This month the Herne Hill Free Film Festival (HHFFF) returned, bringing the community together for film screenings in unorthodox locations. Last year an amazing 2,340 people attended eight free screenings – including four open air events. Arts co editor Ruth Waters spoken to Charlotte Ashworth, one of the organisers behind the festival, about how it has grown.
“This year we’ll be screening the films in the Prince Regent, Brockwell Park, Brockwell Lido, Herne Hill Velodrome, Steve’s Cafe and outside Herne Hill Station. Unfortunately due to the flood damage, we won’t be able to have any of our events in the Half Moon pub as we did last year, but we’re absolutely delighted to be introducing Steve’s Cafe and the Velodrome to our venues,” Charlotte tells me.
This year the organisers are proud to be curating another 48-hour film competition, and hope to have even more entries in each of the categories this year. “We’ve Oscar-winning producer David Parfitt on the juding panel this year, which is just fantastic.”
This year they hope that even more people will be able to experience the films and events. “We want to make sure that the screenings are accessible and to that end we are delighted to be hosting an autism-friendly screening at the Carnegie Library this year, where the film won’t be as loud, or the contrast in light so extreme, and where people needn’t worry about getting up and moving about during the screening. Relaxed screenings like this are definitely something we’d be looking to increase and improve upon year by year.”
Why does Charlotte think that a free film festival works so well in Herne Hill? “I think the iconic landmarks help – we’re so lucky with the outdoor spaces we have: Brockwell Park, the Lido and also the area in front of the station. Of course indoor spaces work well, but there’s something brilliant about people bringing along deck chairs and setting up in the park.”
“I think all of the volunteers [who organise and steward the festival] get a real buzz out of the way it brings the community together. It’s quite a simple thing, to sit down and watch a film together, but when you take it out of the cinema or your front room, and onto the street or into the park it becomes a real event.”
Although HHFFF received a grant from Film London to begin the festival last year they are now largely reliant on donations from the public and support from local businesses and the Herne Hill Forum.
South East London is certainly coming up trumps in the league of free film festivals at the moment, with Peckham and Nunhead festivals now in their fifth year, and Camberwell’s in its second, but Charlotte is sure that these great events are sure to spread.