Meet: Cecilia Stenbom

Cecilia Stenbom loves the UK. So much so, in fact, that she’s touring her most recent works across the length and breadth of the country. Originally from Sweden, and now based in the North East of England, Stenbom has a story to tell about each of the locations she’s visiting on her tour (of which there are five).

 Glasgow, where Cecilia graduated from the MFA Programme at Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow, where Cecilia graduated from the MFA Programme at Glasgow School of Art

“Glasgow, of course, is my entry point to the UK,” Stenbom begins. “I originally studied in Helsinki, Finland for my BA but I was interested in what was going on in Glasgow,” she continues. The Glasgow art scene, especially, was what drew the now award-winning artist filmmaker in. After graduating from the MFA Programme at Glasgow School of Art, Stenbom has gone on to great things. Glasgow, however, holds a special place in Stenbom’s heart. “The two or so years I lived in Glasgow was very formative for me, both as an artist and as a person,” she reveals.

Stenbom will be showcasing her newest short film, Rules of Engagement, at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts, which, as it happens, is a stone’s throw away from where she used to hang out as a student. It’s been a fair while since she came into contact with Glasgow, but she’s sure as heck looking forward to going back. Rules of Engagement is just one of the films Stenbom is showcasing as part of her tour. Each of the five venues has a slightly different mix of Stenbom’s shorts, which makes for a unique experience.

“I’m looking forward to bringing this body of work to a new audience,” Stenbom says. “One of the most exciting things with each of the screenings is that I’ve put the works together in a slightly different way.” Each screening is unique in that there is a different, loose theme to bind the works together. Add into the mix a Q&A hosted by a local film buff, and things are going to get pretty damn interesting.

 Regent Street Cinema will debut Rules of Engagement in 31 January

Regent Street Cinema will debut Rules of Engagement in 31 January

Up first on the tour is Regent Street Cinema in London, the Q&A discussion of which is hosted by the director of London Short Film Festival, Phillip Ilson. “I’ve shown three films at LSFF,” Stenbom notes, continuing, “So that feels like a connection. To have that conversation, particularly with [Phillip] is really interesting.” And, of course, you know, London being the Capital City and all that jazz.

CCA Glasgow is up next, and Newcastle upon Tyne is thereafter. Stenbom, of course, is now based in the North East and so the screening at the Tyneside Cinema is a little bit of a homecoming for her. “I haven’t done this kind of screening, of a series of work, like this in Newcastle,” Stenbom confesses. The films Stenbom is showing have been filmed in or around Tyneside, which makes it all a bit more special for the Geordie audience. “The idea of speaking to Michael Pattison, who is currently a colleague over at the University, was kind of important,” Stenbom enthuses. “He has a strong North-East connection,” she adds.

That sense of ‘connection’ seems to be a common theme in all of the screenings that Stenbom and her producer, Gerry Maguire are putting on. I get the sense that Stenbom is quite sentimental – articulately so. For the penultimate date on the tour, Stenbom is returning to Berwick upon Tweed, where she was involved in a rather big project for Berwick Film and Media Festival – a project of which was a “game changer” for Stenbom. “The research [I conducted] in Berwick has paved the way for the projects I’ve done subsequently,” Stenbom says. “So, for me to come back with a body of work that I’ve done since being in Berwick, that all relates to Berwick, feels like coming at full circle.”

 The Case, shot in and around Berwick-upon-Tweed during Cecilia's artist in residency programme

The Case, shot in and around Berwick-upon-Tweed during Cecilia's artist in residency programme

All of the venues, but one, on the tour are either independent cinemas or independent theatres – with more of a focus on film than art. For the last date on the tour, though, Stenbom wanted to return back to the gallery context from which she originates. “The Tetley is the only [venue] that is, I guess, a pure gallery context,” Stenbom agrees. “I think it’s important to have that discussion of what happens to the works when they’re brought into the gallery context,” she adds.

It’s clear that Stenbom has put a lot of thought into the tour. She speaks vividly, and with excitement, about the locations; about her work, and about the people who will be asking her questions on the night. The tour isn’t going to be your typical film after film screening, and that’s important to Stenbom. “I’m really interested in the Q&A sessions after each screening,” she tells me. “I wanted to allow that engagement with the audience. I’m looking forward to the outcome of those Q&As and where that might lead me next…” We can’t wait to see what Stenbom is up to next, either…

Get tickets

Regent Street Cinema, 31 January > get tickets

CCA Glasgow, 5 February > get tickets

Tyneside Cinema,  12 February > get tickets

The Maltings, 13 February > get tickets

The Tetley, 15 February > read more