Domestic Godess.

I’ve got six minutes, possibly seven! It depends if I can still hear the cake singing when I open the oven door. Honestly 60 seconds is all it takes to deflate what looked to the naked eye as a perfectly risen Victoria sponge if you open the door at the wrong time. There’s way more to this cooking malarkey than eating. You need to listen; to feel; be familiar with your ingredients. Some need to rest after cooking, some need to reach room temperature after leaving the fridge before they can do anything. And don’t get me started about the politics of cooking! If one other person tells me that a Victoria sponge needs cream and jam… Grant, my other half, seems to be very happy with just jam.

As we start week six of lockdown, I’ve just finished my fifth Victoria sponge. It should have been six, but my other half wanted a go, and made a half decent creation with sultanas. Unfortunately, we were running low on flour on that day; I won’t mention the war! His creation was not quite what he had been expecting when he opened the oven door. But it did taste fantastic, especially after so much Victoria sponge.

The blurred lines between work and home time could be quite confusing – but, somehow, I seem to be more productive during this period of lockdown. The “office” is in the dining room, which is next to the kitchen. I’ve always been a multi-tasker, juggling balls has never been a problem for me. The proximity of said new office to the kitchen lends itself to sharing the role of a Domestic Goddess with that of a Film Festival Director. I’m pleased I don’t have to choose between the two.

The only downside to the lockdown is that I’m not able to share my culinary delights (modest is my middle name) with my family and friends and this obviously includes Team Iris. I’m joined by members of the team daily, with a full meeting at least once a week. It all feels so normal, and possibly it might be the future. Don’t get me wrong I still miss the direct human contact. Some of the best ideas I’ve been involved with happen when ideas physically bounce off one another while people are just hanging around. We can’t just hang about on Zoom all day waiting for a moment (or can you?). But humans adapt and the time we do spend together on whatever platform we choose becomes very precious. Today, I would like to think that as a team of people we all know more about what we are doing, because we have been more structured in sharing what we do with each other. Which is quite amazing considering the world of the pandemic seems to be challenging us every day.

During this confusing period we have announced, whatever happens, we will be presenting one film maker with the Iris Prize this year. The date for your diary is Saturday 10th of October 2020. Thanks to The Michael Bishop Foundation we still have £30,000 to hand over to a filmmaker to make a new short film.

That’s possibly more than six or even seven minutes! It was more like 30 minutes if I was honest. But don’t worry the Victoria Sponge was perfect, obviously, now that I’m a multi-tasking Domestic Goddess / Managing Director.

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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