First & Second Edition Festivals
Hear from the newest festivals on the block

Two panel speakers are sat on stage clapping and smiling. Behind them, on the cinema screen, text reads: Film Festival.Two panel speakers are sat on stage clapping and smiling. Behind them, on the cinema screen, text reads: Film Festival.

We are proud to support Northern exhibitors to grow audiences for great film throughout the region, with our Film Exhibition Fund. Last year, we supported four new festivals to get their events off the ground: Bradford Queer Film Festival, The Bay International Film Festival, MINT Chinese Film Festival & Scarborough Film Festival.

As they now work towards their second and third editions, we asked them to share their challenges, successes and everything they’ve learnt about starting a festival from scratch!

What did you learn from launching a new festival - were there any challenges you had to overcome?

  Launching Bradford Queer Film Festival was a brilliant learning experience and we had so much enthusiastic support from our community and from partner organisations. Creating something brand new is always a challenge but we were met with real excitement. Finding appropriate venues for such a large programme was a challenge at times but again we were able to collaborate with a range of venues to achieve our plans and feel inspired about how we will work with these venues in future. - Alice Parsons, Bradford Queer Film Festival

Bradford Queer Film Festival is an annual weekend long celebration of LGBTQIA+ stories on screen. Launched in November 2023, they screen shorts and features from around the world including premieres right through to beloved classics and newly restored cult favourites; working to bring lost and obscured narratives to screens in Bradford.

Their first edition showcased over 70 films, and highlights included a screening of ‘Bend It Like Bollywood’ accompanied by a session with dancer Vinay Jobanputra, and a collaboration with the cast of 'KingDom' (dir. Joanna Vymeris) and local queer night ‘OUT OUT’ to present a screening and Cabaret event!

  We hosted a competition event, showcasing Yorkshire Short Films and finding excellent, local shorts was challenging for us as a first-time festival. The filmmakers who attended the festival all gave wonderful feedback so we hope that our reputation will grow and the festival will be able to champion more and more local talent in years to come. - Elizabeth Boag & Martha Cattell, Scarborough Film Festival

Scarborough Film Festival is a 4 day festival bringing a diverse array of films, screenings, exhibitions and events to the North Yorkshire coast. Launched in November 2023 with a DIY ethic for change, the festival aims to bring alternative film to the town whilst championing local makers and creators.

Amongst the 13 events which took place across its inaugural edition, highlights include: the Scarborough premier of locally made and critically acclaimed short The Tide + Q&A, two complementary pieces of artists’ moving image followed by Q&A screened on a boat, and local poets and musicians commissioned to “revive” archive footage from Yorkshire Film Archive with live scores!

What highlights and successes are you most proud of?

  The ‘audience buzz’: a whole venue full of Chinese speakers, in one of the UK’s least ethnically diverse counties…The success of the associated events we put on around town: a Chinese dragon procession, tai chi, crafting, a walk to the lake - to ensure that even those not interested in film knew there was a festival going on, and could participate in some other aspect of the festival. - Carol Rennie & Yixiang Shirley Lin, MINT Chinese Film Festival

The Mint Chinese Film Festival (MINT CFF) is the UK’s first woman-led Chinese Film Festival, focussed on cross-cultural communication and women’s representations in films.

First launched in February 2023, MINT CFF returned to Keswick Alhambra Cinema in Cumbria last month for their second edition. The programme showcased 14 feature-length films and 17 shorts across 4 days. 2 panel discussions, and 1 live cinema event including a live harp and traditional Chinese instruments performing a specially composed score to accompany a classic Chinese film.

  Putting together a big international event from scratch with such a small team and on such a tiny budget was a significant achievement…We greatly appreciated people travelling to come to our events. Three percent of our audiences came from Europe, and 25% from outside the county. - Darren Henderson, The Bay International Film Festival

The inaugural edition of The Bay International Film Festival (TBIFF) took place in October 2023 in the seaside town of Morecambe, with the next edition scheduled for November 2024.

TBIFF features four programs: "Reel Rewind" for classic films retrospective, "Northern Stars" for independent features from the North of England, "Northern Start" for international premieres, and "Stories Beyond Borders'' for thought-provoking international short films with a focus on social impact. With each curated programme, they endeavour to bridge the gap between North West England and the global film community.

Highlights from their programme include: 3 community screenings of shorts followed by film club discussions, a photo exhibition of never-before-seen photographs from the set of Stanley Kubrick’s 'Barry Lyndon', and their sold out awards ceremony for the best short films which was referred to as “Morecambe’s answer to the Oscars”!

What key piece of advice would you give to those who are thinking about launching a festival?

  Be kind to yourself and remember that you’re always learning. Things will feel challenging at points but creating something from scratch will always be filled with new learning. Remember to turn to people for advice and help and also celebrate and listen to positive feedback. Take a step back and remember to actually enjoy and watch some films! - Alice Parsons, Bradford Queer Film Festival
  Also collaborate, we worked with some amazing people that either gave us ideas for films, curated strands or made events more rich. – Elizabeth Boag & Martha Cattell, Scarborough Film Festival
  Any film festival is made for people by people. With the first edition, you might not know precisely what your audience wants to watch. So, you will need to try different things and ask for their feedback. – Darren Henderson, The Bay International Film Festival
Three panel speakers are sat in front of a pop up screen, smiling. One is facing directly into the camera, as the other two look towards each other.

Are there any notable partnerships that contributed to the festival and its delivery? In your experience, what made these partnerships work?

  Our main partner is the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Their support was invaluable in making our first festival a success. They offered us in-kind support: their 160 seat, art-deco cinema and their brilliant projectionist, front of house staff, box office system, data collection system, publicity and marketing…All these partnerships were successful because of good communication, clear mutual benefits and generosity of spirit. – Elizabeth Boag & Martha Cattell, Scarborough Film Festival
  The festival's success was greatly indebted to the invaluable support and collaboration of numerous companies and individuals who generously invested not only financial resources but also their time, expertise, and facilities…In my experience, the success of these partnerships grew from a shared vision and mutual commitment to the festival's mission. Effective communication, transparency, and a spirit of collaboration were key in building strong relationships with our partners. – Darren Henderson, The Bay International Film Festival

What audience feedback from your last festival has inspired your thinking or planning for your next edition?

  We included a ‘retro strand’ to increase the pull and accessibility of non-Chinese audiences: two very famous award-winning films by Taiwanese directors, and a Tibetan film with an eco-theme that we knew would attract audiences with an interest in that content matter. This worked very well for our second edition. – Carol Rennie & Yixiang Shirley Lin, MINT Chinese Film Festival
  Audiences were so warm and kind with their feedback. We’re keen to build on what they enjoyed, which was a broad selection of well curated films from around the world as well as special events throughout the programme. We’re keen to embed more talks and discussion time for audiences too. – Alice Parsons, Bradford Queer Film Festival

What do you see for the future of your festival - are there areas you would like to improve or expand on?

  We are looking to build relationships with other festivals to share ideas, expand the range of our programming and to build our network. We are [also] looking to explore the environmental sustainability of the festival, especially how to do this successfully when working with multiple venues. – Elizabeth Boag & Martha Cattell, Scarborough Film Festival
  Improvement and expansion in audience development and engagement are crucial areas in our future strategy. Reaching a large audience and gaining their trust can be challenging but vital. Building this trust and presence takes time as word spreads about the festival. As festivals are annual events, consistent reminders throughout the year are important to keep people engaged and interested in attending and spreading the word. – Darren Henderson, The Bay International Film Festival
  This year we are upping our year round programme to keep expanding our reach and learn more about our audiences. This year we are also keen to work with more venues to keep pushing the quality of our audience experience and as ever, we’re also open to new partners and collaborations! – Alice Parsons, Bradford Queer Film Festival

These first and second edition festivals are proudly supported by National Lottery funding through Film Hub North’s Film Exhibition Fund. The next funding round will open for applications Thursday 30 May. Applications for Pitch Pot and Bursary Fund are open now.

We continue to offer monthly drop-in sessions where film exhibitors can talk to our team about their plans and how we can help - our next sessions take place on Wednesday 27 March.

Explore our funding

Images 1 & 4: Scarborough Film Festival 2023, Credit Mica J Photography | Images 2 & 5: MINT Chinese Film Festival 2024, Credit Jianing Wang & Wenli Huang | Image 3: The Bay International Film Festival 2023.