ShAFF is back, bigger and better than ever. The event began in February and ended in March and in between a whole host of delights were presented to the expectant audiences. Sometimes events like this suffer from being cursed by good weather; in this case the Saturday played along but Sunday was indeed a glorious day out in the Peak so daytime visitors were left with a difficult dilemma. Overall though the event organiser Matt Heason assured me that attendances were slightly up on last year despite there being more than just the odd empty seat in some of the lectures.
The event was kicked off on Friday night by Ed Douglas interviewing on Fawcett. Ron isn't known for his self-publicity so it took a bit of coaxing on Ed's part to get him too loosen up, but in the end we got an interesting insight to a man who has lived and breathed rock for nearly the 50 years. He showed us his big hands, explained why he never really bothered training and convinced us how wonderful Crookrise is.
The focus of the event is the films which included 11 premières plus many of the other slightly more familiar offerings. The overall best film went to Andy Parkin - A Life in Adaptation. Dominic Green accepted the award on behalf of Pip Piper, David Fair and himself.
The highlight of Saturday night was a lecture by world climbing superstar Chris Sharma. Similar in many ways to Fawcett, Chris delivered an understated and calm talk that oozed an intense passion for climbing that makes me think that I have only been playing at being a climber for the last 25 years. It was illustrated by brilliant photos and well-edited movie clips of his amazing ascents - the Jumbo Love and Es Pontas films being particularly awe-inspiring at illustrating the lengths top climbers will go to achieve their goals.
The most publicised item on the ShAFF agenda was the Great British Grade Debate. This event was prompted largely by James Pearson's major ascents of 2008 receiving big grades, lots of media coverage and, in most cases, significant down grades following repeat ascents. It was great that James was able to attend to essentially defend his grading and you can see the video of the highlights of the event here: UKC VIDEO
This was one of the features that suffered from low attendance. Perhaps charging people to attend a debate like this was a mistake and in future maybe such debates could be used as loss leaders to get people into the Festival, after all, the debate was followed by the Best of ShAFF film showing which closes the Festival.
Other highlights included the films (obviously), the magnificent photos from Ed Luke, the music, the camaraderie, Grimer's lecture, and a high level of general inspiration. All those who missed it, or who dallied with attending but cried off because of the weather, consider popping in next year to pick up a lecture or a film, you won't be disappointed.
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