Herne Hill Free Film Festival returns for 2016

2015’s Herne Hill Free Film Festival showcased more than 50 films over May to over 3,000 attendees, and is set to return on the 29th April for a month. Arts writer Kate Corry reports.

Photograph by Colin Tonks
Photograph by Colin Tonks

The festival is growing each year, screening classic films in iconic locations including Station Square, Brockwell Lido and the Velodrome.

This year’s festival will launch with Big Business at Herne Hill Station Square on Friday 29th April, with three more screenings scheduled for the opening weekend as well as the 48 Hour Film Challenge.

Photo by HH Film Festival volunteers
Photo by HH Film Festival volunteers

There is something for everyone, with comedy action film Superbob showing at the Effraspace on Saturday 30th, indie war film Kajaki on Sunday 1st May at the Prince Regent and Aguirre, The Wrath of God at the Lido Cafe on the 2nd May.

Upcoming films include Paddington at Herne Hill School on the 7th May and the perennially popular Grease – with a singalong – on the 21st May at Brockwell Park. The full festival line-up can be found online. 

The Herne Hill Free Film Festival is now in its fourth year, emerging as the result of a BFI networking workshop on how to run pop up cinema events. This led to a list of ‘first evers’ for Herne Hill – its first ever outdoor film projected onto the station (Buster Keaton’s The General), the first ever film in Brockwell Park (Spirited Away) and the first 48 Hour Film Challenge.

The festival has many of the same volunteers who started it all with Organiser, Charlotte Ashworth, who says: “Each year it gets easier as we all know, more or less, what we are doing. Also other people know who we are now too, so we actually have businesses approaching us to be a sponsor.

“The flip side of this notoriety is that sometimes our screenings are full and we have to turn people away, which is never fun.

A screening from last year's festival at Brockwell Lido.  Photo by Pierre Chukwudi Alozie.
Photo by Pierre Chukwudi Alozie.

“Last year, volunteers monitored in horror as according to Facebook there were over 5,000 people coming to our screening in the Lido of the Grand Budapest Hotel. Luckily the masses listened to our shrieks of ‘we can only fit 400 of you in, please don’t come all the way from Cornwall’ – which actually happened – and we only had to turn away 100 in the end.”

Planning the Festival starts properly in January, and as expected, ramps up a gear from late March onwards. So why do it? “The fantastic buzz you get as a volunteer when you’ve spent hours in meetings and at your respective desks firing off emails and checking poster PDFs, then further hours setting up the projection, lights, inflating a giant screen on a windswept piece of ground – and then you look up and see the people coming,” explains Charlotte.

The Free Film Festival community is a close knit one in and around south London, and Charlotte would love to see one spring up in Brixton. This year the Herne Hill Festival is hosting a free screening at the Brixton Windmill of Moulin Rouge on Saturday 4th June to celebrate the windmill’s bi-centenary.

To keep up with all that is happening in the Festival, head to the websitefollow the festival on Twitter @HerneHillFilm or check out their Facebook Page.