Rural film scene - supporting roles for Christie and Hawks

PUBLISHED: 16:48 14 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:33 20 February 2013

Rural film scene - supporting roles for Christie and Hawks

Rural film scene - supporting roles for Christie and Hawks

Actress Julie Christie and comedian and author Tony Hawks explain why they are supporting a rural film scheme that helps to bring the big screen to all corners of Herefordshire

Actress Julie Christie and comedian and author Tony Hawks explain why they are supporting a rural film scheme that helps to bring the big screen to all corners of Herefordshire. With the future of funding for rural cinema hanging in the balance, patronage of such stars has never been more important, says Rachel Crow.


Flicks in the sticks has brought film to village halls and rural locations across Herefordshire and Shropshire for more than a decade. In partnership with around 80 volunteer-run venues, Flicks an arm of Arts Alive presents more than 700 screenings a year.


Earlier this year, with government cuts to the Arts looming, founding director Ian Kerry decided to cast some star names in supporting roles to raise the profile of the scheme.


Julie Christie, the star of the recently released Red Riding Hood and movie classics such as Billy Liar, Dont Look Now and Dr Zhivago, has owned a rural retreat in the area for many years and readily lent her backing.


I knew she had a connection with the area but I was surprised she had heard of us. She was very pleased to be associated with us, Ian explains.


Christie first came to the area more than 40 years ago, when looking for a house in the country. Friends of mine asked me to see their house in Powys as they were leaving. I spent a day there and fell in love with the area, she says.


Flicks in the Sticks is a very good thing. Why should people who live in rural areas be culturally punished by the absence of good cinema? Flicks in the Sticks aims to tackle this.


Christie believes seeing films on a big screen, rather than at home, is far more rewarding. We are enabled to allow our brains to work on the art that is being presented to us, rather than worry whether the coffee is boiling over. Some films like McCabe and Mrs Miller or Dont Look Now have many threads running through them, which might be missed if there were distractions. Quality art should be available to everyone, so people living in the county would be missing out on this if Flicks did not exist.


Inspired to go into acting through watching theatre, Christie admits that she realised, it was not until I saw the French New Wave cinema in the sixties that I realised cinema was as much of an art as theatre.


Christie has been joined as a patron by Tony Hawks, who discovered Flicks while touring with his film Round Ireland with a Fridge.


When I was touring, playing to packed village halls made me realise what an important service Flicks offers what an atmosphere! I was taken aback by the scale of the Flicks operation, and by the professionalism and dedication. Not only from the team in the office, but the large number of local people who give their time for free at the various venues.


Flicks is great for community spirit, for bringing people together. It is important for people and communities to meet together for a shared experience. The cinema is, and always will be, the best way to see a film, he adds.


When I was growing up I was spellbound by the magic of it all and walking out and remembering that there was this other world I inhabited.


Flicks in the Sticks was formed soon after the advent of Arts Alive in 1999. I had the idea of touring film to village halls after a voluntary group called Reels on Wheels offered me a 16mm projector, explains Ian. It was pretty old technology and too cumbersome, but gave me the idea that touring film to villages might really work, especially as at that time the technology behind projectors was changing.


With the support of local councillors, village hall promoters and funders, Ian purchased the first set of equipment and began touring to a handful of venues. The idea spread throughout the county by word of worth and within a few years, with funding to purchase more sets of equipment, the Flicks operation had increased to what it is today, reaching all corners of Herefordshire.


Some screenings have audiences as small as six, whereas others will get a packed house of 130 people. Sometimes you may get three generations of one family in the audience, says Ian.


Many would have to travel moe than 50 miles to enjoy a cinema-type experience were it not for Flicks. People like to watch a film with others they know around them and thats great for people in a village community because there arent many chances to meet up. But its a totally different experience to commercial cinema and it gives essential revenue to the village halls, which is important because otherwise they will go, like the pubs and the shops.


Ian has successfully applied for capital funds to install equipment into around 40 village halls and establish a network of independent venues that can screen films whenever they want. Just in case Flicks goes under because of funding cuts, he explains.


With the closure of the UK Film Council in April and new funding bodies in place, the future is uncertain for rural film.


Ian hopes, however, that with projects such as the recent Rewind Community Film Archive Special Festival, which showed local archive film footage from the independent Huntley Film Archives in Herefordshire, and projects to get young people to promote films in their area, more funding will be forthcoming.


The loss if funding is no longer available for Flicks will be huge to the venue promoters. Thats why I hope that having Julie and Tony on board will get more audiences going to Flicks venues and to understand the quality and presentation.


The more people who go, the longer we can keep running. To find out more about Flicks in the Sticks and screenings near you visit www.artsalive.co.uk/eventsFlicksByFilm

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