My routine is probably a familiar one to millions of other people. I shuffle to the bathroom (details not needed), make my way downstairs to the dining room where I take my medication (one blood pressure pill) and after turning on the radio (always BBC Radio Four) I make my way to the kitchen. I enjoy the first meal of the day. As I empty or fill the dishwasher, I’m either scrambling eggs or stirring the porridge over the smallest flame I can manage out of the cooker, waiting for the toaster to deliver its delights and the superhot coffee must be ready after my glass of OJ  – as I’ve mentioned before I’m a multi-tasker!

But this morning was different. I looked into the living room on my search for breakfast and it felt very new. I know everything about that room: the cracks in the plaster (nothing to worry about); the light coverage of dust on most of the furniture (that can wait till Saturday – we are not expecting guests!) But this morning as the early morning sun shone through the blinds creating shadows and highlighting random items in the room, it all felt very new. I even took photos!

By the time I was eating breakfast I was also listening to Smooth Radio (this happened in week five – they appear to have a play list of 15 songs that I love) and I realised what was happening. This “extra” time at what has been home for 20 years, was allowing me to reflect and look at what was becoming too familiar – and possibly becoming invisible – and appreciate them and more importantly realise their beauty.

Without needing to make a dramatic link, I think this “extra” time at home is having a similar impact on work. I’ve been involved with the Iris Prize from the very start, probably even before Iris was conceived. So, you could assume that I know more than anybody about Cardiff’s LGBT film festival or to give it the full name, Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival.

Thanks to Covid–19, I’ve been forced to look at our work with Iris during this strange time. We might have to change how we engage with our audience, look again at how we support filmmakers and consider our evolving relationship with sponsors. I always knew that Iris was special. She’s been around for 13 years, and this October we will be producing the 14th festival. Our audience is growing, we share more LGBT+ stories to a growing audience annually. But looking at Iris, through the fog of this pandemic, I’ve seen something new in Iris. I’ve realised she is a true force for the LGBT+ community and loved by our audience and our film makers.

Team Iris play an important role in allowing Iris to support the LGBT+ filmmaking community and entertain and educate our audience. During this lockdown period we have together been looking at Iris and asking ourselves what makes Iris special? We think we have the answers! Some were obvious and some were never mentioned because they were obvious. But listing them has been useful and a good reminder of what in the “old” world we took for granted.

You will hear the words “welcome to the family” often spoken during the festival. As with most families we have our ups and downs, but at the heart of the Iris family is a very simple message “CROESO”, welcome! The festival this October could take many forms; time and Government advice will dictate the final outcome. However, thanks to this period of reflection Iris will be back, and she’s ready to give you a big IRIS HUG (but be warned, it could be virtual!)

Berwyn Rowlands
Festival Director/Expert egg-scrambler

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