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UK LGBT Film Distributor TOM ABELL presented with inaugural Iris Fellowship

Directors, actors, producers, industry professionals and LGBT+ activists gathered at the Ministry in London to congratulate the much-loved LGBT+ champion

“British audiences would be starved of LGBT+ content if it were not for the work of this amazing, kind man,”

Tom Abell, Managing Director and owner of Peccadillo Pictures, has been presented with the inaugural Iris Prize Fellowship. Honouring those who have made a significant contribution to the LGBT+ film industry, the fellowship recognises Tom’s services to LGBT+ film distribution in the UK.

Over the past 40 years, Tom’s commitment to sharing LGBT+ cinema has brought hundreds of films to UK screens, including Skin Flicks, Head On, The Watermelon Woman, Weekend, and recent hit Sauvage which played at Iris Prize last year.


The fellowship was presented by Lord Glendonbrook (former Chair of Channel 4) as patron of the Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival at the Ministry, a private members club and workspace for the creative industries, during the Cardiff-based festival’s annual London Reception.

Accompanied by his husband Kahloon Loke, other guests attending the event to honour Tom Abell were film directors Hong Khao, Campbell X (pictured above), Neil Hunter and actor Chris New, star of Weekend.


Berwyn Rowlands, Festival Director, commented:

“There are moments in life when you come across a person and think, he’s a really nice man. Tom Abell is one of those people! But he is much more than just a nice man. Britain would be a very different place today without his commitment to sharing LGBT+ films. His commitment over four decades at the helm of companies like Dangerous to Know, Millivres Multimedia and Peccadillo Picture, who will shortly be celebrating their 19th birthday. He has influenced generations of movie-goers by distributing and sometimes financing LGBT+ films.  


I’m confident there must be thousands of LGBT+ people across the UK who have been emotionally nourished with his films. The back catalogue of titles holds a mirror to our lives, confirming we are alive and exist in many complex ways, in communities across the world, celebrating happy and sad times.”


Andrew Pierce, Iris Prize Chair, commented:
“Actors, directors, producers are already recognised time and time again for their contribution to the world of film. It was obvious to us at Team Iris that the only person on our shortlist for this inaugural Iris Fellowship was Tom Abell.


In today’s multi-platform world where content is available freely, it is timely to remember when this was not the case. Tom Abell was one of the pioneers, you could say ahead of his time, creating an audience and business model working in a system which was sometimes hostile.


More recently when we created the Iris Prize to support new LGBT+ film making talent, it was Tom who enthusiastically supported the inaugural Iris Prize Festival back in 2007. Peccadillo has distributed about 50% of the films shortlisted for the Iris Prize with their popular Boys on Film collections.”


In accepting the award, Abell spoke also of the challenges facing an LGBT distributor, even in the UK today, lamenting hostile social media comments directed at current Peccadillo release A Deal With The Universe, Jason Barker’s documentary about his own experiences as a trans man putting his gender reassignment on hold in order to carry and give birth to a baby.


The main festival sponsors are: The Michael Bishop Foundation, Welsh Government, BFI, Ffilm Cymru Wales, Pinewood Studios Group, Cardiff University, For Cardiff, Bad Wolf, Gorilla Group, Co-op Respect, Gelert Post Production, University of South Wales and Cineworld. The festival also works in partnership with BAFTA Cymru, Pride Cymru and Stonewall Cymru.



Tom Abell

Abell launched the UK’s first LGBT film distribution company, Dangerous To Know in 1992 – serving a then-untapped market with video cassettes of titles such as gay teen romance Two Of Us (originally made for the BBC’s education unit) and 1971 erotic fantasy Pink Narcissus. He also packaged shorts under the brand Boys On Film – a compilation series that endures to this day.


Abell launched Peccadillo Pictures in 2000, distributing world cinema alongside LGBT titles. The company scored a breakthrough in 2011 with Andrew Haigh’s Nottingham-set gay drama Weekend, overcoming initial scepticism from UK cinemas and grossing £222,000.


The Iris Prize – Cardiff’s International LGBT Short Film Prize is supported by The Michael Bishop Foundation and at £30,000 continues to be the only LGBT+ short film prize in the world which allows the winner to make a new film. In 2017 and 2018 Iris was identified as one of the “top 50 film festivals worth the entry fee” by MovieMaker Magazine and promoted by BAFTA to A-list festival status, alongside Cannes and Sundance, by officially being recognised as a qualifying festival for the BAFTA awards.


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