Film Shows in Primrose Hill

By Colin Ludlow

The monthly film shows at Primrose Hill Community Library have entered a new era. After almost 10 years of organising the screenings, Pam White and I bowed out in October, and passed the baton over to a younger team.

Shortly after Camden Council withdrew its funding from the Library in 2012, a plan was hatched to host regular screenings there of ‘World Cinema Classics’ with a view to extending the use of the building, creating a small but steady revenue stream and having some fun.

Pam set up a small committee to oversee things which included myself, Dick Bird, Felicity Luke and Maggie Rodford. After some well-targeted fundraising that enabled the library to purchase excellent projection equipment and 60 folding seats, the film shows were launched in January 2014 with a screening of The Madness of King George. This was introduced by Alan Bennett and the event was a sell-out. Subsequent evenings proved equally popular, and the film shows rapidly became an established and well-loved feature of Primrose Hill life. After all, what could be better than seeing a much-loved or previously missed film just a short walk from your home with 60 like-minded friends?

Over the course of a decade, we have shown almost 100 features from 15 different countries. These range from the 1924 silent drama The Signal Tower (which was shown with live musical accompaniment) to the 2019 Oscar-winner for Best Documentary, Free Solo. Some particular highlights for me include Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which the actress Shirley-Anne Field introduced after ‘making an entrance’ from behind a curtain; pin-dropping silence throughout a screening of the exquisite French film Un Coeur en Hiver;Michael Palin telling us about the scenes that weren’t included in A Life of Brian (Simon Peter trying to book a table for The Last Supper in the middle of Passover), and an audience comprised mostly of septuagenarians seeming to skip its way home after an exhilarating evening watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger dance their way through Top Hat.

One of the features of the programme has been the short introductory talk before each film. Many of these have been given by local residents with a particular connection to the film – a talk by fashion shop proprietor Anna Park about the style of Audrey Hepburn before a screening of Roman Holiday stands out in the memory, as does film-maker Colin Luke telling us about his meeting with Jean Renoir when we showed La Grande Illusion.

We have also been fortunate enough to welcome some very distinguished guest speakers, including the writers Hanif Kureishi and Deborah Moggach, directors Roger Michell, Gurinder Chadha, Nicholas Hytner and Julian Jarrold, actors Jude Law, Denis Lawson and Imelda Staunton, and the producers Sandy Lieberson, Roger Randall-Cutler and Steve Abbott, plus the celebrated film historian Kevin Brownlow and the legendary film and sound editor Walter Murch.

The most constant presence at the film evenings has been Phil Reavey, who until recently operated the projector, set up the chairs and supervised the clear-up for every single screening; but like Pam and myself he is now calling time.

The new team will be Adam Alcolea, Bernadette Baker and Helen Highet taking on our roles. As part of the handover there will be a new digital ticketing scheme, allowing you to book tickets online rather than having to purchase them from the library in person. But while the film shows will quite rightly evolve under the new team (look out for more films from outside Europe and possibly more recent titles), the intention is to maintain the underlying format of the evenings. We hope that the local community will continue to enjoy and support these highly pleasurable events for many more years to come.

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