Cage, Cake and the Orgy

Matchbox Cineclub’s 2018 in pictures

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2018 was the year Matchbox Cineclub stopped doing monthly screenings and ended up screening twice as many films. We launched three film festivals (even if one was postponed till 2019) and our online shop, coordinated Scalarama events across Scotland and organised a six-date tour of the UK. We hosted a world premiere, several Scottish premieres and a bunch of lovely guests, while a project we originated continued on to the Scottish Borders and Spain.

It hasn’t always been easy but we’re proud of what we accomplished this year, working with some incredible venues and a lot of our best bright and brilliant pals. We’re hoping 2019 will be our best year yet, but it’ll definitely be hard to beat 2018. The biggest thanks, as always, to everyone who came out for a Matchbox Cineclub event – you’re the ones who make it worthwhile. We always love to hear from you, so if you have any thoughts on the past year, or the next, please let us know. In the meantime, here’s our 2018 in pictures…

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Cage-a-rama | After years of standalone pop-ups and our monthly residencies,  this was our first time trying a new format, the micro-festival: six films over three days and as much bonus content as we could cram in. Selling it out in the early days of January gave us the encouragement to keep going. Which is a bigger deal than it maybe sounds. We couldn’t have done it without the Centre for Contemporary Arts and Park Circus supporting what we do, and of course all the Cage fans, who came from across the UK and as far afield as Dresden, Germany. We’re very much looking forward to Cage-a-rama 2: Cage Uncaged in January 2019.

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Team Matchbox win the Glasgow Film Festival 2018 Quiz | Technically, Team GFF won, but since there were 18 of them and they had the inside scoop on their own programme, they were disqualified. We credit our victory to our ace in the hole, cine-savant Josh Slater-Williams. Also to the Nicolas Cage round. Thanks to the lovely Tony Harris (of Team GFF) for the photo!

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Turkish Star Wars 2K world premiere | A while back, our pal Ed Glaser came into possession of the only remaining 35mm print of Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam, AKA Turkish Star Wars. Once it was all cleaned up and newly translated subtitles added, we had the chance to host the world premiere of the 2K restoration (simultaneously with our pals Remakesploitation film club in London). The May 4th screening was sold out but free entry. To cover our technician Pat’s wages, we took donations (and as usual spent way too much time on special graphics for the occasion).

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Ela Orleans takes Cowards Bend the Knee to Alchemy | Our musical hero and good pal Ela Orleans took her live score for Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend The Knee to the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in May. We originally commissioned Ela to write and perform her incredible new score during Scalarama 2017. Of course, 100% of the glory for the performances (Ela also later took Cowards to the Festival Periferia in Huesta, Spain), goes to Ela herself, but we’re very proud of the small part we have to play in the ongoing project. And, if you look very closely, you can see our logo in Alchemy’s Programme Partners on the screen behind Ela!

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Weird Weekend | After Cage-a-rama was a success, we wanted to do something similar in the format but with Matchbox’s more typical programming – the outcasts, orphans and outliers of cinema. So, Weird Weekend was born and Scotland’s first festival dedicated to cult cinema took place at CCA in June. Over two days, we mixed cult favourites with lost classics and brand-new films and welcomed guests like The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb cinematographer Frank Passingham, Crime Wave star Eva Kovacs and Top Knot Detective co-directors Dominic Pearce and Aaron McCann. We also programmed a retrospective of our favourite local filmmaker Bryan M Ferguson’s shorts, and Bryan joined us for a post-screening Q&A. See Bryan’s latest work, including his celebrated music video for Ladytron,  here: bryanmferguson.co.uk.

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Alex Winter Q&A | The one and only Bill of Bill & Ted fame joined us via Skype after we screened his directorial debut Freaked at Weird Weekend. It was a fantastic screening and Q&A, all of it a mildly surreal high point. The whole thing was made totally normal, though, by the coolness of Alex and his team, who were also incredibly gracious in supporting our event with a bunch of press interviews. Of course, Alex is about to make Bill & Ted Face The Music, but these days he’s a pretty deadly documentary maker. See what he’s up to now: alexwinter.com.

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Our founder returns | Matchbox Cineclub founder (lately of Paradise and Moriarty Explorers Club and, most recently, Trasho Biblio) Tommy McCormick returned for a cameo at Weird Weekend. Screening Soho Ishii’s The Crazy Family was a long-held ambition for Tommy, so when we managed to confirm a screening for Weird Weekend, he returned to pass on Ishii’s special message for the audience.

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The Astrologer | We closed Weird Weekend with the Scottish premiere (and only the second UK screening) of Craig Denney’s The Astrologer (1976), such a deep cut that it can only be seen at screenings – no DVD, no VHS, no streaming, no torrent and very little chance it can ever be released. Bringing the DCP over from the States would have been 100% worth it anyway, before an unexpected onscreen mention for Glasgow melted everyone’s minds. Before all that, though, we got carried away with researching the mysterious and largely unreported story behind it and ending up writing the definitive 4,000-word article on it. Read it here!

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CCA Closure | KeanuCon postponed! After Cage-a-rama, we polled the audience to see which icon we might celebrate next – Merylpalooza had a good run but Keanu was the clear winner. We debuted our trailer at a GFT late night classic screening of Speed in March and scheduled KeanuCon for the opening weekend of Scalarama in September. Unfortunately, the GSA fire meant the nearby CCA was forced to remain closed indefinitely and, try as we might, we couldn’t find a suitable alternative venue for the dates. On the bright side, our Keanu Reeves film festival will finally arrive in April 2019. And it was all almost worth it for our Sad KeanuCon image.

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The World’s Greatest 3D Film Club | In July, our pals at Nice N Sleazy invited us to programme something there at the last minute. Their only specifications were for it to be something vaguely summery and fun. We had a bunch of red-blue anaglyph 3D glasses left over from when we screened Comin’ At Ya at The Old Hairdressers a couple of years ago, so we decided to screen Jaws 3D. When Sleazies had other free dates to fill, we later showed Friday 13th Part III and 1961 Canadian horror The Mask.

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Scalarama | We took a lead role in coordinating Scalarama activity across Scotland again this September. KeanuCon was meant to open activities in Glasgow, but luckily Pity Party Film Club were able to fill the void with an incredible Hedwig and the Angry Inch event. We also hosted a sold-out screening of B-movie documentary Images of Apartheid at Kinning Park Complex, teamed-up with Video Namaste for another Video Bacchanal, this time at The Old Hairdressers, and screened Joe Dante’s epic The Movie Orgy (see below). Before all that, though, we hosted the Scalarama Scotland 2018 programme launch in August at the Seamore Neighbourhood Cinema in Maryhill, with a special Odorama screening of John Waters Polyester. Our pal Puke (pictured) volunteered as a Francine Fishpaw ring girl to cue the scratch and sniff action.

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Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy | We’d wanted to host this for a really long time and it took a lot of leg work, including a last-minute zoom to Edinburgh International Film Festival, to finally make happen. But it did! And, incredibly, Joe Dante himself recorded us an intro (pictured), after EIFF’s iconic Niall Greig Fulton introduced us to him in June and we got the OK to screen it. With CCA still closed, we had the opportunity to return to our old home, The Old Hairdressers, for this five-hour, sold-out screening. The film editor of the Skinny called it “Scotland’s movie event of the year”, which is daft but also we’ll take it.

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#WeirdHorror with Kate Dickie | We started off the Halloween season doing a 31 days of #WeirdHorror countdown, then when CCA’s oft-postponed opening was finally confirmed, we offered to do some last-minute screenings. The idea was to celebrate CCA reopening and maybe help spread the word – which, it was super busy anyway but it was a great opportunity to team up with our pals Pity Party Film Club and She’s En Scene for some co-screenings. The four-night pop-up series had an amazing climax with legendary local hero Kate Dickie very graciously joining us for The Witch and an in-depth Q&A afterwards.

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Matchbox Birthday Cake | Finally, this was just a very nice birthday surprise. Coming up in 2019, though, we have a LOT of surprises in store. First up, Cage-a-rama 2, Auld Lang Vine and KeanuCon. See you there!


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The Crazy Family | Weird Weekend

The Crazy Family, Sogo Ishii’s provocative, oddball satire, hasn’t screened in Scotland for 30 years

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Having just relocated to a comfortable new home in suburbia, the Kobayashi family – Katsuhiko, his wife, Saeko, and their two children, Masaki and Erika – appear to be the picture of middle-class success. But the family’s comfortable bourgeois veneer begins disintegrating when grandfather Yasukuni and white ants infest their home, eating away at the woodwork. As the Kobayashis’ house begins to crumble, so does the sanity of its inhabitants. Katsuhiko takes it upon himself to keep them from the asylum…at any cost.

The Crazy Family (逆噴射家族, Gyakufunsha Kazoku) Sogo Ishii’s provocative, oddball satire, hasn’t screened in Scotland for at least 30 years. Born Toshihiro Ishii, now known as Gakuryū Ishii, the avant garde filmmaker spearheaded the Japanese New Wave with his early punk features Panic In High School (1978), Crazy Thunder Road (1980) and Burst City (1982). Ishii’s reputation arguably rests on these early films, although he’s still active and his influence can been seen in the filmmakers whose international success has surpassed his own.

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Described as “one of the most genuinely demented movies to ever emerge from Japan,” The Crazy Family‘s original title (literally “The Back-Jet Family”) was a reference to an incident at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in the early 1980s. The pilot of a short, internal flight fired the plane’s back-jet just before landing, crashing the plane and killing many of its passengers. Pressure of work was blamed for the pilot’s action. “With Crazy Family,” Ishii later claimed, “I wanted to show the Japanese family as I saw it.” Co-writer and manga artist Yoshinori Kobayashi, now a controversial, conservative figure in Japan, told Monthly Film Bulletin in 1986:

Kramer vs Kramer, Ordinary People and The Family Game are all admirable films dealing with family problems. They are serious films, much praised by critics, and some people regard them as masterpieces. But some of us think differently. We consider them timid films, more or less like the TV family dramas made for middle-aged audiences, and the critics like them more than we do. And so Sogo Ishii and I decided to make a more radical  film on the same subject. We wanted film about the family that would be filled with fun and poison… There are four things that traditionally frighten the Japanese: earthquakes, thunder, fire and fathers. This list is as valid now as it ever was.

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Though it didn’t lose money, The Crazy Family was, perhaps unsurprisingly, not hugely popular domestically. “Everyone in Japan just complained that they didn’t understand my films,” Ishii later reflected. Though the film made a bigger impact abroad, according to writer David Cairns, “Most western critics found it wearisome and baffling”. As related by Shock Cinema’s Steven Puchalski, “its New York City engagement consisted of a one-week run at an upscale arthouse theatre, and a sparse, thoroughly confused audience of blue-haired Upper West Siders.”

In the UK, however, critic Tony Rayns saw its value immediately, noting “a major step forward for Sogo Ishii”. Writing in early 1986, Rayns observed that The Crazy Family “is a live action comic strip, each sequence shattered into component images like panels on a page and edited to rock rhythms.” Rayns continued:

The stylistic attack is matched, blow by blow, by the ruthlessness and cruelty of the humour: satire, slapstick, pain and black comedy are primary elements, but the film goes beyond them all into an area harder and more vicious than anything seen on screen since the early days of Monty Python. Its triumph is that it is (a) consistently funny, and (b) sustained as a narrative, rather than collapsing into a series of sketches.

if…. director Lindsay Anderson was also a fan. As recorded in Michael Palin’s diaries, Anderson preferred it to the then-recent A Room With A ViewAn Englishman Abroad, and even the Python’s own Private Function. Ishii’s film was the only one he’d liked recently, Anderson told Palin, since “the violence is so productive!”

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Though it’s never been released on DVD in the UK, The Crazy Family is a landmark in Ishii’s ouevre and Japanese cinema. It was his first commercial work, following the trio of dystopian punk films that made his name, but was immediately followed by an almost 10-year gap before his next feature, the thriller Angel Dust (1994). Thwarted from making the films he wanted to make, Ishii concentrated on experimental short films,  music documentaries (notably Half Human, with Einstuerzende Neubauten) and TV movies. The next phase of his work would be his self-proclaimed psychedelic years, before a slight return to his roots with Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2000). In 2010, he announced his “artistic rebirth”, Bowie-style, as Gakuryū Ishii, before returning to features once more with 2012’s Isn’t Anyone Alive? With his latest, Punk Samurai Slash Down, due this year, it’s the perfect time to (re)discover his weirdest.

Sean Welsh


The Crazy Family screens at Matchbox Cineclub’s Weird Weekend on Sunday 3rd June. Tickets from £5, day and weekend passes are available. All tickets available from CCA’s box office, 0141 352 4900, or online: bit.ly/weirdweekend.

 

Weird Weekend brochure online

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The brochure for Weird Weekend 2018 is not online over at Issuu. You can also pick up a print copy across Glasgow this weekend.

Tickets are on sale now from £5, day and weekend passes are available. All tickets available from CCA’s box office, 0141 352 4900, or online: bit.ly/weirdweekend.

Arrow Video Cult Film Quiz

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Think you know cult film? Matchbox Cineclub, with the kind assistance of Arrow Video, are giving you the chance to test your mettle at Weird Weekend, with quizmaster Claire Biddles.

Prizes include an incredible array of Arrow Video blu rays, free entry into future Matchbox Cineclub events + lots more.

Our pals at Nice N Sleazy are opening two hours early on a Sunday for us, so this is truly a landmark event.

Entry in the quiz is free to all Weird Weekend ticket holders, who also get a food discount + free entry to Nice N Sleazy all weekend.

See all screenings: Weird Weekend

Tickets £28/£14/£5 | bit.ly/weirdweekend

Crime Wave | Weird Weekend

John Paizs’ unsung deadpan masterpiece screens from fully-restored 2K DCP.

Crime Wave 2“If the great Canadian comedy ever gets made, John Paizs might be the one to make it.”

Jay Scott, Globe and Mail, 1985

In 1986, a cult film named Crimewave was released. Though it bombed, critically and commercially, it was a notable stepping stone in the careers of a many of its key players, who, despite its ignominious failure, went on to have glittering careers that left it only a curious blip in their CVs.  In this case, the term “cult” applies only in the sense that completist fans of the Coen Brothers (writers), Sam Raimi (director) and Bruce Campbell (producer, star) will keep its faint flame burning for a good while longer than it demands on its own merits. Meanwhile in Canada, another film, similarly-titled, received blazing reviews on its festival debut then all but disappeared without trace.

John Paizs’ Crime Wave was the culmination of themes and style developed by Paizs in a series of shorts starring the director himself as a ‘silent man’ character, Nick, the predecessor of Stephen Penny, mute protagonist of Crime Wave. Penny is an aspiring screenwriter, afflicted with a peculiar kind of writer’s block – he can only write beginnings and endings for the “colour crime pictures” he aspires to make, and no middles. When he takes a room above a suburban family’s garage, his landlord’s daughter, Kim (Eva Kovacs), discovers his abandoned script pages in the trash and takes it upon herself to help him realise his potential.

The synopsis, however, barely sketches the experience of Crime Wave. Paizs painstakingly shot and styled his film to mimic the Technicolor of classical Hollywood. He also re-recorded all dialogue in post-production, inspired equally by the highly-controlled sound design of radio dramas. The tone, meanwhile, is deadpan absurd, the construction post-modern. Paizs interpolates Penny’s travails and Kim’s enterprise with sequences realising the opening and closing scenes from Stephen’s script fragments. When Kim introduces him to a mysterious Dr Jolly, who promises a solution to Stephen’s dire straits, the film accelerates towards a manic and hilarious climactic montage.

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John Paizs as Stephen Penny in Crime Wave

Crime Wave debuted at the 1985 Festival of Festivals (later to become the Toronto International Film Festival). The screening was also, according to Paizs, essentially a test screening. Writing and producing his own work, he’d gotten used to unusual creative freedom. “I used to just get to the end and I would not show the script to anybody and I would not do another draft, I just applied to the Arts Council for the money and they were less concerned about, ‘Does it have a coherent story?’ They were more into, ‘Well, is it kind of different?’” Crime Wave, like its creator, was certainly different. Following the (successful) festival screening, Paizs was dissatisfied enough to entirely rewrite, re-shoot and re-cut the film’s final 20 minutes.

Justifiably, though unjustly, it remains the high water mark in Paizs’ filmmaking career. “After Crime Wave, expectations were quite high for me,” explains Paizs. “According to the Globe and Mail reviewer, I had to make the great Canadian comedy, and, I’ll tell you, that was the best thing that someone could possibly say to any film-maker, right, but also the worst. And because I decided not to do the ‘silent man’ thing anymore after Crime Wave, not only did I have to come up with something new that I could invest myself in passionately, but it also had to be great and, you know, that in a nutshell is why there was no follow-up to Crime Wave.” Which is a genuine tragedy for cinema, especially since the Globe and Mail review was based on the first, unrefined cut of Paizs’ masterpiece.

Crime Wave could only have been made in Canada, in Winnipeg and by John Paizs, though it’s so much more than just a great Canadian film. Though its theatrical release was thwarted by an ill-advised distribution deal (which complicates its home-viewing release to this day), Crime Wave’s timeless originality,  meticulously-crafted aesthetic and the singular voice of its creator stake a claim for it in film history, exclusively on its on terms.


This article originally appeared in Physical Impossibility #4: Guide to World Cinema.

Crime Wave screens at Matchbox Cineclub’s Weird Weekend on Sunday 3rd June. Tickets from £5, day and weekend passes are available. All tickets available from CCA’s box office, 0141 352 4900, or online: bit.ly/weirdweekend. #makeitweird

The Astrologer pins hopes on lucky stars

A 1976 UPI article by Vernon Scott on Craig Denney’s The Astrologer, as it appeared in The Ottawa Journal (14/01/1976)

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If you are Aquarian with Uranus in the third house, the sun in Capricorn, bestride Scorpio with Virgo ascending and the moon over Miami, you are probably in deep trouble or at least about to meet a tall dark stranger. Devotees of the zodiac will be hit with that sort of thing in The Astrologer, a new movie starring Craig Denny [sic] who also directed the film. Until now, astrology has been ignored by moviemakers. But Denny, 31, is founder of Moonhouse International, a computerized horoscope service which, for a price, whips out detailed astrological forecasts for individuals and corporations.

Astrology has made Denny a rich man. He says Moonhouse grossed $31 million last year with corporations paying as much as $20,000 for the service. “There’s never been a movie based on astrology,” said Denny, a handsome and intelligent man who is steeped in the lore of the zodiac. “Surprising, isn’t it? Especially when you consider there are 33 million individuals in the United States alone who are interested in astrology and buy astrological books, magazines and horoscopes.”

“So there is a huge audience waiting to see a picture based on astrology. The concept has been ignored all these years because it was new and different and didn’t follow any trends or patterns. Our story is about a gypsy fortune teller – me – and what happens to him as he predicts the future. We don’t preach astrology in the movie. There are five different story lines and plots. There’s a great deal of fantasy. The picture is visual. Even though it includes some heavy knowledge about astrology, the film is entertaining. We aren’t trying to make converts. This is a contemporary story with a great many optical special effects. I’m sure the picture has a basic appeal for everyone, including non-believers.”

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Webster’s defines astrology as: “A pseudo science claiming to foretell the future by studying the supposed Influence of the relative positions of the moon, sun and stars on human affairs. Primitive astronomy.” Denny, of course, views astrology as the mother of all sciences. “It is 5,000 years old,” he said. “I’ve been involved in astrology for 10 years. I don’t try to influence skeptics. Either you believe in it or you don’t. I have all the proof in the world that astrology is a true science.”

Denny embarked on a discourse of dates, planets and stars in a terminology which defies analysis by laymen. He holds theories which would shock other astrologers. His eyes gleam with teal. One is well advised not to take issue with him on the subject. A former radio broadcaster, Denny began The Astrologer in 1972 with a budget of $1.5 million. Three years later and at a total cost of $10 million, the picture was completed.

“Astrology has had a tough time with radio and television,” be said. “The government has a law that all astrological information must have a disclaimer before and after any programs dealing with the subject. It can’t be promoted on the air. The National Association of Broadcasters and the Federal Communications Commission have ruled that astrology is not a true science.” Denny’s disdain for the patented foolhardiness of the NAB and FCC was clearly reflected in the expression on his face. The Astrologer will open in prime American cities’ theatres Jan. 14, a date not selected at random. “The astrological aspects for the picture’s release were considered,” Denny admitted. According to the stars, the timing couldn’t be better.

Vernon Scott


The Astrologer screens at Matchbox Cineclub’s Weird Weekend on Sunday 03/06/18. Tickets from CCA’s box office, 0141 352 4900, or online here.

Keep up-to-date on Facebook here.

Newspaper ad images: Temple of Schlock.

Weird Weekend 2018 on sale now

Matchbox Cineclub announce Scotland’s first cult film festival

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Matchbox Cineclub presents Weird Weekend, a whole weekend of strange and unseen cinema from around the world. Scotland’s cult film festival brings orphans, outcasts and outliers from across time and space to the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd June, 2018. Weird Weekend presents long-lost cult classics alongside premieres of future favourites, with a host of special guests, Q&As and events.

Among the highlights, Bill & Ted star Alex Winter will take part in a Skype Q&A after a screening of his directorial debut Freaked (1993); Glaswegian director Bryan M Ferguson will attend a Q&A following Anatomical Gunk, a retrospective of his short films; a 40th anniversary screening of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s midnight movie classic The Holy Mountain (1973); Sogo Ishii’s The Crazy Family (1984), unseen on UK screens for over 30 years; and an extremely rare screening of the long-lost, now fully restored cult classic The Astrologer (Craig Denney, 1975).

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Matchbox Cineclub programmer Sean Welsh says: “Although we have many, many film events, Scotland is long-overdue a dedicated cult film festival. With Matchbox Cineclub, we’ve always aimed to screen films you can’t see anywhere else, so Weird Weekend is a logical extension of all of that. We’re very proud of the programme we’ve put together, which uncovers lost gems, debuts new versions of classics and presents some of the wildest brand-new films in the world today.”


Tickets from £5, day and weekend passes are available. All tickets available from CCA’s box office, 0141 352 4900, or online: bit.ly/weirdweekend. #makeitweird

Keep up-to-date on Facebook here.

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