Magic Lantern Film Club began in Sheffield in 2011 as a community pop-up cinema, run by Melanie Pearson, Jenny Sutton and Alison Geldart.
The three of us met by chance, all with the same dream of putting on an alternative film night. Sheffield needed more film happenings. At the end of 2010 Mel had organised a couple of community film screenings at Sharrow’s Old Junior School (with Luisa Golob from the Creative Action Network, who now focuses on her other projects). Alison had been wanting to start a film club for ages, so came along to a screening with some enthusiasm and decided to help out. Jenny initially got involved with a series of “Junior Magic Lantern” films for children and also came up with our trademark logo.
Before we knew it, we’d been given projection equipment and a portable screen. We popped up in a different place every month, using any venues that had a decent atmosphere and blackout facilities but especially places that in some way suited the film.
We’ve been doing a film screening a month ever since then, though in the last ten months there have been a few changes.
Alison is now living in Barcelona and earlier this year we got a grant from the BFI Neighbourhood Cinema scheme for new state of the art screening equipment in the mini cinema in Picture House Social. This is currently our main base, although we are always keen to explore new venues and there will be more site specific pop-up events in future. We love unusual spaces and old buildings, places where you wouldn’t normally see a film, and some of our favourite events have been themed according to the venue.
“Experience cinema anywhere” is our motto. Even though you can now see a film so easily at home on your laptop or phone, we believe that there is something magical about the shared experience of watching a film on a big screen.
Since we started out the independent cinema scene has boomed and there are now lots of film events and other cinema clubs. But we like to think there’s room for everyone!
We are completely voluntary with no regular financial backing, but we have had some very generous support from the Co-operative Community Fund, the Sheffield Town Trust and the BFI Neighbourhood Cinema fund.