The last 12 months has been an amazing experience for Still The Enemy Within team. From still filming in January to winning the Sheffield Docfest Audience Award in June and ending the year have screened in over 80 venues.
Since our premiere in Leicester Square at the start of October, the film has been on tour around the UK. We have screened the film over a 100 times and taken part in 72 Q&As. It has been exhausting at times, but the response to the film and the people we have met on our travels have made it an unforgettable experience. It has been a whirlwind of political discussion, emotional reactions, personal stories and service station sandwiches. As the end of the year approaches, we thought we share some more highlights of the tour.
The London premiere was the first stop of the tour. Showing the film in Leicester Square was a big thrill for us all and to sell-out two weeks in advance just added to the excitement. With Billy Bragg and Mark Thomas, to name just two famous faces in the audience, it was a nerve-wracking experience waiting to see how people would react to the screening but the response to the film was fantastic and the Q&A afterwards with the team, Owen Jones and Jeremy Hardy was insightful as well as being a lot of fun. It was probably the most glamorous of all our screenings and was followed by celebrations late into the night.
This was followed quickly by the Welsh premiere at the Market Hall cinema in Brynmawr, another early highlight of the tour. Not only were we screening in Wales’s oldest cinema, in a mining heartland but the audience was led into the screening by a Silver band, with miners’ banners, and at the front was Ron Stoate one of the miners in our film! As we mentioned in our previous blog, this was also the screening where we were handed a tally as thanks for our work so it will go down as one to remember for a long time. The screening was followed by a fantastic Q&A, which could probably still be going on now if we hadn’t finished it!
We spent the first couple of weeks of the tour in the south of England, with screenings in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton with a couple of forays up to Manchester and to Wales. Screenings were packed-out and we had some seriously lively Q&A’s. It was really interesting to hear the thoughts of people too young to have been directly affected by the strike, but who could still see the resonance of the strike in the world today. It was vital for us that the film was a universal tale, that if you didn’t know about the strike, you could still engage with the story and it was great to see this approach had paid off. The amount of younger people who came up to us after the screenings and said that it was a part of history they didn’t know about, but now want to learn more was staggering.
The tour then moved north to Yorkshire the North East and then to Scotland, where the response was just as enthusiastic. Showing the film in the heartlands of the strike was really important to us. Hearing people who had lived through the strike, say that this was a true account of their experience was very moving. A big part of why we made the film was to try and give a voice to those who had been airbrushed from history and to hear people say ‘that’s what it was like’ was a strong vindication of the film.
By early/mid November we had finished traveling all around the north of England and central Scotland. We moved onto the midlands, showing the film Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester and Derby to name a few. What was amazing was that the more screenings we did, the word of mouth spread and the more screenings we were asked to do. Local communities started to organise screenings in their areas in miners’ welfare and community spaces. We had more packed screenings in London and Yorkshire, including a fantastic night at Rich Mix with Lesbian and Gays Miners support group which included an exhibition by photographers from Reportdigital.co.uk, where we raised nearly 200 for the FBU strikers.
Throughout our release, the backbone of these screenings have been the amazing people who run, volunteer and work for community and independent cinemas up and down the country. Some of the most memorable venues alongside Market Hall in Wales include the Moston Small Cinema in Manchester, which is built in the old bath house of a mine that shut down in the 1940’s. The Hippodrome in Bo’Ness in Scotland, a fantastic old cinema, restored to its former glory, with beautiful ornate fixtures and fittings, The Hebden Bridge Picture House that provides chocolate, flowers and mugs of tea for its Q&A guests. The Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford, so tiny, its box office is on the street and the inside looks almost the same as it did 20 years ago and The NO. 6 Cinema in Portsmouth, based on the shape of a ship with the largest screen we have seen in a very long time!
We also couldn’t have made the film and screened in so many places with the support of the crew and others who worked behind the scenes, often above and beyond the call of duty. Finally it would have been impossible without all the people who have championed the film, from way back when we first started crowd funding, to those who made it their mission to organise screenings in their local community.
The biggest lesson from the tour and the film is what fantastic things you can achieve when ordinary people get together. The New Year is already packed with community screenings and special events, as well as the film making its international debut in Toronto at Hot Docs. Until then we wish everyone a Merry Holiday and Happy New Year!