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FILM REVIEW: The Favourite

WORDS BY ELLEN ROGERSON

4/5

Break out your finest wigs and corsets, Yorgos Lanthimos has resurrected period dramas. Typically I tend to stay away from period dramas, my only exceptions being the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and some of Kenneth Branagh’s catalogue of Shakespearean retellings, because the plots tend to be a little contrived and the characters feel like they fall into the uncanny valley. The Favourite, however, obliterated my preconceived notations. Set in the 18th century, The Favourite follows a semi-fictional reimagining of the relationship between Sarah Churchill, Queen Anne’s closest advisor and lover, and Abigail Hill, a new servant who has fallen from higher standings, as they wage an uncourtly battle against each other to maintain the affections of an ailing and unstable Queen Anne. Set to a soundtrack of Bach, Vivaldi, and Schubert, this tragicomedy is absurd, bawdy and a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Lanthimos’ is widely known for his penchant for the offbeat and absurd, so in comparison to his previous works The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Favourite is a little easier on the palate but would still make an excellent introduction to his films for the uninitiated. That’s not to say The Favourite is an easy viewing – far from it. It’s highly visceral, filled with sex, blood, vomit, poison, and violence. It’s clear Lanthimos loves to make his audiences squirm from watching a scene wherein Queen Anne painfully vomit into an ornate vase before taking a messy bite of sky blue cake.

The cinematography also loves to play with the unexpected. Helmed by Robbie Ryan, it is sprinkled with beautiful visual oddities such as lighting fast pans (achieved without the use of a Steadicam, may I add), dolly shots, fisheye, and wide shot lenses. Some of these choices may feel gimmicky if highly stylised cinematography isn’t your thing but I found it enhanced The Favourites punk-infused rebellion against the powdery Merchant-Ivory films of the ’80s and ’90s, which so frequently come to mind when someone mentions ‘period drama’.

As well as adding to the films off-kilter rhythm, it allows the characters to be dwarfed by the palace, which reveals their more vulnerable moments in such an isolating environment  While it is undoubtedly that The Favourites mise en scène is rich and luxurious, thanks to the work of production designer Fiona Crombie and costume designer Sandy Powell who filled each shot with pearls, heavy velvet, mahogany, intricate tapestries, and towering wigs, the three little gems of the film are Emma Stone as Abigail, Rachel Weisz as Sarah and Olivia Colman as Queen Anne.

Emma Stone’s steadily increasing appetite for power and status throughout the film, having originally been introduced as a wide-eyed ingenue who was gambled away in a card game by her own father, is at times despicable as she worms her way into Queen Anne’s heart and bed. I’m sure every other review has commented on it but keep an ear open for Stone’s English accent, it’s pretty solid. She is also a perfect foil, initially, to Rachel Weisz’s Sarah, who is blunt, audacious and immensely funny as she knocks her lines out of the park with a witheringly cool delivery. Weisz’s romantic moments with Coleman feels real, tender, filled with longing glances and knowing smiles, and is still wonderfully bawdy. I’m sure I was the only audience member, amongst a crowd of elderly couples, to have yelped with delight when Coleman orders Weisz to “fuck [her]” in the royal library. 

Coleman’s portrayal of the sickly and unstable queen is heart-wrenching to watch. Her sudden screaming mood swings followed by torrential downpours of paranoia, low self-esteem, and physical agony provides a stark contrast to her comical, bratty outbursts and proves that Anne has much more heart and humanity than audiences would originally give her credit for.

I came away from the screening with so many of Coleman’s scenes printed behind my eyelids, however, my favourite is a tight shot of Queen Anne as she watches Sarah dance with another member of her court. The camera lingers on her for roughly 30 seconds, as every emotion rolls over her pale face and her eyes fill to the brim with tears, before swallowing it all and demanding that the dance stops. While my account does not do her performance justice, Coleman is a master of control and emotional vulnerability as an actor and is thoroughly deserving of her BAFTA and Oscar nominations. This is also why Lanthimos is such a superb director, he gives everything to his films. Humour, strength, pain, and playfulness. The Favourite lets us have our cake and eat it too.

Like this? Read up on all of our film posts HERE 👀

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REVIEW: One Cut of the Dead @ HOME

WORDS BY ALICE SALMON

When you think of horror-comedy, you’ll probably go straight for the Scary Movie franchise – and with good reason. It takes something special for laughs and scares to sit comfortably in the same script without lapsing into parody or farce – did somebody say Sharknado? One Cut of the Dead is a breakout zombie horror classic that marries the two in award-winning fashion. It screened at HOME last night as part of Film4’s FilmFear season.

One Cut of the Dead is the brainchild of Japanese writer-director-producer Shin’ichiô Ueda – and it simply can’t be reviewed without first acknowledging the 37-minute single-take opener that has audiences going mad. At first, it’s disorientating: who is it that keeps wiping blood spatter off the camera lens? It only becomes clear later on that this isn’t an overlooked continuity error – it’s actually the central axis of a stellar meta-comedy.

“POM!”

But back to the plot. The film opens in a disused water filtration plant, somewhere in rural Japan. A megalomaniac director berates two young stars for their apparent ineptitude during filming of – you guessed it – TV zombie flick, One Cut of the Dead. They take a break after a scene’s 42nd take as the mood gets fractious. Needless to say, the cast are then split up very quickly, after some brief exposition – which is when the zombies come to play.horror, one cut of the dead, home, manchester

As the living and undead play a game of cat-and-mouse around the abandoned plant, the director pops back at the worst possible moments, delighting in how realistic everyone’s fear seems – and how great his film is shaping up. Watch out for make-up lady Nao’s invaluable self-defence lessons and being surprisingly handy with an axe.

Side note: it’s really difficult to not give away all the spoilers on this one, so it’s best you witness how the plot unfolds for yourself…

Every film genre features the joke-within-a-joke trope. Yet here it feels organic, the plot more relatable and the humour more…human.

The trailer points towards One Cut of the Dead being just another gore-fest at the hands of an unknown director. But that’s just a secondary device around which the main plot is based – which in itself replicates the reality of Ueda’s entire project. Any initially clunkiness adds to the comedic credibility of the latter stages of the film as Ueda’s intent slots into place.

This film comes highly recommended for those who aren’t so good with gore. Ueda portrays the trials of filming on a tight budget with aplomb, making easy bedfellows of contrasting concepts: a cast making the best of things, a father-daughter reconciliation and the universal appeal of slapstick.

No wonder it has a coveted 100% rating (97% viewer rating) on Rotten Tomatoes. Heartily endorsed by Film4 Channel Editor and FilmFear curator David Cox, One Cut of the Dead lovingly pokes fun at the genre it inhabits. This irreverently self-referential offering is one to watch, laugh and recommend to everyone you know: you won’t regret it.

You can still buy tickets for FilmFear here, taking advantage of HOME’s multi-save ticketing system.

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PREVIEW: FilmFear @ HOME, 26-31 October

Words by Alice Salmon

Halloween is just around the corner and all (evil) eyes are on HOME, as celebrated indie horror film festival FilmFear returns for another year of screams, spooks and scares. (Please note: pun-haters and the squeamish alike should look away now). This season (of the witch), MCR Live will be covering the festival for the first time – and with its fiendish calendar of events co-curated by Film4, there’s something for the horror fan in every (haunted) house.

You’ll find previews of cult genres (cheerleader slasher, anyone?) alongside Q&As from (in)famous directors and a (blood)-spattering of cult classics. These really are six (six, six) days of unmissable cinema. Music fans too, listen up – with scores from John Carpenter littering this year’s festival, everyone’s spine will be tingled. Here are some of our top picks ahead of the festival’s respawn tomorrow:

One Cut of the Dead (15)

Released last year to critical acclaim, Japanese zombie horror One Cut of the Dead has already gained notoriety for its agonising 40 minute single-take opener. Be prepared for blood, guts and a surprising amount of black comedy.

Mandy (18)

Blending action, horror and romance in one lethal cocktail, Mandy stars Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough in their fight against a seemingly-innocuous hippie cult who are in turn in league with a satanic biker gang. It ticks every box for those who like their horror bold, bloody…and with crossbows.

The Fog (15)

The penultimate day of the festival sees one of three cult classics brought back from the afterlife. Our pick of the three is The Fog, starring horror heroes Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh and Adrienne Barbeau – it’s an ‘80s feast for the (six) senses.

 

Want to check out these, and more, but you reckon it’ll get pretty expensive? Think again. 

HOME offers a multi-buy ticketing system, so the more films you book tickets for, the more money you save. For fans of indie cinema, horror classics, and those who already know what you did last summer, this promises to be devilishly good.

Click here for the full programme of events and ticket bookings

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COMMENT: M.I.A. and the Sound of Identity

Words by Alice Salmon

It’s widely agreed that art is the sum of its influences. Pick any great beatmaker, composer or lyricist, and you can hear their identity. For starters, there’s an endless array of artists that cite J Dilla as their biggest influence – his iconic sound is heard today hip hop, jazz and classical genres alike. Hear how Peggy Gou opts to sing in her native Korean throughout It Makes You Forget (Itgehane). And of course, witness Amy Winehouse’s famously mercurial back catalogue – her enduring love of hip hop and trad jazz reframed by a later exploration of Motown.

Arguably top of this list is the Sri-Lankan (via South London) rapper, M.I.A, whose newly released documentary Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A. unfolds as an impassioned, intricate tapestry of the two cultures that shaped her and her art. Cut from over 700 hours of archive footage shot by M.I.A. and her family as well as long-time friend Stephen Loveridge, Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A. unflinchingly contextualises one of the most politically-charged artists of our time.

Set in the family home in London and the Arulpragasams’ dwellings in Jaffna, Sri Lanka (via Coachella, the Grammys and the 2012 Super Bowl), the film’s relentless cross-continent leaps seem a deliberate reflection of Maya’s steadfast grip on her cultural identity amidst unpredictable surroundings.

“Wanna hear my story? I’m gonna show you my story”

M.I.A talks candidly throughout the film, recounting her (at times chaotic) formative years. She recalls coming home from school one day to see the neighbours lined up, removing her family’s possessions from their Hounslow home. She told them that they could take what they wanted as long as she could keep her radio. Spoiler alert: they took the radio. As a result, she was forced to hear the unfamiliar sounds of hip hop blaring from the adjoining flat as she lay in bed that night. And from this, she says, her sound was born.

She doggedly pushes her reality into the Western consciousness throughout the film, with staggering reactions from the mainstream media. It’s in the face of such opposition that her music takes on a renewed relevance and meaning: we had no idea we were cookin’ for commandos / everybody came in four-wheeler truckloads (Macho, unreleased, 2004).

 

The documentary is a perfect illustration of how every morsel of art you ever consume is born from something else: music exists on one level to be enjoyed for what it is, but when you delve a little deeper and explore lyrics, artwork, beats and samples, there’s a wealth of riches to be devoured.

This film is a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in M.I.A’s music. If it doesn’t make you want to revisit a track that has become an internet meme or re-evaluate M.I.A as a feminist icon – or just acknowledge her as a straight-up badass (search “M.I.A, NFL”) – then it will give you a poignant insight into what it really means to march to your own beat.

 

 

Matangi/ Maya/ M.I.A. is now showing at HOME. Book your tickets here.

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middle east

COMMENT: Identity Of Many

An exploration of boundary-pushing Music, Literature and Film from The Middle East.

In the age of the 24-hour news cycle and constant societal upheaval, the mainstream public eye seems forcibly fixed on the world’s most negative happenings. The Middle East is the most commonly pinpointed target – as many of its member states are war-torn and repressive – and as with anything in these circumstances, there are so many cases of beauty & expressionism within the arts that are overlooked simply due to location. Thus, at MCR Live we have decided to combat this behaviour: highlighting two musical artists, two writers and two filmmakers from the Middle Eastern diaspora who are pushing boundaries and deconstructing prejudices and perceptions with their work.

The Musicians

Deena Abdelwahed

A native of Tunisia and now based in Toulouse, Deena Abdelwahed’s confrontational brand of dance music is a socially engaged melting pot of Eastern culture and Western perception. Klabb (her 2017 EP released through Infine records), is deeply entrancing and shape-shifting – reflecting the violence and less savoury aspects of the Middle East, whilst celebrating the power that art and music can have. The songs fuse both grinding and dissonant industrialism with colourful ambiguity, all coming from the same dark core and desire to – in her words – “critique injustices in Arab society” but allowing minds to wander through decomposing cityscapes, unsure of the future but actively clawing on to hope. Klabb is a rich example of how real cultural issues can be tackled and affronted by art; something which Tunisia’s 2015 lifted media blackout, in turn, helps.

Saint Abdullah

Saint Abdullah are a sibling duo based somewhere between Iran’s capital Tehran and Brooklyn respectively. Stalwarts of New York’s Boomarm Nation roster, their music is described on the labels bandcamp as “political music, sacred music, and for most of us in the west, new music”. Their music is steeped in the traditions and tragedy of the duo’s homeland, but it faces sternly westwards as well. Both 2017’s The Sounds of Evil Vol. I and this February’s Stars Have Eyes challenged Western perceptions of Iranian and Muslim culture. Saint Abdullah have created a way of taking their post-Islamic revolution starting point and transmitting it through suffocating atmospherics, sonically poetic cut n paste sampling & rhythmic hypnotism – the result? A world-weary, but profound, exploration and explanation of their own ethos.

The Writers

Hoda Barakat

When it comes to literature, so vast is the landscape and societal diaspora of the Middle East that the range of perspectives is in rude health. In an age where femininity and repression are steadfastly under the microscope, its the female voices which offer the most direct viewpoint. Hoda Barakat’s The Tiller of Waters, though revolving around a male protagonist, is a beautifully poetic and poignant analysis of the psyche that embodies travel, migration, art, industry, love and desire set against a chillingly hallucinogenic backdrop of war-torn Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Her work oftentimes showcases a passionate and deep-set understanding of culturally definitive cloth and weaving practices as a metaphor for the entire human condition, and in such finds beauty in the little things when the larger picture seems so bleak.

Rajaa Alsanea

Middle East

By contrast, Rajaa Alsanea’s The Girls of Riyad adopts a far more colloquial, accessible prose and a form of narrative that would probably be written off as Sex And The City– esque vacuity to some. However, it would be churlish to do so. Constructed through a series of diary-style emails written by an unnamed protagonist, and depicting the life of four women from the higher echelons of Saudi Arabian society, the novel follows the travails of its characters through themes of love, religion and meaning in life in a deeply misogynistic place. At its best, Alsanea is pacey and properly electrifying – chilling and funny, and chapter eleven in particular works wonders to crush a number of misconceptions and prejudices attributed to the mentality of women in the Middle East region. Though serious and sensitive at its core, Alsanea’s book approaches life in Saudi Arabia with a twinkle in its eye, something that seems crucial to fully understand the mechanisms of Riyad’s community.

The Filmmakers

Babak Anvari

I’ve not seen a huge amount of Middle Eastern horror movies, but it’s probably fair to say that few of them cover as much profound societal, genre-orientated or psychedelic ground as Babak Anvari’s 2016 movie Under The Shadow. After an Iraqi missile hits the Iranian block of flats where a mother lives with her young daughter, the anxiety, paranoia and stress of the ensuing war outside begins to have catastrophic effects on central character Shideh and her family – as her mind unravels, she becomes convinced that they’re being haunted by evil spirits. It’s an incredibly claustrophobic, stripped back, vision that melds classic horror movie tropes with location-true themes of war and the repression of women. However, at its heart, it’s about the relationship between a mother and her daughter and how the misfortune of their environment turns them against each other. It’s genuinely fucking scary, too.

Emad Burnat

Whereas Anvari’s movie marries real-life horror and surrealism in a fictional setting, even more horrifying is the first-hand account – all presented through the lens of Emad Burnat’s primary recorded footage – of Burnat’s 2011 film 5 Broken Cameras. A stark and deeply harrowing documentary about the struggle of a Palestinian farming community during the Israeli occupation of Gaza’s West Bank, the 90-minute film is an uncompromising purveyance of death and oppression and a direct summary of what living in desperate situations drives people to do. There are glimmers of a hopeful future; Burnat’s community show a breath-taking amount of spirit and the instances of joy feel all the more prominent in the face of such adversity. Emad is ultimately fighting for his community, and by doing so, celebrating what he believes to be just. His determination to carry on filming, despite the pain it lands him and those closest to him in, is an example of artistic expressionism in its most powerful form.

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EVENT: Manchester Keeps on Dancing Pre-view party @ Hatch MCR

MCR Live and Red Bull are teaming up to make your bank holiday weekend with a Manchester Keeps on Dancing Pre-party.

Next month sees the release of Manchester Keeps on Dancing at HomeMCR, a new documentary that’s already being hailed as an understated masterpiece based on previews.

As many Mancunian music geeks including myself may know, documentaries based on Manchester music tend to go one of two ways. Long winded, rambling rants from old fogies about how amazing “The old days” were and how we missed out on the Hacienda. (Yeah, we know dad, I saw Sean Ryder on the I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here and I’m pretty sure Bez asked me for a rollie outside of Sankeys once in first year.)

Adversely they can also go in the direction of hailing Manchester long history of indie-rock bands. And, let’s face it, I’m a fan but who wants to hear any more opinions out of the Gallagher’s or Morrissey? Not only this but coverage of the Manny scene until recent times also tend to ignore the significant contributions of electronic music producers and DJ’s to Manchester music culture.

Manchester Keeps on Dancing stands tall above those stereotypes, choosing to avoid the “good ol’ days” approach and rather document the long, arduous and incredible journey of Manchester music scene from it’s humble roots to its blistering highs and back to the re-emerging strengths of today. Featuring Manchester house heavyweights such as HomoElectric, The Warehouse Project and more.

Something to Celebrate in Manchester? Free Party Time!

To celebrate the release of this unique and insightful film, MCR Live has teamed up with Red Bull bring you a party fitting of the films prowess this bank holiday Saturday where we’re gonna be throwing a little shindig down at Hatch, Manchester’s newest haunt. Hatch is a multipurpose shopping and dining space comprised of converted storage containers, inside containing shops where you can buy houseplants, drink local coffee and – most importantly – bars and food carts!

Red Bull will be bringing along their iconic DJ truck and supplying a cheeky cocktail for guests on entrance, so come on down and dance the day away with us. Everyone who attends will also get a free wristband for the Manchester Keeps on Dancing premiere afterparty at Gorilla on the 26th! A free party, free booze and ANOTHER free party, what more can you ask for?

Our DJ’s for the day include WHP resident Krysko, and a very special guest in James Holroyd from BUGGED OUT events! If you can’t come your missing out big time, If that’s the case, do not fret, as we’ll be live streaming all the madness on the MCR Live Page. Heres a fitting Krysko tune around Warehouse Project Subculture to get you pumped for the weekend. See you there.

No need for tickets though – sticking to our rep for banging free parties – we’re putting on this party totally free, just turn up at Hatch Manchester between 2 and 6 pm on Bank Holiday Saturday, May 5th. The premiere of the doc will be screened as part of the Doc’N’Roll Film Festival on Saturday, May 5th, with additional screenings over the course of the next week at HOMEMCR. You can grab tickets here and find more information here!

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¡Viva!

INTERVIEW: ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Festival 2018

In its 24th Edition, the Spanish and Latin American festival is back with the theme ‘Revolution’

HOME Manchester, a place for curiosity seekers and lovers of the dramatic. Since the one-of-a-kind venue’s opening in 2015, the organisation has challenged, educated and entertained by showcasing a broad selection of contemporary art, theatre and film. This fact is only proven with the conception of the Spanish and Latin American film festival, ¡Viva! finding it’s home at the art space. Since ¡Viva! first arrived to celebrate purely Spanish film 24 years ago, it has expanded to include Latin America and uses all three aforementioned forms of expression to highlight the individual culture of each country. From Europe’s first interaction with Latin America, the continent has been heavily romanticised – whether it is through means of gold, music, culture – and now even oil! – the continent continues to be described as a land of natural abundance and wealth. The same can be said for the talent of Latin American art, theatre and film meaning that combined with Spain’s own cultural capital the festival promises to be an amazing celebration of the arts & an incredibly diverse event. 

I met with ¡Viva! festival coordinator, Jessie Gibbs, to learn more about the event and her own opinions regarding Spain and Latin America. 

 

How/why was ¡Viva! created? 

Jesse Gibbs: That’s actually one of the most asked questions, but one of the most difficult to answer because the event goes back 24 years. It started off purely as a Spanish Film Festival by a woman called Linda Pariser through a combination of personal interest and a love of Spanish cinema – as well as the audience the festival already had.  Since then, about 4/5 years after it expanded, ¡Viva! then grew to include both Spain AND Latin America. When HOME was set up we were able to involve theatre as well to achieve a cross-artform to the festival. Our aim is to have something for everyone. 

Why did you decide to focus on politics for 2018’s installment? 

JG: The Revolution theme was a sidebar idea for this year’s theme and visual-art links in with this – it is very powerful in Latin America. I think the politics, left or right, have been quite tumultuous in Latin American history and they loom large in people’s ideas perhaps in Latin America… and it led on from last year. We’d focused on Spain in our theme because we were looking at the transition to democracy and the anniversary of the end of censorship, so we also wanted to have a theme for Latin America. Having a theme is a way to get the creative juices flowing, and to find what we want to look for, rather than an obvious “what are the latest releases”.

What went into choosing the content? Did each country have a theme? 

JG: No, we wouldn’t want to necessarily schedule our programme by a predetermined idea that has to be “this”, even with the Revolution theme. Whilst we have that theme, it doesn’t cover the whole festival. We try to have spread nationalities, there will always be several films from Spain. We then try to have at least one film each from lots of different Latin American countries – the biggest film industries celebrated under the ¡Viva! umbrella tend to be that of Argentina and Mexico, so there’s always going to be a couple from there.  We also work with certain sales agents and we see what they want to offer us, but it is very much about having a range of films that will appeal to a range of people from a range of countries. However, they all have to be high quality – which I know is completely subjective – but more or less… objective. We’re a team of three that are choosing these films and we’ve already begun choosing for next year, its a very long process.

viva

Whenever Latin America is discussed, in the news and the media, its always described as one area despite the differences each country in the continent has. Why do you think that is?

JG: Perhaps a lack of education about the area? I think its also the way that sales agents might use it to market the area – Latin America has a stronger image than any specific Latin American country, so they will use that. Obviously, there is a shared history and – for many – there’s a shared language and cultural background. There are definite similarities and there’s a sense of solidarity but on the other hand, they’re also wildly different. If you think that within the size of the UK we all have like our own certain identity and area quirks – think about that, and if you multiplied that by the size of Latin America. Although there’s a linguistic-link between the countries, you will find that someone from Chile could struggle to understand the accent of somebody from Cuba because they’re quite different. And then, of course, there are indigenous languages – the continent seems more homogenous than in reality. Plus then there are the non-Spainish people in parts of Latin America which makes it even crazier to lump the place together. 

I guess the simplest way to understand why this is comes from the fact that Latin America is just very far from home and it has an exotic label which has been going on for decades, since the 1950s with Carmen Miranda and fruit piled on her head, – all those stereotypes do persist today. In fact, that is one of the things that we try and do with the festival, we want to bring out the different identities and different parts of Latin America to audiences.  

In your opinion, are UK cinemas too US orientated? Should more mainstream cinemas be following in HOME’s footsteps and playing more foreign language films? 

JG: Personally I would love that, and that’s definitely one of the things that HOME does well. Mainstream cinemas and multiplexes tend to be dominated by Hollywood films, blockbusters, and its all about “who’s got the most money and star appeal” – it’s definitely not judged by quality as far as I can see. 

So that’s something important for this festival – to promote independent and foreign language film, which I think we’re doing a really good job of! It would be nice if there were more independent cinema venues around like ours. Its difficult to counteract that with money-motivated multiplex’s. I’m proud to say that’s not our primary motive.  

¡Viva! began on the 12th April and will be running until the 5th May 2018, visit HOME for more details.

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