The film club . . .

Liz Sandison sends me a few notes about the Allendale Village Hall Film Club, to which I’ve added some reminiscences of my own . . .

The film club has been in existence for nearly fifteen years.  It was started by Sue Mills, in one of her early roles as a Fawside local facilitator, using a Fawside projector and a small portable projection screen.   Stephanie Atkinson was in at the very start, collecting the money from the attendees, as was Graham Girvan, creating the constitution for the club in April, 2005 after a few test runs at the end of 2004. One anecdote that Sue would probably like to forget, but which film club members recall fondly, has it that when a particular film did not arrive in time from the film library, another of the same name was sourced at the Village Shoppe (then a video outlet).  Intriguingly, the replacement film was (aherhm) rather more explicit in content than members had expected, though some remember that most attendees doggedly persevered to the very end!

Graham Girvan, like Stephanie a village hall trustee,  was responsible for developing contact with the Northern Film and Media organisation, and for sourcing funds to procure a larger screen and new digital projector and projection stand (the constituted group could apply for funds).  He then led the group with friendly bonhomie for several years, patiently assembling the recalcitrant screen for each session and hosting the wine and cheese reception.  Stephanie continued on her remarkable odyssey as secretary/treasurer of the group, a post she holds to this day.  It became clear that the film club functioned best as a specific fund-raising endeavour for the village hall, but the original committee also included Jon Shuttleworth, Graham Leighton, and Norman Harris.

The film club has always been  run by a team of volunteers. After Graham retired,  Norman Harris led the team until his untimely death in 2016, and since then Liz Sandison has been chair, leading a friendly group consisting of Stephanie, Gareth Hughes , Darren Lees and Jenny Farley.   The club members are always looking for interested people to participate either as viewers or as helpers.  

The technical aspects of film showing have been challenging, over the years:  finessing of the surround-sound settings to facilitate best speech playback;  inadvertent settings changes on a perfectly tuned sound system;  loose wires on the central receiver;  or bumping of the projector (which migrated several years ago to a ceiling mounting) during decoration efforts for a previous party; have meant major snafus of sound, DVD playback, and projection on film nights.  Fortunately, the audience has been long-suffering and cheerful — the nights are a social affair as much as a film appreciation event!

In choosing the monthly films for the year ahead, the team try to make the programme as varied as possible.  The films are purchased through Filmbank Media via the Queens Hall in Hexham which does, to a certain extent, limit the choices available.  Typically, too, some of the challenges associated with much-used library DVDs have been overcome, thanks to the largesse of some dedicated committee members, with no further interruptions in play experienced for several years now.

About three years ago, the Hexham Courant announced a new tranche of funding for local groups, up to a maximum of £500 awards, and Jane Hughes, the hall treasurer, applied successfully for a large-size motor-driven projection screen to take the place of the bent and twisted portable screen that often had volunteers wrestling with stiff canvas and in tears during its monthly erection.  The long screen was delivered to the Hughes residence, and was carried from there on top of a 4WD vehicle with a sturdy ladder for support/stability, until it was safely ensconced on stage in the hall.  There Terry Paige and Larry Winger installed it safely up behind the proscenium where it is always ready for projection duty, as for example, at the annual pantomime, with suitable audience groans while it makes its way inexorably, if very gradually, back into the ceiling.

Films are screened at 7.45pm but audiences arrive earlier to partake of wine, refreshments and chat before the film – all of which are included in the ticket price, which is £6 for members (who contribute a nominal £1 for a year) and £6 for guests.  Well, the chat is actually free!   Any profits from the showing, including a nominal hire fee,  are fed directly into the Village Hall funds.

Two years ago, aided by the Awards for All Big Lottery Funding and contributions from the Parish Council, the Lions and private individuals, the projector and sound system were updated, so that less technical nous is now required to produce a cinematic experience for all.  

The great thing about the village hall facilities, of course, is that they are available to all, thus facilitating a convenient projection capacity for meetings, presentations, and celebrations that would, in the past, have required quite a laborious setting-up process. 

This past year, a new set of twenty banqueting chairs was added to the hall’s collection of padded seating, with a particular view to replacing the tatty ‘doctor’s reception room’ chairs acquired gratis a decade ago as unwanted stock left over from a Lions Charity Auction.  The larger set of 42 comfortable meeting-room chairs, which have provided a more relaxed viewing experience in the Main Hall, as well as accommodating the Luncheon Club, Parish Council, and various meetings in the New Hall,  had been acquired perhaps six years ago by the hall by means of a fortuitous eBay purchase at a cost of ~£15/chair.    No more uncomfortable slouching in plastic stacking chairs for those of us getting on in years!  

Films are screened on the fourth Monday evening of the month, except in December when it’s usually the first Monday, and the club takes a break during August.  The next film to be shown is the erotic drama/thriller Swimming Pool starring Charlotte Rampling and Charles Dance,    which will be screened on Easter Monday April 22nd.  Advance notice is usually posted in the Allen Valley notes in the Hexham Courant and Facebook’s Allendale Area Notices, and also by email directly to members thanks to Stephanie’s careful updates!

Over the years, the film club has enjoyed a large variety of films and genres to which members might not have been exposed, in the ordinary scheme of things, and so the process has been not only social, but edifying as well.  


  1. I saw Broke Back Mountain at the forum in Hexham — imagine the surprise of the farmers from the shire who thought they’d come to see a cowboy film — their shock was palpable!

  2. But did they stay, do you remember, or was there a mass exodus when the reason for the fishing trip was actually revealed?

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