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Meet Keith, the man behind Trash Cannes

Keith Rodway’s life as a musician, author and film-maker reverberates to a heroic mash-up of opera, rock ’n’ roll and punk in equal measure. No surprise, then, that he’s the director of the Trash Cannes Film Festival, Hastings, about to launch its third event. He recalls to Judy Parkinson the journey that took him there.

Back in the day, instead of going to college, Rodway set up a second-hand record shop in his home town of Hastings, had his own label and joined punk band, The Good Missionaries as their bass player. “I went along knowing nothing about the bass guitar, which was kind of the point. It was anti-music,” he recalls. They released one album and a single to mixed acclaim and poor sales. In 1979, pundit Paul Morley noted the band’s total disregard for the slightest imitation of rock ’n’ roll.

In 1980, Rodway left the band under a bit of a cloud – it wasn’t exactly a time of elegant manners and thank you letters. To make ends meet, he worked as a gardener in Lewes, where he met the Glyndebourne wardrobe master. He spent the next nine summers at the opera, as a supernumerary (an ‘extra’ to you and me). His first appearance was in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Peter Hall. “I just kind of fell into it and learned so much about stagecraft and opera – standing on stage with world-class singers and the London Philharmonic beneath one’s feet. How could that be anything other than a wonderful thing?” says Rodway.

A high point was being Jove to Janet Baker’s Orpheus in Gluck’s, Orfeo ed Euridice. “I was God for three weeks and got lots of attention from both sides of the stage. It was utterly bizarre.”

In between opera appearances, Rodway traded rave tapes at Brighton Sunday market and record fairs for about 15 years. Towards 2000, he realised that the era of cassette tape and CD was doomed and academia was his escape route. He ended up with three degrees, in English language, social anthropology and digital documentary.

While studying post-war European cinema at Sussex, Rodway teamed up with his tutor, Garth Twa and early in 2012, they started work on setting up a film festival. Rather than London, Brighton et al, they decided on Hastings. “It’s full of so many extraordinary people in the media and arts worlds and I want Hastings to be a creative hub, a Mecca for film-makers, artists and writers,” he says.

Trash Cannes premiered in 2012, paying more than a nod to Rodway’s punk roots. Its name comes from Quentin Crisp’s bitchy comment after Princess Diana died that she was “trash”, which inspired Rodway, particularly when Keith Allen’s documentary Unlawful Killing about Diana’s death was itself trashed at Cannes in 2011.

There were two major contributors to the first Trash Cannes festival: Lucy Brett, head of education at the British Board of Film Classification, who spoke about classifying extreme content and showed some controversial clips – and Duncan Reid, former member of punk band The Boys, reminisced about his experiences in the band, working for Nottingham Forest FC and teaming up with James Cameron to finance the Avatar franchise.

TV Smith in 2013.

Trash Cannes 2012 spanned three days in October and sold most seats in Stade Hall – not bad considering one of the days was a dark Monday evening. The audiences seemed to love it and Rodway and Twa decided to go for round two. Trash Cannes 2013 continued the theme with former punk TV Smith of The Adverts performing before a screening of The Clash documentary. And this year, Trash Cannes has spawned a new festival, Trash’d.

These days Rodway is about as far from punk as you can get with his good manners and electric dreams. He waxes practical, a bit anarchical and very excited about this year’s festival coming Hastings way very soon.

See Trash Cannes prepares for take-off.

Posted 20:58 Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 In: Arts & Culture

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