In village halls, libraries, rural arts centres and urban community spaces across Wales, community and volunteer run cinema events are reuniting local people safely through big screen experiences.
The 120 plus community run cinema groups in Wales are often lifelines for audiences who have to travel over half an hour by car, or far greater distances by public transport, to reach their local multiplex or arts centre.
To support these crucial community services, Film Hub Wales (FHW) is working with venues to offer programme and marketing support. They have also awarded a series of small grants through the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) Film Exhibition Fund, awarding National Lottery funding, to Welsh community led cinemas and film societies as they reopen post COVID-19.
Funds will be used to help bring the best UK and international films back to local people, in the neighbourhood cinemas they know and love, including a host of films from Wales. Exhibitors will support wellbeing and reduce isolation created by the pandemic, particularly for older community members who have felt less confident in returning to public events. Community cinemas, who will also be affected by the new COVID pass regulations in Wales, will equally rely on the support and patience of audiences in coming months as they rebuild.
In the village of Brynamman, General Manager Tom Smith explains: “Our cinema is in a rural, low income, area and for the majority of our customers, it’s the only venue they’re able to regularly access for entertainment. We planning to show films that were filmed or set in Wales, with relevant stories that are close to home and relatable for our audience, particularly our loyal over 60s group who visit for Silver Screen Presentations. We’re excited at the prospect of introducing independent film to all of our customers, who may not have had the opportunity to ever watch an independent film at the cinema before.”
In Llansadwrn, Carmarthenshire, Sinema Sadwrn are showing British independent and international films every month. Sinema Sadwrn Volunteer Mair Craig adds: “We’re looking forward to reopening, with COVID restrictions in place, so that people can come together after all this time to enjoy a shared experience. We’re based in a rural village in Carmarthenshire, and we’ve really missed our community get-togethers over the past year and a half. Our venue is a cosy village Reading Room and our screenings are a way to safely ease the community back into regular social events. We’re really grateful to have Film Hub Wales’ support.”
Supported events will run across Wales from now until March 2022, as the cinemas work closely with their audiences to gather feedback and adapt to local needs.
Hana Lewis, Strategic Manager of Film Hub Wales adds: “Non-theatrical venues who are screening from DVD or Blu-Ray, smaller venues in rural areas and independent cinemas in urban locations have remained closed for long periods of time during COVID. Many are run by dedicated volunteers and have been unable to access funds or staff to remain open. They’ve been greatly missed and we wanted to support and celebrate their return. They’re not only offering an eclectic range of films that local audiences would otherwise be unable to see but they’re often home to a range of additional, vital, community services.”
The BFI FAN Film Exhibition Fund is made possible thanks to National Lottery funding from the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN). The fund offers reopening support to exhibitors across the whole of the UK, to boost cultural programming and engage diverse audiences as restrictions ease. Funds in Wales are administered by FHW via Chapter as the Film Hub Lead Organisation.
More than £30M is raised each week for good causes across the UK by the National Lottery.