Why The Hamlets Pop-Up Cinema “must continue” – the view from the volunteers

Some of the wonderful volunteers that helped run The Hamlets Pop-Up Cinema,  after the packed screening of My Suburban Story at Oxford House, Feb. 2018

Cherifa has been volunteering on The Hamlets since its inception in Autumn 2017. She lives in the borough and works in Bethnal Green. It was her line director who told her about The Hamlets. She tells us how and why she got involved, and what she’s gained from the experience:

“She [my director] knows I am into films screening, as she and I have been screening films in our [women’s] centre. She rightly thought that it was the perfect training opportunity [for me]

“When I joined, I was expecting to learn how to run a community cinema, without infringing the law as in regard to the need to request licence, and other technical things. 

“The experience was amazing. I was exposed to a certain extent to the ‘cinema world’, [that this] the programming, marketing, ticketing, looking for different venues, screening in different venues, building an audience, and the importance of building a relationship with them.”

On meeting fellow trainees, Cherifa said: “I’ve met some great people, from different parts of the world, and with different skills, but complementary to each other. I think this was, and still is our strength. Although the training is over, we are still in contact with each other, and supporting each other.”

“This project is great and should, no, must continue!” 
The perks of being a volunteer, or “gems of the project, as she describes them, is having “the opportunity to see some fantastic films from different part of the world all raising really important social issues that is affecting many of us.” 

Cherifa says she especially enjoyed it “when the screening room is packed to maximum capacity”. “This”, she states, “is when you actually see and feel that all the prep work is paying off. It gives me a sense of satisfaction.”

She added, “Another fave moment [of mine] was the Christmas screening, where we actually offered a first-time cinema experience to some of the kids and families in the community. The joy on their faces when they came into the screening room and saw a child-friendly set-up – unforgettable, beautiful.”

The Hamlets Pop-Up Cinema volunteers receive free training from Cinema for All at Four Corners, Roman Road, Sep. 2017

When we ask Cherifa on what should happen with Tower Hamlets’ pop-up cinema venture, she was emphatic in her view:  “This project is great and should, no, must continue!” 

Another of the pop-up cinema’s volunteers is Karina. She had previously participated in a Youth project with Balik Arts, and had been following the film charity’s work ever since, which is how she heard about The Hamlets. Karina explains what she was hoping to achieve by getting involved:

“I liked the idea of the project after I read about it. I was expecting a place where I could learn more about cinema, and where I could meet people, and that was exactly what happened.”

Karina’s favourite experience of the project was the screening of Abel in Argentine restaurant Mou Cantina in Brick Lane: “The venue was unusual and we had to work as a team to organise the projection. In the end, the night was great, we had a big audience and everyone had a good time.

“Abel is a very touching and delicate movie from South America, where I grew up. It was great to see such a special movie.”
Still from Argentinian movie Abel, shown at Moo Cantina by The Hamlets Pop-Up Cinema, Jan. 2018

When asked what part of the experience was most beneficial, Karina said: “I would definitely say that the training we had about community cinema and the technical training are going to be the most useful in the future. As I work with media, it's helpful to know how to set up a projector, and this training gave me the necessary tools to one day run my own community cinema.”

She also wants to see the project continue and with more funding to allow for “more advertising” of The Hamlets and its events: I think many people would have liked to take part in it, but did not know about it.”


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