2017’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival truly was a city-wide experience, encompassing many a corner of York. With a variety of venues hosting the collection of shorts on offer this year, it wasn’t just what you watched that made a difference, but also where you watched it. That’s why the Nouse team have picked out their favourite venues from this year’s Aesthetica.
National Centre for Early Music
Of all the venues you could have visited at this year’s festival, the National Centre for Early Music was probably the one you were least likely to have frequented before, unless you have a penchant for, well, early music, of course. Housed inside a former church with grounds to the back of it, this acclaimed concert venue is a less-than typical setting for cinemagoers.
Located just outside the bustle of York’s commercial centre, the NCEM is just off Walmgate, an easy walk from Merchantgate bus stop and closer to student-house central Hull Road than most of this year’s venues. Atmospheric and beautiful, this venue is a perfect exemplar of why city-wide festivals can be such fascinating and enjoyable experiences.
York’s City Screen was certainly one of the trendier venues for Aesthetica this year. Situated on the riverside in what used to be the location of the Yorkshire Evening Press, this venue has both an aura of the classic picture house as well as a taste for the modern through its minimalist feel and light environment.
Within one of the city’s main shopping areas on Coney Street, this venue is also accessed through a quaint passage by the famous St. Martin’s church with the overhanging clock. The location of the cinema pleasingly captures York’s beauteous riverside and buildings of character, whilst being in the centre of buzz and movement in this small city. The cinema itself is one of quality; the pristine display, large screens and professional sound contributed significantly to the immersive quality of the films.
Thirteen Thirty One
Grape Street’s Thirteen Thirty One cinema is one of York’s hidden gems. This cosy picture house can be found on one of the city’s cut-through roads, just a minute’s walk from the Minster and at the heart of a quarter crammed with independent restaurants and high-end vintage shops.
Thirteen Thirty One itself is a rather eclectic place: a cinema, cocktail bar, lounge and candlelit restaurant. Compared to the city’s larger venues, there is something pleasantly surprising about Thirteen Thirty One; there is some quintessentially York in both the building’s architecture and location.
The cinema itself is a small room at the back of the restaurant, decorated with beautifully cinematic art deco features. The festival’s comfiest venue, there are rows of plush arm chair style seating, as well as bean bags by the screen in this intimate space. As the nights grew old, the tiny cinema often found itself squeezed to capacity.
Located within York’s splendid Museum Gardens, this venue is one to visit on a sunny day. One of the most aesthetically pleasing venues used this year, the Yorkshire Museum is home not only to a variety of artifacts, it also houses a large auditorium that was used for this year’s films.
The grandeur of this setting helps to set Aesthetica apart from a run-of-the-mill cinema visit. With the museum also being used as a starting point for children’s activities run by the festival, there is the sense that the museum itself, as well as the gardens around it, is a perfect location to expand the festival and bring it to all people and all corners of the city.
York Theatre Royal
As one of York’s two major performance venues, along with the Barbican, York Theatre Royal feels very much like a space where art thrives. Going to watch films in a building designed for live theatre creates an exciting clash of the arts, making the Theatre Royal an intriguing venue choice.
The large auditorium here provides the perfect opportunity to host talks and panel discussions throughout the festival. An integral part of what Aesthetica has to offer alongside its array of brilliant shorts, these events need a venue to match them and the Theatre Royal provides it. The studio space here is also well-used as it hosts short film screenings throughout the festival in an intimate environment.