Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Much Birch - A fine place to see a movie

Browsing the Borderlines brochure with a pint at the Pilgrim Hotel
My wife helps to run the local Flicks in the Sticks and I help her to tell people about it. So this blog is partly an honest account of volunteering and partly a platform from which to encourage you to get along and see a movie at one of the many venues that will be hosting the 2015 Borderlines Film Festival!

The Girl With the Pearl Earring
We took our first trip to Borderlines when we had only been living in the county for a matter of weeks; the film was The Girl With the Pearl Earring at The Courtyard in March 2004. I remember it was an added screening to the initial run, as the film itself had been so successful that year. I remember this quite acutely, because The Courtyard had not quite figured out their overall scheduling process and for a large portion of the film we were treated to intermittent beats from the drum workshop next door. But the audience was not overly concerned, it was considered that we had squeezed into a space so that we could have a chance to catch the movie in all its understated glory - on the big screen.

The Festival and venue had made the film available to the community in the form in which the writer and director had created it – for the big screen. Drilling this down to another level, Flicks in the Sticks encourages communities in the region to make the most of our shared spaces; utilising pretty much any space from community hall to church, village hall to public house - to bring the movies to your doorstep. And of course as well as the shared spaces, you need the volunteers to run the individual Flicks in the Sticks.

As I type my good lady wife (Bryony) is out screening The Book Thief to an audience of twelve. Twelve people who will enjoy and dislike, twelve people who will engage and discuss the merits of a storyline, of a performance. What Much Birch Flicks does (in much the same way as all the Arts Alive initiatives) is give people living locally the opportunity to access exciting, moving and entertaining film performances in a local venue.

Since January 2006, Bryony and her fellow volunteer Carole (and many others) have been scheduling, organising and manning the Much Birch Village Hall for Flicks in the Sticks screenings, once a month, from September through May each year. From the two people who turned up for the screening of Coriolanus through the heady days of 100+ audiences for Ladies in Lavender, Calendar Girls and Mamma Mia to the decidedly feisty Saturday afternoons full of children and families who have used the hall for a whole host of other purposes such as christenings, yoga, birthdays, exercise classes, funerals, toddler groups and PTFA quiz nights.

For my part – the helping to let people know part - I have a cycle route of village notice boards that take me all around the South Herefordshire environs (well around a few villages anyway: St Weonards, Garway, Orcop, Wormelow, Much Birch, Much Dewchurch, Little Dewchurch and Kingsthorne). If I’m honest, it will only turn into a cycle route in the next few weeks when the Spring weather starts to hit – hopefully – otherwise it is really a drive by drop off when I get a chance.

Then there is the all-important monthly village magazine. Travel up and down the villages of Herefordshire and Shropshire each month and the village store or the village pub will have a village magazine and the village magazine will have news of the local Flicks in the Sticks screening.  For Much Birch village, the support of The Pilgrim Hotel is much welcomed, with regular Much Birch Flicks pre-screening offers. 

So here comes the encouraging to engage bit - get yourself along to any of the wonderful array of movies on offer around Herefordshire and Shropshire during the Festival. I myself am very much looking forward to The Possibilities Are Endless at The Courtyard on March 4. But if you do decide to come along and take in Before I Go To Sleep at Much Birch Village Hall, the good people at The Pilgrim (less than a half mile down the A49) have an early evening offer for you. From 5pm-7pm on the evening of Thursday 12 March – as a Much Birch Flicks / Borderlines attendee you can get yourself a pre-movie delight with a choice of a main course from the bar menu and a drink - for just £8.95

And of course the Flicks in the Sticks venues go on screening throughout the year, not just during the Festival. What the Festival does though, in particular with all of its accompanying promotion, is make a wider audience aware of all the cinematic opportunities that are open to the region. So during Borderlines, we will have regular Much Birch Flicks patrons who might come half a dozen times a year down to parents who might usually only take in a Saturday afternoon screening with the children, but what Borderlines brings each year, is the newcomers. What Borderlines does ultimately is open up more opportunities to discover cinema, to discover that all year round – From Wem Town Hall to St Mary’s Church, Ross-on-Wye there are movies rolling on a big screen pretty much every day of the week, all year round, right on your doorstep.

 Michael Connelly

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