The village roadshow on region’s smallest big screens

Inside the little cinema at Leeds Industrial Museum, used by Minicine.
Inside the little cinema at Leeds Industrial Museum, used by Minicine.
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Tucked away behind the Old Swan and the Post Office, the little village hall in the Dales town of Gargrave will witness a cinematic happening this evening.

In a month dominated by the Baftas and the Oscars, it will barely register on the cultural barometer – but the fact that anything cinematic is happening there at all is a drama in itself.

For while three dozen films are showing at cinemas across Leeds this weekend, viewers in most of Yorkshire’s small towns will have only the TV.

In Grassington, however, the blinds will be pulled down and the village hall transformed into a rural Rialto.

The setting of the main feature could hardly jar more with the gentle pace of the Dales. A Street Cat Named Bob, a 2016 British drama, tells of a ginger stray who changes the life of a recovering drug addict, homeless in London. Nevertheless, at £5 a ticket, they are hoping for a full house.

The screening has been mounted by Cine North, a community film group that takes films to isolated rural areas and helps the locals to arrange digital screenings of recent productions in community halls, arts centres and other venues.

Tomorrow, it will show Dunkirk and a children’s matinee in Grassington, and on Tuesday there will be presentations in Leyburn and at Masham Town Hall, where audience numbers are described as “fantastic”.

It is a series that will run and run, following an announcement yesterday from the British Film Institute, which invests in such ventures, that funding would continue until at least 2022.

Lottery money has been secured to allow the organisation’s Film Audience Network to plough £730,000 a year in such initiatives across the North. The cash will also benefit groups in urban areas who deal in films not served by the multiplexes, and encourage new talent into the industry.

It will also pay for “talent executives” to support film projects across the region.

Sheffield’s Showroom Workstation, one of the groups charged with leading the BFI’s Film Hub North project, said taking movies out of the cities was a key priority.

Its chief executive, Ian Wild, said: “We are proud to be part of such a diverse network of venues, festivals and film clubs, from flagship independent cinemas, to rural film societies that form part of the cultural fabric of their communities.

“Challenging film programming and risk-taking are of vital importance to the film exhibition sector and it is essential that audiences have access to exciting film content, regardless of location.”

The Film Hub is also working with Screen Yorkshire and other agencies to help newcomers to the industry get involved with local productions. The latest Yorkshire movie to go on general release is Dark River, an intense family drama starring Sean Bean and Ruth Wilson, shot and set amidst the brooding backdrop of Skipton and Malham. It will be in cinemas from February 23

Anna Kime, one of the hub’s managers, based in Sheffield, said: “Yorkshire has some really incredible talent, and there’s masses we can be doing to join people up and collaborate on some really exciting projects that are interesting for the region and for the people who live here.”

Ben Roberts of the BFI, said: “We have a thriving network of audiences, curators and filmmakers, reaching all types of cultural spaces from multiplexes to film clubs – so we can offer an inspiring and inclusive environment where creativity can thrive.”

More than 250 film societies, community cinemas and other organisations will come under the umbrella of Film Hub North.

They include Hull Independent Cinema, a group of volunteers who launched a film festival during the city’s year as a cultural capital and have ambitious future plans.

In Leeds, Michael Wood, who helped to organise the “Minicine” neighbourhood cinema inside the industrial museum at Kirkstall, said: “Community cinema isn’t a money-making enterprise – the best you can hope for is to break even.

“We served homemade cake and pizza and showed cult and foreign films you couldn’t see anywhere else.”