12 Reasons you MUST visit this Manchester TV Festival in May

Including RuPaul's Drag Race, Smack The Pony, Game of Thrones and more...

By Ben Brown | 12 April 2019

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If you’re anything like me then you’ll spend around 37% of your waking life watching TV, thinking about TV and generally trying to get on TV – perhaps as some kind of sexy villain in a new BBC 2 period drama.

You’ll be pleased to know that the brilliant Pilot Light TV Festival is coming back to Manchester for its 4th Season this May, as they present 4 days of events between Thursday 16th and Sunday 19th May.

There’s enough things on to fill the Radio Times so I’ve picked my favourites from the lot and presented them here for your inquisitive mind. For the full list of events – check out the Pilot Light TV Festival site at the bottom.

The Trans Glass Ceiling in TV
Thursday 16th May, 5:05pm
Whilst there has been a slight improvement in representation of trans people in media and discussions around trans issues, it is still one step forward and two steps back when it comes to Trans TV Dramas and programming. Could this be because they are often led by not-trans directors, producers and writers? This panel asks how we can speed things along and shatter this trans ceiling. Led by Manchester based organisation Trans Creative, its artistic director Kate O’Donnell will be asking what steps need to be made by the industry to stop the misrepresentation because Trans people deserve better programs.

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10 Years of RuPaul’s Drag Race
Friday 17th May, 7:30pm
Since premiering in 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race has become an international phenomenon and one of the most resonant pieces of queer pop culture in modern history. Grace Barber-Plentie welcomes a special guest panel for a retrospective eleganza as they look back on the first 10 years of Drag Race and its gargantuan global impact with a selection of specially curated and created clips from RuCaps! Grace will be joined by Season 3 queen Stacy Layne Matthews, creator of RuCaps Lee Dawson and art historian Ferren Gipson.

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Drag Race Birthday Eleganza Extravaganza Club Night! @ Gorilla
Friday 17th May, 11:00
Following the panel at HOME will be the Drag Race Birthday Eleganza Extravaganza Club Night! at Gorilla hosted by the one and only Stacey Layne Matthews! There will be tunes playing all night from your favourite past contestants, legendary divas & groups; expect party games, lip sync karaoke, iconic moments on the big screen and performances from our iconic host henny!

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TV in Memoriam: 15 Storeys High + Q&A
Saturday 18th May, 3:15pm
TV in Memoriam is a slot at Pilot Light TV Festival dedicated to screening, celebrating and mourning TV shows that left us too early. This year’s focus is around the criminally under-rated sitcom 15 Storeys High starring Sean Lock & Benedict Wong. It centred around two flatmates who are the total opposite of each other, Vince Clark (Sean Lock), a bona fide misanthrope and the eternal optimist Errol Spears (Benedict Wong). This event will screen episodes of the series followed by a Q&A with writer/actor Sean Lock, director Mark Nunneley, writer Martin Trenaman and producer Phil Bowker, featuring never before seen behind the scenes photos and outtakes.

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The Ethics of True Crime
Saturday 18th May, 3:30pm
With a selection of true crime experts including Adam Jones (UK True Crime Podcast), Rachel Fairburn (All Killa No Filla), and the legend that is Donal MacIntyre, this discussion will explore the global explosion of True Crime’s popularity in TV and other mediums. They’ll delve into the reasons why the genre has become so popular recently, the production process of creating a True Crime hit and the moral implications of creating these popular pieces of entertainment with such harrowing and grizzly real-life backstories.

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UK Premiere of HBO Europe’s Blinded By The Lights
Saturday 18th May, 3:45pm
Join Pilot Light for the UK Premiere of this masterfully constructed and beautifully shot adaptation of the award winning novel of the same name. Kuba, a Warsaw-based cocaine dealer, buys two one-way tickets to get as far away from his current life as possible. He chooses Argentina. His departure is scheduled for the first day of Christmas, all that stands between him and his winter break is a few days working Warsaw’s twilight world, trawling the nightclubs, going to office parties and dealing with hipster clients, corrupt cops, politicians and drug-loving celebrities. But the city has other plans for him when things start to go awry.

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You Oughta Know Live Podcast: Parks & Recreation
Saturday 18th May, 5:15pm
Parks & Recreation is seriously one of the most enjoyable and fun TV shows I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch (if you discount the first season that is) and now for its 10th anniversary the You Oughta Know girls (Grace Barber-Plentie and Sarah Sahim) will be hosting a live podcast to discuss just how bloody brilliant the show was (and still is). Expect lots of talk about Lil’ Sebastian, Waffles, Ron Swanson’s moustache, The Cones of Dunshire and of course – Ann Perkins. It sounds like it will LITERALLY be the best night of your life.

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Smack the Pony 20th Anniversary
Saturday 18th May, 5:30pm
Arriving on Channel 4 in 1999, Smack The Pony quickly achieved cult status and still remains a well-loved comedy show thanks to its mix of observational, surrealist and feminist sketch comedy. For the 20th anniversary of the show’s beginning, Pilot Light have invited creator Victoria Pile plus writer and star Fiona Allen to look back on the show, its legacy in British comedy and their favourite moments whilst shooting.

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My Dinner with Alan: A Sopranos Session + Q&A
Sunday 19th May, 1:30pm
The UK premiere of My Dinner with Alan: A Sopranos Session sees leading US TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz in conversation at the location of the controversial last scene of The Sopranos followed by a Q&A with Matt Zoller Seitz, Alan Sepinwall and director Kristian Fraga. Their eclectic conversation covers television, psychiatry, gangsterism, their 20-year friendship, and their experience covering the series for The Star-Ledger, the newspaper that Tony Soprano picked up at the end of his driveway.

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Game of Thrones: The Final Night
Sunday 19th May, 6:30pm
Probably the biggest event in TV in 2019, Game of Thrones comes to its 10-year conclusion and so Pilot Light are hosting a special guest panel as they discuss the iconic show and relive some of the most shocking moments in Game of Thrones history. Following the panel will be an exclusive cinema screening of Season 8’s penultimate episode; directed by GoT battle-master Miguel Sapochnik (Hardhome, Battle of The Bastards) and clocking in at epic 1hr 20mins!

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Alongside these events, Pilot Light TV Festival will also be showing a range of TV pilots and Web Series over the 4 days including…

Web Series

Life in the Dead Zone
The Zombie Protection Act has passed. Handing control, management and protection of infected persons over to local council. Documentary series Life in the Dead Zone follows the daily working life of Stanley George (Pest and Infections Officer) with the Kittworth City Council.

Netfl!x & Kill
The unlikely story of a psychopath (Adam Rhys-Davies) and his willing victim (Nic Lamont) who spend all day sitting around watching television. This ‘Gogglebox with a horror twist,’ is the first production from Bubble Wrap Creations.

Step Into My Office
A dark comedy gender swap series in which sexist female bosses interview aspiring young male employees. Inspired by real incidents involving male bosses and female employees.

TV Pilots

Nun Habits
April, a gay high school senior, and Sister Cecilia, a bisexual nun, begin an unlikely friendship. April struggles with her sexuality meanwhile Sister Cecilia attempts to reconcile her personal beliefs with the Church’s strict teachings on homosexuality.

The Motherload
A reckless 25-year-old woman has her life gate-crashed by the daughter she gave for adoption ten years ago.

Star Dogs
A British Sci-Fi comedy series about a rag-tag group of space-pirates making their way across a dangerous and hilarious galaxy. Stars April Pearson (Skins) and Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners).

The Gamers: The Shadow Menace
Fifteen years after stumbling into our world from the fantasy land of Fartherall during a table top roleplaying game; Newmoon, Nimble, Magellan, and Rogar must take on a new quest to find a portal to return home and defeat their nemesis, The Shadow, once and for all.


Pilot Light TV Festival

Venue: HOME & No.70 Oxford Road
Dates: Thursday 16th – Sunday 19th May
Cost: Various

More Info