Llancarfan Community Cinema started in September 2012 and 12 months later were the winners of the Best New Society at the BFFS Film Society of the Year Awards. They also won the Filmbank Audience Awarded and received a distinction for Best Marketing & Publicity and were given a Special Mention for the Engholm Prize for Film Society of the Year. The following is an extract from their application for Best New Society.
Llancarfan itself is home to around 200 people, although the nearby settlements of Pen Onn, Llanbethery, Llancadle, Walterston, Moulton and Penmark bring the population within a two-mile radius closer to 800.The nearest commercial cinemas are found in Cardiff: Chapter Arts Centre is approximately 10 miles away, and Odeon, Cineworld and Vue supply the modern multiplex experience. The nearest market town, Cowbridge, is home to Big Screen, a monthly film night in the Town Hall. Despite this choice of film venues, Llancarfan has poor transport links. In part this makes cinema going a rare and expensive treat for many, especially our older residents and those with young families. Thus Llancarfan Community Cinema was established: a nonprofit, volunteer-run film club serving the local community.
The idea first arrived over a pint in the local pub, sometime in January 2012. An idle conversation around the margins of a darts match turned to the subject of film, and by the end of the night there was vocal support for a cinema club in the village. An action plan was dawn up after consulting BFFS Community Cinema Sourcebook. The first tasks involved sourcing a venue, screening equipment and a team of volunteers. Enquiries to Film Agency for Wales, BFFS and local funder Creative Rural Communities (CRC) provided a number of useful leads. The village hall was an obvious candidate, but it lacked the appropriate premises licence for film exhibition. An application for a 'minor variation' to the existing licence was submitted in April 2012 and Llancarfan and District Community Association, which manages the hall, agreed to meet the cost. Projection equipment was sourced from BFFS, which arranged a set of loan kit (projector, fastfold screen, amp, DVD player, speakers and subwoofer) to be shipped to the CRC team in Cowbridge. CRC agreed to manage the equipment loan.
Assembling a team of volunteers proved straight foward enough. A mailing list of residents was drawn up from existing sources and an initial email was sent outlining our intentions. Around half a dozen people agreed to meet to discuss plans for a test screening, forming the nucleus of the volunteer team. None of us had any prior experience of running a film club.
Just before doors open we start playing a slideshow of photographs depicting local scenes over the years, donated by residents. This has become a popular talking point ahead of the film, and provides a welcome diversion while the audience waits for the main performance to begin. Every screening is introduced by a volunteer, who welcomes the audience, runs through house keeping items and relays any other information of interest. Occasionally a short film of local interest, specially produced for the Community Cinema, is screened before the main feature. In February 2013 we screened a Bond spoof based on a local news item (The Man with the Liquid Ladder). And in May 2013, before Life of Pi, we showed a montage of local animal images for our younger audience members (Llancarfan's Zoo). Refreshments are available at every performance. Our standard range includes ice creams (from local suppliers), soft drinks, tea and coffee. We lay on additional catering at special events, themed to match the film (e.g. Indian nibbles to accompany The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Pre-film trailers are preceded by a short, tongue-in-cheek Community Cinema promotional film comprising images of the village combined with recognisable film motifs, embodying our slogan ‘film at the heart of the rural Vale’
Having taken the decision to produce all our marketing materials in house we needed a logo and house style that could be reproduced cost effectively using desktop publishing software and a consumer printer. The design we settled on has a modern and clean look, utilising fonts with cinematic connections. The web site is our main ‘shop window’. Regular updates are posted to the site using the Wordpress.com blogging platform, including details of forthcoming films, trailers, screening reports and news items. These posts are promoted via our Facebook page and Twitter account, and form the basis of items in our monthly newsletter. The newsletter is distributed online via Mailchimp to a mailing list of 90 people (and growing), and a hard copy is sent to members without an email address. Every season is advertised locally with flyers listing forthcoming titles and membership details. Volunteers distribute a print run of 200 A5 flyers to homes in Llancarfan, Llancadle, Llanbethery and Penmark. Llancarfan Primary School also kindly displays them in their reception area. Finally, each month we place laminated posters for the upcoming film around the village and surrounding area. Posters are created using a branded template, with the addition of key art from the film. Posters are positioned on village notice boards and telegraph poles in prominent locations, in local pubs and on the Llancarfan Primary School display board.
Outreach & Community Links
Although we were finding our feet in the first year of operation, we tried wherever possible to look beyond our monthly screenings and build links with others in the local area:
- We helped establish after school film screenings at Llancarfan Primary School, providing a projectionist for their Filmclub and helping to decide their film programme.
- We met with staff at Barry Memorial Hall to discuss their film screenings and provided advice and contacts.
- We shared our ticket template with Murchfield Community Centre when they first established their own regular screenings, and hosted a visit from their organisers that led them to adopt our pre-film slideshow idea.
- We supported Chapter Arts Centre's successful application to Hub Lead Organisation under the BFI's new audience network, and we're involved in their application to the BFI's Programming Development Fund to screen titles from the forthcoming Gothic season.
“I have lived in Llancarfan for over 20 years and throughout that time there have been many schemes attempting to engage the community. However in my opinion none have made such an impact as the Llancarfan Community Cinema. The cinema uses its excellent website and posters to advertise its diverse screening of films. It also allows residents from local and surrounding areas to socialise and enjoy a wide range of film genres that appeal to all ages. The professionalism, friendly atmosphere and convenient location enable me to socialise with many residents of the local community that I would not usually get to see. Llancarfan Community Cinema has been proactive in involving village residents, including myself, in the operation of the cinema and often shows local news and events before films screenings. This has led to the cinema acting as a creativity hub within the village for information about future films, Llancarfan Primary School and upcoming village and charity events. The cinema has even trialled a voting system where members can nominate the next film showing which I think has added a great sense of personalisation. In my opinion it’s one of the best community schemes the village has ever had and it’s great fun to go and see!”
Richard Tamplin, Llancarfan
“Llancarfan Community Cinema has been a fantastic addition to our village. A local, friendly atmosphere to watch a varied mix of films, some of which I would never have gone to a large cinema to see. Watching the films whilst drinking a glass of wine with friends makes going to the cinema a very social occasion, which we look forward to each month.”
Kate Jenkins, Bluestones, Llancarfan