Nick Park film night - May 2019

It has been 30 years since Nick Park, a postgraduate student at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, launched his wonderful ‘claymation’ characters Wallace & Gromit to the moon – and to international stardom. Three decades and tonnes of modelling clay later, the daring duo are part of film history, winning 5 BAFTAs and 3 Oscars®. The Beaconsfield Society were delighted to join in celebrating Nick Park’s creative genius by organising a charity film night in partnership with Cancer Research UK as part of the 2019 Beaconsfield Community Festival.

The first Wallace & Gromit film, ‘A Grand Day out’, was in fact Nick Park’s graduation project, which he started in 1982. The originality of his work had attracted the attention of Aardman Animations in Bristol, who took him on before he finished his film. This allowed him to work part-time while still funded by the school. In the end, his graduation film took seven years to complete. By that time, Nick had also worked with Aardman on ‘Creature Comforts’, a glorious series of small animated films that went on to beat ‘A Grand Day Out’ at the 1990 Academy Awards. Thanks to the generosity of Aardman and the NFTS in providing films and venue free of charge, we were able to bring both to Beaconsfield in our special film screening.

On Saturday 18 May 2019, a large and enthusiastic audience gathered for drinks and canapés in the NFTS foyer before moving to the cinema for the main event. After Adrienne Britton, Chair of Beaconsfield Friends of Cancer Research UK, addressed the audience, I welcomed everyone on behalf of the Beaconsfield Society and outlined the evening’s programme. 

We were privileged first to be able to screen a brand new short film in tribute to Nick Park made especially by the NFTS for the 30th anniversary celebrations. It described how Wallace & Gromit were born at the Film School, and showed us the present day animation department and the students working on site now.  This was followed by Wallace & Gromit’s first two adventures, ‘A Grand Day Out’ and ‘A Close Shave’ and three short ‘Creature Comfort’ films.

A large audience of 120 attended, many of them young people, and we raised over £900 for Cancer Research UK. The feedback from the audience was very positive, one visitor commenting, “A wonderful event in aid of a good cause - many thanks for the effort that went into it.”

Following the event, a large beautifully designed display celebrating Nick Park’s work was put up on the Beaconsfield Society’s notice boards in Maxwell Road. Many thanks to Deirdre Smaje and designer Kirsty Godfrey for these. The boards returned for the winter, marking the actual arrival of Wallace & Gromit on our TV screens on Christmas Eve, 1989.

Kari Dorme (Committee member and event organiser)

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