Quiet please! Yorkshire Silent Film Festival launches in Sheffield

Abbeydale Picture House will screen Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Lodger’ alongside a live orchestra tonight, marking the start of the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival.

The festival, in its second year, will see 40 silent film showings across 15 venues in Yorkshire for the month of May.

Jonathan Best, the festival’s director, decided to start the event due to a lack of silent film screenings around the north of England.

He said: “I wanted to find a way of reaching an audience beyond the obvious Yorkshire cities, like Sheffield and Leeds.

“I started talking to venues all over the county and seeing who’s interested. There was lot of interest so we put together a group of 11 or 12 venues, which has gone up to 15 this year.

“We don’t cover the whole of Yorkshire but it’s a good representative of cities, town, villages, and venues, varying in scale from large cinemas to small community arts centres and village halls.”

Rehearsals were well under way for the orchestra at the Abbeydale Picture House this afternoon.

Tonight’s showing will be accompanied by the world premiere performance of Neil Brand’s orchestral score, performed live by The Orchestra of St Paul’s.

Dramatist and composer Neil said: “This is an art form, alongside opera, theatre, concerts, which nobody has really experienced since the 1920s.

“It’s a bringing together of music and film in a theatrical way which doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

“These films were made to please everyone, not just academics and students of film.”

Abbeydale Picture House will screen eight films over the weekend, before the festival moves to Hull’s Middleton Hall on Monday.

Jonathan said: “It’s a mixed location festival. We’re trying to work in the silent era cinemas, such as Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds and here, in Abbeydale Picture House.”

“You can put a film on anywhere, but it’s important to reach places that don’t usually have festivals going on.”

“People can enjoy the festival without having to drive miles to get there, it’s on their doorstep.”

Phil Robins, who bought the Abbeydale Picture House in 2013, said: “This is the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival’s second year at the Abbeydale Picture House.

“We had the Picture House revival the year before, which was really successful, and it was one of the first occasions when film was back at the Abbeydale since 1974.

“The films are interesting and classic. It’s a totally unique experience to see a silent move with a live orchestra.”

Tonight’s showing begins at 7pm and tickets for all of the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival’s events are available online.

Emma Bowden

MA Print Journalism student at the University of Sheffield, Journalism Diversity Fund recipient and former Lifestyle & Culture editor for The Gryphon