Forest Row Comedy Film Festival

Forest Row Comedy Film Festival

Forest Row Village Hall

The first ever film festival in Forest Row was a great success on so many levels. Not only did it inspire the best publicity campaign the film society has ever undertaken, and attracted a new audience who have not been to our films before, but the workshops, exhibition and special film events were undoubted triumphs. In addition, there was fantastic weather (so who wanted to be watching films?), and there was a buzz throughout the village with so much happening over the weekend (not just the festival). Thank you to everyone who came along and made it all worthwhile, and a huge thanks to all our sponsors and supporters.

The festival also was the first occasion for us to get audience reaction scores; after each film all members of the audience were encouraged to offer their rating of the film (from Very Poor to Excellent), which then translates to a score for each film. Unsurprisingly, the silent films with live music and the singalong Mamma Mia were the biggest hits, and The Big Lebowski was the film that most divided the audience. The high scores that so many of the films were awarded is testament to how much fun we all had.

Film Score
Silents, please 98
The General 97
The Concert 96
Shakespeare in Love 96
Mamma Mia 93
Nanny McPhee 87
Waking Ned 86
Cluny Brown 83
Shaun of the Dead 79
The Big Lebowski 75


Terry Davies playing for Buster Keaton's The General

As ever, the silents were the biggest treat. Saturday afternoon brought us Keaton’s The General, with wonderful music from Terry Davies, who then returned on Sunday morning with Anna Cooper on violin and viola for a triple bill of shorts: two of Chaplin’s Mutual films The Immigrant and The Rink, and Buster Keaton in Cops in the middle. We could certainly do more of these films!

The other major hit was the singalong Mamma Mia, which is completely different from everything the film society normally does, so it was wonderful to have such a great and enthusiastic audience, including many people who have never been to our films before.

As everyone arrived, there was no escape: caricaturist Helen Pointer caught some of the audience and created some great film-themed drawings:

Caricaturist Helen Pointer

and lots of the audience came dressed up. Again, not usual behaviour for our regular audience:

Dressed up for singalong Mamma Mia

For some screenings we were delighted to have special guests too. Shakespeare in Love was introduced by Stephen Warbeck who won the Oscar for the film’s score:

Stephen Warbeck

and comedian Phil Kay entertained the audience for Shaun of the Dead with tales of Simon Pegg and a voicemail message from Kate Ashfield:

Phil Kay introducing Shaun of the Dead


We ran three workshops, which was another undoubted success of the weekend. One was for under 12s as an introduction to stop-motion animation, run by animator and film-maker Joseph Brett:

Animation workshop

A second animation workshop was an all-day event for a smaller group run by Canterbury-based Animate and Create, who created a Creature-Comforts-style film:

Animation workshop

Finally, Pete Allen ran a film-making workshop over three weekends. The first couple of sessions introduced the participants to the basics of film-making, which was then put to practice in the final all-day session during the festival weekend:

Film-making workshop

A separate blog post about the workshops will follow soon.

The team

One thing we were all agreed about, and that was that it was a huge amount of work for everyone involved. The team was made up of several members of the film society committee, plus several others:

  • Brad Scott
  • Steffi Pusch
  • Cathie Hubert
  • Yolene Crawfurd
  • Patrick Crawford
  • Terry Davies
  • Judith Gleeson
  • Rachael Pereira
  • Fred Doll
  • Valerie Moss
Some of the organising committee

Huge thanks also to Cathie Hubert and Mette Udsholt for advance ticket sales at Ashdown Gallery and for setting up the lovely exhibition of film stills at the gallery, which was curated by Steffi Pusch, and photos kindly supplied by Topfoto in Edenbridge.

Exhibition of comedy film stills

Thanks also to all our volunteers, on refreshments and the first aiders, and to John Bradley for taking lots of pictures. Thanks to Forest Row Parish Council, Screen South and the UK Film Council for financial support, and to all our audience for making it such a great weekend. Let us have your feedback too.

And finally, check out more pictures on our flicker stream.