Derbyshire Film

Derbyshire Film provides pop-up cinema in accessible community locations.
Ann Wright
08-01-2019

Project overview

Derbyshire Film is a network of voluntary promoters who use digital projection equipment to provide film screenings in village halls and other alternative venues, particularly in rural areas where cinema is not otherwise be available.

Why the project matters

The project arose following research with local people, who said that the one artform they would most like to see in their local communities was film.  Cinema was seen as a positive and inclusive way of drawing local communities together.

Around half of the population of Derbyshire lived more than an hour’s travel away from a cinema.  At that time, there were only 3 towns with cinemas in the county of Derbyshire (Derby, Chesterfield and Ilkeston).  Extended journey times, the poor quality of rural bus services and inadequate provision of late evening services prohibited access for many in rural Derbyshire.  There are now two further towns with independent cinemas (Belper and Wirksworth).

Aims

  • To create affordable opportunities for high quality inclusive cinema presentation and cultural provision in areas of Derbyshire currently lacking access to cinema.
  • To build a self-sustaining network of trained film promoters.
  • To develop new audiences for non-mainstream film and digital media.

Headline results

Derbyshire Film has brought cinema to rural communities that do not otherwise have easy access to the big screen.  In its first three years (2005-2008) it sold more than 10,000 tickets and screened 360 films in 23 different venues across Derbyshire.  About half of the groups applied successfully for grant aid to buy their own digital projection equipment.  All of the comments from local people were very positive; cinema was brought back to some villages for the first time in 50 years.

The network continues on a voluntary basis, with around 25 film societies in the county, and regular screenings of films in village halls throughout the autumn and winter each year.

Local volunteer promoters developed skills in audience development, marketing and publicity; fundraising; film programming; cultural event management; and technical skills in film exhibition.  A sustainable network of film promoters with expertise in film exhibition and event management has been set up across Derbyshire.  New audiences, practitioners and participants for film and related art forms have been established.

Films

Films are chosen by the local volunteer groups and range from foreign language films, arthouse films and cinema classics to children’s films, cartoons and local archive footage.

Key partnerships

The central partnerships were with the voluntary groups which were set up to run each film club.

Derbyshire County Council and the eight district and borough councils worked together to bring in the funding for the project, which came from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, East Midlands Media, local authorities, Arts Council England and Awards for All.

What worked

  • Concentrating on developing volunteer groups to run each film club
  • Setting up each group with its own equipment
  • “Buddying” between more established groups and new ones, to share expertise and ideas
  • Having a project manager who was experienced in running their own film club, to initiate and develop the whole network
  • Having a three-year time span to set up local groups; it takes a good deal of community development work to get film clubs off the ground in the first place, several months for training and skills development of volunteer promoters, and time to support groups to put in funding applications for equipment

What didn’t work

  • We started off sharing equipment between several venues, and although this was OK, it is much better for each venue to have its own equipment, as it saves a lot of volunteer time in arranging the sharing and storage of equipment, transporting it, and setting it up for each screening
  • Some film clubs relied too heavily on one volunteer, rather than a group of volunteers, and most of these have not lasted

What you’d do differently if you did it again

  • We started off sharing equipment between several venues, and although this was OK, it is much better for each venue to have its own equipment, as it saves a lot of volunteer time in arranging the sharing and storage of equipment, transporting it, and setting it up for each screening
  • Some film clubs relied too heavily on one volunteer, rather than a group of volunteers, and most of these have not lasted

Impact

Derbyshire Film uses local venues, mostly village halls in rural areas, to create a “mini-cinema” for the night.  Everything to do with the evening, including selecting films, liaising with film distributors, using the projection equipment, publicising the films and providing a bar and refreshments, is done by volunteers.  Local people turn their chosen venue into a temporary cinema – be it for an afternoon matinée with popcorn for children, or a big night out in the village hall for adults.

There are many benefits:

  • Reaches people who do not otherwise have access to cinema
  • Brings local people together, strengthening social cohesion and community spirit; film has a cross-generational appeal
  • Helps older people, young people, those on low incomes or unemployed, and disabled people feel less isolated
  • Encourages community development
  • Encourages learning and the sharing of new skills, which has led to other projects being developed in some communities e.g. gardening society, book club
  • Enables a more diverse use of village halls and provides income, so that they can continue to serve their villages and become more of a social centre
  • Facilitates improvements in some village halls, e.g. curtains, comfortable seats, new crockery
  • Provides increased volunteering opportunities
  • Contributes to the local creative economy
  • Connects rural communities with the diversity of contemporary cinema