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Building A New British Empire - A Tribute to Clare Kitson

When Clare Kitson announced that she was resigning from her post as Commissioning Editor of Animation for the UK's Channel 4, the news moved like wild fire, bringing with it tremendous sadness. Animation World Magazine is proud to host this forum for the many who wanted to thank Clare for her support, inspiration and contributions to the animation industry.

Clare Kitson.

As the Commissioning Editor of Animation for the UK's Channel 4, Clare Kitson has fostered numurous projects and careers, clearly placing the UK on the map as an animation powerhouse. News of her resignation in March moved like wild fire through the animation community, bringing with it tremendous sadness. Animation World Magazine is hosting this forum for the many who wanted to thank Clare for her support and inspiration. Innovative, creative and amazing "her" films have delighted both television viewers and festival goers the world over. Her work with festivals and originating the Animate! Scheme, with the Arts Council, and the Channel 4/MOMI Animators in Residence program are only further proof of her dedication to animation and the artists who create it.Finally, the varied and large number of tributes gathered here are testament to Clare's achievements: Jan & Eva Svankmajer, Tim Gardam, Nick Park, Marjut Rimminen, Gillian Lacey, Ruth Lingford, Iain Harvey, Raoul Servais, Mike Robinson, Sarah Muller, Karen Brown, Mark Baker, António Gaio, David Curtis, Joanna Quinn & Les Mills, Chris Grace, David Fine and Alison Snowden, Peter Parr, Rod Lord, Pat Raine Webb & Margot Grimwood, Barry Purves, Tiziana Loschi, Ron Diamond, Bob Godfrey, and John Coates.

This special limited edition poster, signed and numbered, was sent by Eva Svankmajerto Clare Kitson for this tribute.

Clare Kitson has been the champion of animation as an autonomous, individual voice on British television. Her signature lies across many of Channel 4's most distinguished commissions. I am delighted she will remain working on some landmark projects when she leaves Channel 4.Tim GardamDirector of ProgrammesChannel 4 Television

Clare has long been an inspirational and supportive influence and a cornerstone in the revival of British animation that we have enjoyed over the past few years.Nick ParkDirectorAardman Animations, Ltd.

Staff, students and graduates of the National Film and Television School in England thank Clare for her imagination and her integrity, shown in all the schemes and opportunities she created for animators, old and young, during her years at Channel 4. She will be missed throughout the animation world and I am sure we will all be fighting to get her services as a consultant! Our thanks and good wishes.Gillian LaceyHead of Animation Direction National Film and Television School

Clare.What can I say? I owe my career to your willingness to suspend your disbelief. Your quiet, exacting, supportive presence underpinned my work for Channel 4.Your vision and faith have created a generation of British animators and students with a sense of the possibilities of the medium. At animation festivals around the world, British animators are regarded with respect and great envy by animators from other countries. 'Of course,' they say, 'in Britain it is possible...'Thank you, Clare, for making it possible.Ruth LingfordDirector

I was lucky enough to be the producer who received Clare's first major commission after she started at Channel 4, for the thirty minute animated special Prince Cinders, directed by Derek Hayes (distributed on video in America by First Run Features). One element that helped us achieve this commission was the fact that the picture book, upon which the film is based, was a favourite of Clare's daughter -- ever since, I have always tried to keep tabs on her daughter's reading list!What was not always appreciated about Clare is her thoroughness, her wide range of interests, her taste for whisky and -- in particular -- her love of Russian. To help the financing of Prince Cinders, some of the animation was completed in St. Petersburg and for my first visit to this great city, Clare joined Derek Hayes and I. Her knowledge of Russian and her understanding of the Russian mentality proved indispensable.I have never been good at languages and her attempts to teach me some basic Russian phrases were probably one of her more fruitless efforts. I can only admire her perseverance. However I was able to impress her once, as I did achieve access to a famous restaurant in St. Petersburg where we were able to eat at Russian (as opposed to tourist) prices. She was absolutely convinced that this would be impossible, but in this case I used my ignorance (and hunger) as an advantage.Clare is a great and passionate lover of animation -- absolutely committed to the art and possibilities that animation offers -- but at the same time always aware and often frustrated by the problems of the television scheduling of short-run animation. Her record speaks for itself but, on a personal note, I would like to say thank you very much Clare for having faith in me and so many other producers.YGARU! (Pronounced: oudachi!) *Iain HarveyPresidentThe Illuminated Film Company* Russian for good luck.

While attending animation film festivals for about the past forty years, and therefore being classified as a "veteran," I was fortunate to meet a lot of people during those International events.A particular representative delegation remained the one of the United Kingdom, because it included outstanding and engaging personalities such as John Hales, Joy Batchelor, Bob Godfrey, Stan Hayward, as well as Pat Webb and Clare Kitson. The latter, a very attractive young girl, succeeded in combining the mischevious charm of Carnaby Street with the seriousness and competence of an experienced secretary.I don't know when the animation virus entered Clare's life, but I know that the infection was virulent, and that she succeeded, by the means of Channel 4, to infect inturn tens of thousands of television watchers. If there is anything for which animation authors should wish, is that one day we could clone Clare into hundreds of duplicates to dole out amongst TV channels all over the world. The Art of animation could then reach the notoriety it deserves.Thank you, dear Clare, for what you did for our cinema. Thank you Clare for what you did for one of my own films. I don't know if you intend to continue your struggle for this Art that you know so well and love so much elsewhere, but, with so many others, I can only wish it!Raoul ServaisDirector

The UK animation industry will always hold Clare Kitson in the highest respect. She was a visionary commissioner for Channel 4, encouraged new talent, gave inspiration to those developing original ideas and is certainly a person who raised the profile of animation in the international market place -- she was also great to work with.Mike RobinsonManaging DirectorMike Robinson Consultancy Ltd

Every medium needs a facilitator of exceptional vision and robust constitution if it is to evolve and grow -- this brave soul doesn't necessarily have to paint, or play, or act, just understand and care. Clare Kitson single-handedly moved Animation and the perceptions of Animation onto another level and we are all still reaping those benefits. However, as she steps back -- the process of reversal has already begun. Just try to find a slot for a non-standard length, or risky, piece and you will see how swiftly the tide can rush back in!Sarah MullerDirector of DevelopmentLough House Animation/Elephant Productions

Clare has always had a unique affinity with the animation community, not only supporting and nurturing their work with her inimitable good sense and creative approach, but also in her genuine affection for the film makers. Her knowledge was unrivalled and her instinct unbeatable. As a result Clare helped establish Channel 4's reputation for excellence in animation in the UK and worldwide. The list of nominations and awards from festivals around the world are tribute to that skill. But, perhaps most important was that through her work with Channel 4 she gave a fresh impetus to animators. Her drive and enthusiasm created opportunities and inspired animators to achieve even more than perhaps they had first imagined was possible.Karen BrownDeputy Director of ProgrammesChannel 4 Television

One of the really fantastic things about Clare is that she has such a wide and good sense of taste. The service she did to British animation, was to commission films solely on the basis of whether she thought they would succeed on the terms the filmmakers themselves had set down. It's for this reason that Channel 4 has enjoyed such a wide ranging success in its animation programming. Another of her great assets is her honesty; whether it's frankly admitting she doesn't understand some technical aspect of animation, or equally frankly pointing out a major flaw in one of my proposals...I'm very sad that she will no longer be the person for me to go to at Channel 4; and I would like to thank her for making two of my films exist.Mark BakerDirectorAstley Baker Productions

A fantastic personality envolved by the sensitivity of a woman with the right perception and love for animation. With knowledge and wit she managed to put animation in a high place with her work at Channel 4. Clare is, beyond doubt, a reason of pride to all those who belong to this magic world of animation and it is for us a great honour to have her on the International Jury - Cinanima `99. To you, Clare, with friendship and respect for all you have done. Thank you!!!António Gaio and The Organising CommittteeCinanima `99

In 1989 Clare Kitson and I set up `Animate!' -- a unique collaboration between the Arts Council of England and Channel 4 which set out to commission experimental animation for television.Ten years later, the scheme is still going strong. `Animate!' has commissioned 44 projects to date, including work by Mario Cavalli, Phil Mulloy, Karen Kelly, Paul Bush, Stuart Hilton and Ruth Lingford, and many of these have gained critical and popular success at international festivals and achieved television sales around the world. More recently, 3 Ways to Go by Sarah Cox and Feeling My Way by Jonathan Hodgson won British Animation Awards.Without fail, Clare has robustly championed the cause of experiment and risk; she has always been generous in her assessment (I haven't a clue what it means but I think it's marvellous...) -- and, unusually for a commissioning editor, there was never the problem of having to negotiate an ego. It has been a great pleasure to work with her and we will miss her very much.David CurtisSenior Visual Arts Officer (Film and Video)Arts Council of England

When we heard Clare was leaving Channel 4 we were both really devastated. Throughout the 12 years we have known her, Clare has been Channel 4. Her total dedication to her job, her genuine modesty and her warmth always made her really approachable and supportive. What makes her so special is her selfless commitment to animation, her incredible knowledge and understanding of animation at all levels and her intelligence.

She has earned the respect of not just the British animators whom she has supported through Channel 4, but also of animators all over the world. We sincerely hope that Channel 4 recognizes Clare's astonishing success as a pioneering commisioner and continues to build on the reputation she has established at Channel 4 for innovative animation production.

We are both very sad that she is leaving.

Joanna Quinn & Les MillsBeryl Productions International Ltd.

Once in a while you meet a person who is so genuine, who is so utterly lacking in 'side,' that it stops you in your step.Clare is such a person.And that quality coupled with her width of intellect, flair, ability and professionalism, has manifested itself in an extraordinary eclectic commissioning record. She has garnered Oscars and as important, launched new careers, and all this whilst retaining the respect and affection of the whole industry.Her interests are wide, animation was one of them, and she now moves on to a new part of her journey. She travels with our love, secure in the knowledge that through her guiding hand, the British animation industry aspired to new heights. What an achievement, what a person.Chris GraceDirector of AnimationS4C

We feel very indebted to Clare for helping us establish ourselves in the animation industry in the UK. Clare commissioned us to make Bob's Birthday almost as soon as we arrived from Canada and gave us a lot of creative freedom. She also provided us with the support and encouragement that helped inspire us. This is so essential to us frail, sensitive animation types.We are also very proud of our relationship with Channel 4's animation department. What is so great about the legacy of work over the past ten years is the sheer scope and variety. Clare was not looking for one type of thing; she appreciated so many styles. There was room for Bob's Birthday and The Brothers Quay, amongst so many others, and that, we feel, is what distinguished Clare's tenure.David Fine and Alison SnowdenCreatorsBob and Margaret

On behalf of the students and staff at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth I would like to take this opportunity of thanking Clare Kitson publically for all the encouragment and support she has given to our animation course over the years.Clare's influence offered and inspired our students to aim high and hard at their goals knowing that rewards would not be a dream but a reality. Her presence at Channel 4 has helped to fuel a passion in animation from our graduates that has led them to achieve success with their ambitions.Our internationally award winning film The Wooden Leg by Darren Doherty and Nick Smith, was purchased by Clare for Channel 4, and has led to development funding for a further project in the independent sector. Her achievement in education did not go unnoticed when we received The Queen's Prize for Film and Animation, presented to us by Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace in February this year.We thank her for her honesty, integrity and the forthright manner in which she gave advice to our students and the staff of the course; always gratefully received, enabling us to develop and move forward with quality and confidence and in turn to offer another generation of aspiring animators to achieve here at Bournemouth. Clare we thank you.Peter ParrProgramme Director AnimationThe Arts Institute at Bournemouth

From Rod Lord's Babel Fish sequence in The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.Courtesy of Rod Lord.

My first contact with Clare was in 1981. She cajoled me into cobbling together the rushes of the Babel Fish sequence from The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so that she could include it in that year's London Film Festival. We were due to do a second series, and decided that this time we might try to actually use a computer. £75,000 of investment suddenly became very dodgy when the series was pulled two weeks before the start. At the end of that year Clare again convinced me it was worth assembling some very early computer generated material, which she again included in the London Film Festival. In subsequent years she didn't give up, but my path led away from the entertainment side of the business and my output was less and less appropriate. Since that time we have had no contact, but I always felt grateful for the encouragement and watched with interest as she took on the Animation Festival, and then moved on to Channel 4. I have no doubt that she has been largely responsible for the revitalisation of the industry in the last decade -- at least in the UK, and particularly in London -- making it an internationally respected centre of creativity. She has done on a much bigger scale and for many more people what she did for me 18 years ago. Thank you Clare, both on a personal level, and for what you've achieved for the industry. I wish you the very best for the future.Rod LordPearce Studios Ltd.

We would like to express our appreciation of the enormous contribution that Clare has made to the world of animation, not only through her work at Channel 4 Television, but throughout her career. Her understanding, her encouragement and her breadth of vision have raised the level of animation production in the UK to new heights. While at Channel 4 her remarkable initiative with the Animate! Scheme (in association with the Arts Council) and the Channel 4/MOMI Animators in Residence programme has given artistic opportunities to aspiring filmmakers which otherwise would never have existed.

We send our warmest wishes for her future in whatever she undertakes next.

Pat Raine Webb & Margot GrimwoodDirectors ASIFA UKThe International Animated Film Association

I've been lucky enough to work on three films with Clare (Screen Play, Achilles, and Gilbert & Sullivan) -- and I say `with' rather than `for,' as with Clare it really was a collaboration. We've had some great conversations about the films and their subjects, and some wonderfully healthy disagreements, all of which I shall miss very much. It's been so good to have had someone with such honesty and such considered opinions, but even better to have had someone pushing and fighting for films that would otherwise not have been made. I particularly owe Clare, the animators' oasis in the cultural desert of television (there's a soundbite!), a huge thanks. Even if the work association is over, I look forward to more theatre trips, or more sitting in mountain spas, or more breakfasts over looking the sea. Thanks to Clare, and Channel 4, I've made some films that have given me marvellous rewards and some very colourful photo albums.Barry PurvesDirectorBare Boards Productions

On behalf of the International Animated Film Centre I would like to pay tribute to Clare Kitson for everything that she has done for personal animation films. The Annecy Festival has always tried to create the right conditions so that animated filmmakers can further their art and make their own films. We greatly appreciate the work of decision makers like Clare in a sector which is undergoing constant change and becoming increasingly important.I would like to highlight Clare's professionalism and wish her every success in her new position.Tiziana LoschiManaging DirectorAnnecy International Animation Festival

Clare, I want the world to know how significant your work has been. You have made an immeasurable impact on us all with your work in animation. You are responsible for an astonishing number of commissions resulting in some of the most profound films in animation history. The care you have given in selecting new and diverse directors is a gift. I am honored to have known you for most of your career at Channel 4 and applaud you on the wealth of your accomplishments. You are truly an inspiration to me as a producer; I will continue to aspire to your greatness and hope others can see the creative possibilities you have shown us. Thank you for your devotion. I look forward to see what wonderful new accomplishments your future holds. My best wishes for you and your family.

Very truly yours,Ron DiamondPresidentAcme Filmworks/Animation World Network

Being a commissioning editor for Channel 4 Animation is no easy task. Reconciling as it does a long-winded, costly and sometimes lunatic activity with a television network that is for the most part serving up inexpensive, sometimes excellent, instant gratification.

For ten turbulent years Clare Kitson has performed this task with consummate skill, placing Channel 4 funding with the best animation directors, and earning Channel 4 a world reputation for excellence. Small wonder near panic broke out in the wonderful world of animation when the news of her departure was announced.Hers will be a difficult act to follow.Bob GodfreyBob Godfrey Films

I always like to think that animation people are much more gentle and congenial than live-action film makers. So we were lucky that Channel 4 appointed Clare Kitson to look after us. Sadly she's leaving Channel 4 after 11 amazing years in which she has helped British Animation achieve world recognition. Clare has proved to be a marvellous advocate for the industry and I'm sure we are all going to miss her. Personally she's high on my 'Favourite Persons' list.John CoatesTV Cartoons Ltd.