Film Hub Wales (FHW) has awarded National Lottery funding totalling £100,000 to 16 Welsh independent cinemas and film festivals that have been severely impacted by Covid-19.
More than £1.45m of funding has been made available to support the sector across the UK, made up of £1.3m National Lottery funding, plus a £150,000 contribution from the Mayor of London’s Culture at Risk Business Support Fund.
With months of potential closure and uncertainty ahead as a result of the pandemic, these funds will help cinemas in urgent financial need.
To maintain vital income in the short term and keep in contact with audiences, some venues are developing online activities. In Tywyn, the Magic Lantern will run a bilingual digital memory project to explore the cinema’s role in the community. In Barry, the Memo Arts Centre is planning a visceral multi-media project working with vulnerable groups to identify the complexities of re-engaging audiences during and post Covid-19.
They are also seeking further funding to explore business survival plans for the future. Including ideas for socially distanced events, which will be essential in order to avoid permanent closure. From Cell B’s idea of ‘Mwoo’ outdoor cinema, where audiences would social distance at a cow’s length; to Neuadd Ogwen’s ‘Ein Dalgylch’ platform, which aims to take artists of all disciplines out of the venue to perform in the valleys, forests and mountains.
Cinemas and festivals are being driven during this difficult time by dedicated people working behind the scenes, striving to bring communities back together through film. FHW is working closely with the 16 partners to understand how Covid-19 has impacted them, so that the greatest choice of cinema can be brought back to audiences across Wales.
Hana Lewis, Strategic Manager of Film Hub Wales, explains:
“Cinemas do so much for us; they’re there when we want to escape, they bring us together and connect us to the world. We’ve been amazed by the capacity of cinema staff to care for their audiences, from delivering local supplies, to meeting their financial commitments. We wanted to take the opportunity to share their stories.
“As a result of lockdown, income from ticket sales and concessions stopped overnight, putting many independent organisations and their teams at immediate risk. There’s a long journey ahead and cinemas will need ongoing support. We hope that the BFI FAN resilience fund can start the journey to reopening.”
Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences, BFI, said:
“Redirecting National Lottery and Mayor of London funding to make emergency grants to our independent exhibitors has proved to be a lifeline, enabling our fantastic venues, cinemas and festivals across the UK to remain in business in the immediate term. However, it is clear that these vital and unique organisations, which are crucial to the rich cultural fabric of their local communities, are still in crisis. When allowed to reopen, safely implementing social distancing guidance will not only be logistically impossible for some, but many are also unlikely to cover their costs when operating at reduced capacity. Losing these exhibitors would be a huge cultural loss for UK audiences, so I am pleased FAN has been able to help them keep the lights on while we all face the oncoming challenges.”
Rhys Roberts, Cinema Coordinator at CellB, adds:
“Past events at Blaenau Ffestiniog’s CellB cinema have at times rivalled the drama usually seen on our cinema screen. We’ve seen our community and Hollywood stars lining up to support a bright future for this most precious of our shared community assets.
“Recently, we’ve faced the surreal threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, and thanks to Film Hub Wales and BFI FAN support, we see this plucky independent cinema fighting back once more, stepping into a new and different world driven by our young creatives, who we call ‘The Quaran-teens’. We are ready for the next chapter in our drama.”
Lauren Orme, Director of Cardiff Animation Festival adds:
“Covid-19 has had a massive impact on Cardiff Animation Festival, as it has on so many arts organisations. Having to make the decision to postpone our festival just three weeks from our scheduled dates could have meant the end for us as an organisation.
“Film Hub Wales have been massively supportive throughout this time. This new relief funding is a lifeline that will enable us to support freelancers and contractors, to develop new and exciting work to serve the community that has built around our activity over the past five and a half years, and to help our audiences feel connected through independent animation while we’re all apart.”
The resilience fund is made possible thanks to National Lottery funding, repurposed by the British Film Institute (BFI) via its Film Audience Network (FAN). The fund offers critical relief and business continuity to exhibitors across the whole of the UK.
Funds in Wales are administered by FHW via Chapter as the Film Hub Lead Organisation. They will be used towards irrecoverable costs, to deliver creative online activities during closure, and staff time to plan towards safe reopening.
Rhiannon Wyn Hughes, Festival Director & Cinema Co-ordinator, Wicked Wales Film Festival and Cinema, Rhyl (Film Hub Wales member), said:
“Having the support and funding from the BFI and Film Hub Wales means a great deal to our team of young volunteers who run the Wicked Pop Up Cinemas at Rhyl Little Theatre in North Wales. With Film Hub Wales support we started our community cinema 3 years ago bringing affordable cinema back to some of the most deprived communities in Wales. This period of lockdown meant losing contact with the audiences we had worked so hard to build up. This funding will enable our volunteers to continue to have a place to work from and an opportunity to reach out to our existing and new audiences ready for when we open the doors again.”