THE much-awaited glittering black tie gala opening of the annual Southend Film Festival takes place next Thursday, with a star studded guest list, VIPs and special 50th anniversary celebration screening of one of the most powerful and daringly inventive British films ever made.

Said film is Lindsay Anderson's Cannes Palm D’Or-winning 'If...' (actually spelt in lower case, as in 'if...', but that looks grammatically weird when reoccurring in newspaper sentences, so in this article we will write If).

The cast and production team from If - including Confessions star Robin Askwith, plus actors David Wood, Brian Pettifer, Richard Everett - will attend the event, along with festival patrons Vicki Michelle (of ‘Allo ‘Allo! fame) and Hollywood actor Ray Winstone (subject to work commitments).

If is a depiction of a violent insurrection at a boys’ public school, and echoed the political and social unrest in France, embodied by the student riots in Paris and revolutionary events in other countries, such as China, Cuba and Vietnam.

Such was its impact, that the film was X-rated on its release, aided all the more so by Malcolm McDowell’s debut performance as the film’s lead character, Mick. In fact, it was after seeing If, that Stanley Kubrick casted McDowell as Alex in his 1971 film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.

The film festival runs until May 28, while the Festival's Fringe, which opened on May 6, continues until June 3, at various venues around Southend, including The Park Inn by Raddison Palace Hotel; Focal Point Gallery; Grosvenor Casino; The Railway Hotel; The Cliffs Pavilion; London Southend Airport and the Odeon.

Also on the programme are a number of British classics including A Taste of Honey, Thunderball and ground-breaking rockumentary, Slade in Flame.

Music fans may also love One Man’s Madness, which closes the festival on Monday May 28. This film follows the journey of Lee Jay Thompson, from small-time North London villain to multi-platinum-selling chart-topper with one of Britain’s biggest and best-loved bands of all time, Madness.

Other highlights of the four days of the 2018 Southend Film Festival include opportunities to see and hear talks by directors, writers and actors.

Festival Director Paul Cotgrove says: “I’m very proud that, from humble beginnings in 2009, the Southend-on-Sea Film Festival has become one of Essex’s biggest, independent events on the cultural calendar.

"It is also very special for me and my team to have linked up with the Lindsay Anderson Foundation for what is shaping up to be the year’s largest gathering of the cast and crew from ‘if….’.

"I am also delighted that the festival will screen a programme that includes World Cinema, classics, new British features and documentaries, with plenty of opportunities to meet the people who made them.”

The black-tie gala opens at the Odeon Cinema in Southend.

For full listings, details about venues and where to buy tickets, go to