THE grand return of Southend's film festival is set for this month - despite the director nearly deciding to terminate the entire event last year.

The Southend Film Festival is running from September 16 to 19 this year, following two delays due to the Covid pandemic.

A jam-packed programme at the Park Inn Palace Hotel and Odeon will include documentaries from Denmark, plus a film by Stephen Cookson called Brighton, starring Gavin and Stacey star Larry Lamb and famous British actor Phil Davis, who will be attending the screening.

There is also set to be a screening of the 1989 Southend-based film Killing Dad or How to Love Your Mother, starring Julie Walters and Richard E Grant, which is set in the Palace Hotel.

Supporting actor Jonny Phillips from the film will also join to give a Q&A session.

However, this time last year, festival director Paul Cotgrove said he nearly shut the festival down.

He said: "It was first scheduled for May 2020, then it moved forward to last September, but there was another lockdown and it got cancelled again.

"To be honest that was nearly it, I just couldn't cope with it.

"It was so soul destroying and I couldn't see the wood through the trees.

READ MORE: Games console fraudsters and attacks on public servants: Cases in magistrates court this week

"But with fantastic help from the Palace and Odeon, everyone has rallied around and got it back off the ground.

"It gave me the encouragement to carry on.

"Another big supporter has been our main sponsor, Genting Casino, they came back to be the sponsor again.

"The festival can't exist without the sponsorship."

Other highlights of the festival include Made in Essex a programme of 13 short films all made by film makers from Essex and Southend on Stage which looks back at the history of Theatres in Southend from 1793.

Mr Cotgrove added: "Of course, at the festival’s heart is the opportunity to see new work by leading independent film makers covering a broad range of themes, subjects and genres.

"These elements are what makes the festival very special and essential viewing for all kinds of movie fans."