Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

An Award

OK, so you can’t read it in the picture, but that’s definitely my name on the shiny plate at the bottom. Just take my word for it, okay?

The SOFFIA represents the recognition given by the Society of Fantastic Films to creators and performers with a body of work in the genre. They’ve been presented over the past twenty-something years at the annual Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester.

Both the Society and the Festival grew out of the activities and enthusiasm of the Salford-based Delta SF Group. In addition to screening old favourites and lost classics, the Festivals offered an astonishing range of appearances and onstage interviews from personalities whose work we all grew up with, many of whom believed themselves forgotten.

In an obituary for the society’s ‘binding force and dynamo’ Harry Nadler I wrote:

The ethos of the Festival of Fantastic Films is rooted in the Universal and Hammer horrors, the Republic Serials, Ray Harryhausen movies, anything you might ever have seen in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, the Standard 8 one-reelers from Castle Films, B-movies of all kinds and from all nations, all coupled with a love of celluloid showmanship and the will to salute the surviving artists. 

Stephen Laws and I were regulars for many of those years, handling interviews and MC duties, filling in when necessary, and sometimes having to give reassurance to nervous talent convinced that they had nothing of interest to offer the waiting audience. After their reception, of course, it was always a different matter.

Amazing times. Ray Harryhausen. Brian Clemens. Val Guest. Jimmy Sangster. Janina Faye. Martine Beswick. Barbara Shelley. Francis Matthews. Mel Welles. Forry Ackerman. Richard Gordon. Andrew Keir. John Landis. Tony Tenser. Freddie Francis. Hazel Court. The list goes on.

The award was revamped at least three times, as moulds wore out and new maquettes had to be sculpted. But each version was based on the same design, the classic Maria robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (Lang would surely have been a star guest, had he not been so inconveniently deceased).

Laws and I would watch with wistful envy as the statuettes left our hands, time after time. Little did we know that, just prior to his sudden and fatal heart attack, Harry had begun arrangements to acknowledge our own contribution. It’s taken a while for everyone to catch up but a few weeks ago I got a phone call, and now I have this.

I couldn’t post about it sooner because I was also given the job of presenting Laws with his own award, and to ensure it would be a surprise. Which I was able to manage last weekend, when we met up in Scarborough to look over the location of this year’s British Fantasycon.

Steve continued to attend the Manchester Festivals while I relocated to the US for a while. He worked harder, fielded the tougher interviews, and is far more deserving of this than I.

But I’ve got one too, and I’m not giving it back.