Film enthusiasts once again put the borough on the arts map by landing two awards at the country’s biggest celebration of community cinema.
Leigh Film Society scooped two accolades at the annual prize-giving organised by Cinema For All, winning awards for best film programme and film discovery.
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Judges at the conference in Sheffield were wowed by Leigh Film Society’s selection of non-mainstream movies put on at The Turnpike and at venues across the borough.
It was also recognised for its work in education and in engaging young people in schools, colleges and universities in cinema, both by making films themselves and getting involved in putting on screenings.
Leigh Film Society said it was extremely proud the judges had chosen to reward these two particular aspects of its work.
The grass-roots volunteer-run group has enjoyed huge success at the Cinema For All prize-giving, with the latest prizes following the four-award haul at last year’s event, including the best community cinema group in the country.
Leigh Film Society development director Elizabeth Costello said: “It’s the second year in a row we have won the film discovery award and it means so much to us.
“We’ve concentrated quite a lot recently on our film education programme. We’ve been trying to bring film to a younger audience through our connections with Edge Hill University and offering work experience and volunteering placements.
“Students have been to the society and the Leigh Short Film Festival and have also done work with us for their degree modules.
“One of the Alra North students introduced our young film-makers event in 2017 and this year he is co-hosting our main event.
“We’re also immensely proud to have won the film programming award. We take our film selections very seriously, looking at what we can commemorate or celebrate or what is not mainstream but has got great reviews or received awards.
“For that to be recognised at the national level means the world to us.
“We weren’t expecting to win anything after doing so well last year and just went to the event to enjoy it so were overwhelmed to win two awards.”
The awards were also celebrated by Leigh MP and the film society’s patron Jo Platt.
She said: “Leigh Film Society goes from strength to strength. This latest award is testament to the hard work and commitment of volunteers, but also the talent we have here in Leigh.
“It is so very important that constituencies like Leigh give adults and young people access and the ability to participate in arts and culture in all its forms.
“I look forward to working with LFS and others to ensure that such opportunities are available to all.”
Leigh Film Society recently announced a link with Wigan and Leigh College for photography students to attend the annual showcase of
zero-budget short film-making and is about to launch a new project at The Old Courts in Wigan with Cross Street Arts in which sculptors, painters and other local creative talents introduce works of cinema that have been extremely important to them.
It is hoped that this will help the group bring home prizes from the Cinema For All bash three years in a row in 2019.
However, Elizabeth says that setting up the unusual partnership project has also made her realise that there is far more that could be done locally for film.
Leigh Film Society already runs two classic cinema clubs which help people at risk of social isolation or suffering from dementia and also hosts one-off events with charities, campaigns and local groups to mark prominent anniversaries and support the likes of Orgreave Justice Campaign supporters, local foodbanks and the Waspi women battling state pension inequality.
Elizabeth said: “Our achievements over the last five years are remarkable and of the 2,000 community cinema clubs in the country we are recognised in the top few but I still don’t think film is taken seriously enough in Wigan and Leigh.
“I want to throw down the gauntlet to the authorities to understand and recognise the health and wellbeing benefits of film.
“The national recognition is amazing but there is still so much more we can do.”