The Manchester And Salford Film Society is the longest established film society in England and is celebrating 90 years this year. Salford Now reporter Oscar Butler went to speak to two of the women who run it.
At the opening of The Salford Worker’s Film Society, the then Lord Mayor said: “A large part of adult picture-goers are sick of the Hollywood sob-stuff and want something with more meat in it.”
It is a quote that holds as the society, now called the Manchester and Salford Film Society, celebrated its 90th anniversary last Sunday.
Members can enjoy ‘films of a scientific, educational, cultural and artistic character’, from established classics to the hidden gems of world cinema.
It has endured through a tumultuous 90 years, and in doing so has created a tight-knit community of film lovers. To find out more about I spoke to the chair, Carol Moores, and secretary, Mary Keane.
“A large part of adult picture-goers are sick of the Hollywood sob-stuff and want something with more meat in it”
Carol (feature image) has been a committee member since 1982 and admits she was ‘hooked’ from when her friend first took her along:
“I’ve always been a bit of a film nut, I’ve actually been involved with a couple of film societies.
“It’s great to have a curated programme at the film society and get introduced to lots of films and directors – people I’ve not heard about – and I just thought it fantastic to join it. There’s a social side but also there was this chance to see new and interesting films I didn’t know about, that was a big plus for me.”
Mary (pictured below) has been part of the society for 18 years now. A Greater Manchester resident, she knew about the society for a long time, and joined the society when she saw a poster about it after moving to Altrincham in 2002 – “Ironically I used to live in Manchester when the society was located in Platt Chapel, and I always thought that I must get round to joining but I never did until I moved back.”
More than a Society
From the enthused way Carol and Mary spoke to me and each-other it’s clear to see how the society has created friendships between people, people that have easily bonded over their love of cinema that otherwise may not have met. There is an engagement with their members, to create something more than a society – a community. Mary elaborated on their efforts:
“We have a mix of people, people who come in couples but also people who come on their own. It can be quite intimidating going somewhere new on your own so we try to do activities to make it feel inclusive.
“We’ve always had an annual dinner that people can come to, more recently we’ve also started having more formalized film discussions.”
Mary added: “I think having a Bar, that serves very reasonably priced drinks I have to say, encourages people to stay around and engage in an informal chat. We have an end of season buffet and Christmas coffee mornings; we try and do things that encourage people to mingle.”
Carol added to this, talking about the benefits of community cinema “It brings people together within an area who maybe haven’t met up but have a common interest. It’s great to get together and have someone to talk to about films, even if you disagree!”
The society has given both Carol and Mary a love for cinema. Hear them both talk about their favourite films and directors:
It is a society that has changed throughout its history, a lot can happen in 90 years, with multiple relocations and changes in management and direction (especially in its early days). It’s persistence however is down to a remarkable set of individual volunteers, who dedicate their time and energy into ensuring each season runs smoothly:
“It’s endured because of all the fantastic volunteers.” Says Carol, “People give their time for free, we don’t make any money out of this. Our president Marjorie has volunteered for 81 years now, it’s incredible, and she’s still involved with the society.”
Overall our 90 years there have been some amazing people who have shown a real commitment. It’s that level of commitment that emphasizes how we try to create a community”.
You can listen to the interview with Marjorie here.
Mary added: “I think it’s also because we offer something that’s unique, it’s such a diverse [film] program. You can be anybody from just wanting to see specific films to being somebody that’s a complete film-buff, we try and cater to the whole spectrum of film interests really.”
With the ongoing pandemic, perhaps one of the most troubling periods in the societies recent history is now. As with everything in the world, the committee has had to adapt to how the society operates to see it into the future. They have ‘diversified’, away from the big screen they now do virtual screenings which helps ‘keep the community of the film club together’:
“It’s given us an opportunity to try something new and to perhaps connect people more in a digital sense,” as put by Carol.
The Diamond And Emerald anniversary
With the society hitting their 90th birthday the Sunday just passed, there is cause for celebration among the committee, however, given the circumstances of COVID it has been more of an unconventional commemoration, “We had a virtual showing of Citizen Kane on the anniversary evening and the idea was to have a toast to the society afterwards”. This was something promoted by Cinema For All to film societies across the UK, which in turn found them circulating even in the US.
Salford’s WCML (Working Class Movement Library) have also ‘done a fantastic job’ in curating their archives about ‘The Manchester And Salford Film Society’ for their anniversary. A litany of information can be found about the society’s history here, among some beautiful posters of the society’s early days.
Mary says: “When we meet in person again, that’ll be another opportunity to celebrate. We’re doing what we can to celebrate at the moment, given everything has to be virtual.”
Carol added “It may be that next year when things do again open up on the big screen, we may be able to plan something to continue the celebrations when its easier to do that. We’ll certainly be having a social event; I would think as soon as we can.”
As the society looks to the future it appears to be as popular as ever, and under the guidance of volunteers with even half the enthusiasm shown by Carol and Mary, it looks to be in good hands. As Mary says – “I’ve had many emails saying here’s to the next 90 years, so I think that’s the philosophy, it’s on [the] up”.