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Rural Reels 10th Anniversary
The Rural Reels story started back in 2011, when Malvern Hills District Council, with a budget of £10,000, initiated a project to bring wide-screen and surround-sound cinema to local communities. The aim was to improve the quality of life for people in rural locations who have restricted access to services due to their remote location and poor or no public transport.
In the Malvern Hills district, 46% of small rural communities at that time were in the worst 10% nationally for geographical barriers to services (Rural Strategy for the Malvern Hills 2011). Such rural communities were also disadvantaged by lacking access to high streets, retail parks, entertainment (both live and as spectators) and public transport to reach those facilities. At that time, the expenditure involved in making a visit to a cinema (estimated back in 2011 to be least £8 per outing, including ticket, petrol, parking and refreshments) made such a treat prohibitive. This was particularly true for the elderly, young people, and people on low incomes who had no access to a vehicle and were totally reliant on inadequate public transport.
Local Cinemas in rural communities were already up and running in other parts of the UK, including Shropshire, for example, where Arts Alive from Bishops Castle, provided support. They co-ordinated the showing of films, and obtained and paid for the licence and associated publicity.
In association with Arts Alive, village and parish halls in MHDC were given the opportunity to show films using portable projection equipment and screens. Initially 15 Halls showed interest and 10 took up the offer to show films. During 2012, over 1600 people attended 22 trial film screenings. Eight Halls were keen to take the project further and buy/install equipment. They were Castlemorton Cinema Club, Lower Broadheath Village Hall, Clifton-upon-Teme Village Hall, St Peter’s Church (Malvern), Upton upon Severn Memorial Hall, Ripple Parish Hall, Eastham Memorial Hall, Grimley Peace Hall, and Hanley Village Hall.
From these roots Rural Reels was born. A charitable organisation was set up (eventually being registered with The Charity Commission). Representatives of each Hall, together with Ian Kerry from Arts Alive, Toni Enderby of Droitwich Spa and Rural Council for Voluntary Service, and with the continued support of MHDC, they administered a project to establish the equipment required for each Hall, and to make applications for grant aid to purchase, install and train the people on operating equipment. Ripple Parish Hall were the Lead Body; and this was the first time a group of Halls had successfully applied collectively for grant funding. Three locations, Castlemorton, Ripple and Upton Memorial could only accommodate fixed installations, for structural/practical reasons. The remaining 6 halls would share two sets of portable equipment.
A grant of £42,500 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS scheme was augmented by additional smaller grants from other organisations such as The Elmley Trust.
By the summer of 2013, all the equipment had been received and installed. On 10th September, the Official Launch took place at Ripple Parish Hall. In the 10 years since that day, 810 films have been shown, to audiences totalling over 33,000. The most popular film was Fisherman’s Friends, which was shown 13 times, with an average audience of 40. Castlemorton has shown the most films with 116. Audience numbers have always been dependant on the film, the weather, and in some cases, we are pleased to say, the maximum capacity of the venue.
The Rural Reels as a Charity, is totally dependent on the efforts of volunteers. They not only act as Projectionists, but prepare the venues, sell coffee and tea, bake cakes, run the bar, and more. They are the backbone of the organisation, and their continued support is necessary for the ongoing success of Community Cinema.
When each film is shown, a licence fee must be paid. This goes back to the film industry. Over the ten years, Rural Reels has generated over £80,000 additional revenue to support the film makers.
In the 10 years, some Halls have dropped out, but others have joined. When Halls have confirmed the showing of films to be a benefit to their community, the use of portable equipment has been replaced by permanent equipment.
RR, now under the Chair of Sheena Walsh, has 16 partner Halls/Venues. In many venues the use of the equipment has been extended, e.g., to show opera performances, TV and sport, etc. In addition, regular events have raised funds for other charites. Representatives from every Hall attend two or three Committee meetings a year, to share knowledge, and support any new Halls who wish to consider showing films in the local community.
We wish all associated with Rural Reels, continued success.