Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema a 'Roaring Success'

The Festival, which featured a programme of well-loved classics and inspired archive discoveries, was also distinguished by a string of virtuosic live performances from the country’s finest film accompanists, performers and broadcasters.

Audiences were treated to a wide variety of workshops, performances and films spanning all kinds of films from three decades of the silent era including the thriller ‘A Cottage on Dartmoor’, Japanese family drama ‘I Was Born, But…’, stirring melodrama ‘The First Born’, romantic comedy ‘Show People’, Scottish Screen Archive shorts and comedy features and two-reelers with the likes of Harold Lloyd, Charley Chase, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Ron Inglis, Director of Regional Screen Scotland – one of the key funders of the Hippodrome Festival said, "The second Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema has built on the success of last year's edition and provided a superb three days of screenings, events, performances and fun.”

“Regional Screen Scotland is delighted to support this Festival which is now firmly established as one of the key cinema events of the year in Scotland. The organisers have done a fantastic, professional job and audiences - young and old - have responded enthusiastically. The wonderful Hippodrome cinema is the perfect venue for this festival and we look forward to many more festivals here in the future."

Twelve internationally acclaimed musicians were engaged over the three days to accompany these films, performing their own commissioned scores and improvised pieces on everything from piano, strings, brass and wood wind instruments to accordion and percussion, with Stephen Horne playing two instruments at the same time for his improvised accompaniment at the Laurel and Hardy triple-bill – with an accordion or flute in one hand and the other hand on the piano keys.

Festival Director Alison Strauss (Falkirk Community Trust) said, “It was a privilege to have the calibre of musicians we had performing at this year’s Festival. The musicians’ skill, subtlety and dazzling mastery of their instruments enriched the experience of watching each film no end.”

“At the Closing Night Gala screening of ‘The Black Pirate’ we were treated to an astonishing improvised performance by Jane Gardner and Hazel Morrison who, between them played piano, flugelhorn, glockenspiel, tom toms, snare drum, and at one swashbuckling scene, cutlery… when a couple of knives provided the rhythmic soundscape for a thrilling duel!”

The Festival was characterised by a tremendous sense of audience involvement, with guests at the Opening dressing to the code of ‘Hollywood Film Star’, many taking up the invitation to participate in a fancy dress competition at the Jeely Jar screening, and even some drawn-on moustaches in honour of Douglas Fairbanks at the Closing Night. School children from the Bo’ness Public Primary School took part in a workshop exploring making music for images and images for music, and the Clanranald warriors led a band of trainee ‘buccaneers’ in a couple of sessions inspired by ‘The Black Pirate’.

The town of Bo’ness also got in to the spirit of the Festival with several shop and café windows decorated with a silent film theme. The window-dressing and fancy dress competitions were sponsored by Town Centre Management…

Mary Jane Armstrong of Bo’ness Town Centre Management said: “The second annual Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema was another huge success for the event’s organisers. Bo’ness Town Centre Management was pleased to play a small part in the event and encouraged local businesses in Bo’ness to get into the spirit of the Festival and take advantage of the large number of visitors who came to Bo’ness for the Festival. This is an excellent event for Bo’ness and the Falkirk area, and we look forward to providing ongoing support to the Festival in future years.”

Bo’ness local businesses were delighted with the influx of visitors to the town. The Ivy Tea Room was judged to have created the best dressed window, with a splendid display inspired by the films in the Festival programme.

Mary Joyce who runs the Ivy Tea Room said, “Everybody that came in to the Tea Room was really buzzing with the vibe from the Festival. We extended our opening hours on the Friday and Saturday and opened on the Sunday too. We were so glad we took this decision and would definitely do it again – we had people coming in on all the three days, between screenings, and they kept coming back again and again. The customers over the weekend came from far and wide, some had even travelled up from London especially.”

Mary’s daughter Ashley got in to the spirit of the Festival by donning a sandwich board and dressing up as Charlie Chaplin…

“She was a bit shy at first but in the end she had a ball,” said Ashley’s mother. “Folk were taking photos of her left, right and centre.”

“It was brilliant to win the prize of course (£50 of vouchers to spend in the town and tickets to the Closing Night Gala) but my daughters and I had fun just being part of it and coming up with our ideas.”

The Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema marks the beginning of Hippodrome 100 – a year of initiatives and special screenings celebrating the centenary of Scotland’s oldest cinema. A surprise guest at the Closing Night Gala was Elizabeth Nolan from Falkirk, who was visiting the Hippodrome for the first time on a Mother’s Day outing, and will celebrate her own 100th birthday in May. The announcement to the audience of Elizabeth Nolan’s forthcoming centenary was greeted with warm applause by the full-house in attendance.

Ian Scott, Chair of Falkirk Community Trust said, "Last year's Festival was a great success and this year, with the added spice of a 100th birthday, was even better. An excellent choice of films, enthusiastic audiences and brilliant musicians made the Hippodrome a magical place to spend a Spring weekend. Next year cannot come quickly enough."

Falkirk Community Trust is seeking feedback from members of the audience at the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema to help evaluate the Festival and plan future initiatives. As a thank-you for taking the time to complete the survey all respondents who wish to be included will be entered in to a prize draw to win a pair of complimentary tickets to the Hippodrome April – May 2012 season plus DVDs of 'Phantom of the Opera' (1925) starring Lon Chaney and 'The Black Pirate' (1926) starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. supplied by Park Circus, and 'Chaplin at Keystone' 4 disc set from the BFI, as well as ‘The Best Day of the Year: 100 Years of the Bo’ness Children’s Fair’ with bonus DVD containing al of Louis Dickson’s digitized Bo’ness Fair films from 1912 – 1960.

Published on Wednesday, 28th March 2012

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