Film is a joy, but it’s only half as much of a pleasure without a cinema to watch it in – and the cinema is nothing without an audience.”  – Danny Leigh

We are thrilled to announce that Danny Leigh has become a Patron of Cinema For All and we couldn’t be more delighted and proud to have him join us.

Danny is an author, writer and broadcaster, writing regularly about film for The Guardian and Financial Times and is a resident film critic on BBC’s Film 2017. It is clear through Danny’s career that he loves film and his opening speeches at the 2014 and 2016 Film Society of the Year Awards demonstrated that his passion for film extends to cinemas themselves and the audiences watching them. Danny spoke with exuberance about the impressive work achieved by volunteer-led cinemas in reaching out, connecting and welcoming audiences to enjoy films together as a shared experience.

As a charity, it is important for us to have the help of like-minded, creative and encouraging individuals to help spread the word about Cinema For All and community cinema and more importantly to help us achieve the very goal our name states – cinema for all. It is with great joy and gratitude that we welcome Danny as a Patron of Cinema For All and we look forward to working alongside him in the future.

We recently spoke to Danny about his relationship with Cinema For All, community cinema and some of his favourite cinema experiences.

Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Cinema for All

I’ve been a supporter of Cinema For All for a long time, so I was delighted when Deborah and Jaq got in touch and asked me along to help present awards at the 2014 conference. There was some regrettable dancing on my part that year, which I remain apologetic about, but remarkably I was asked back and since then I’ve done some more award-giving as well as film presenting, and it’s always a pleasure. That first year I found myself telling anyone who would listen that Cinema For All were my favourite cinema chain in the world, and I haven’t changed my mind. 

How important are community cinemas and film societies?

As a film lover and someone who tries to be aware of the world beyond movies too, I think community cinemas and film societies are vital, and only becoming more so. Giving people the chance to share in a collective storytelling experience is important in itself – but helping create hubs in communities at a time when we risk drifting off into ever lonelier isolation stuck in front of Netflix is a real public service. 

What do you think is special about seeing a film as part of an audience?

Film is a joy, but it’s only half as much of a pleasure without a cinema to watch it in – and the cinema is nothing without an audience. Film takes flight in the shared emotion, when we gasp with fear or roar with laughter, or just share being lost in a moment. When we strip out the audience from our experience of films, we abandon something very precious. 

Tell us about one of your favourite moments as an audience member.

1984, Ghostbusters, one of the big Leicester Square cinemas – I was 12 and I think I can still hear the rest of the crowd now. And then twice in the last year I’ve been reminded of the power of an audience – a screening of I, Daniel Blake where the atmosphere in the room was enraged and electric, and another watching Get Out, where again it felt like watching that film in that cinema with this bunch of strangers was the most important place to be in the world. (I’d also throw in seeing La Haine, where the whole cinema felt like it was rocking around me, and The White Ribbon, with a packed house in pristine pin-drop silence). 

What are your hopes for the future of community cinema?

I think the advent of digital has made laying hands on films and getting them on screen a much more straightforward process, and allowed programmers to revel in the breadth of international film. One of the things I really admire above community cinema in theory and Cinema For All in practise is the way the DIY spirit of the film society dovetails so perfectly with a sense of adventure in the films that are screened. And I think there’s only going to be more and more people drawn inexorably to both. 

Deborah Parker, Chief Executive of Cinema For All, on welcoming Danny as Patron: ‘I couldn’t be happier to welcome Danny as a Patron. He has been incredibly supportive of our work and really gets who we are and what we, as well as our members, are achieving for communities across the UK. I am excited to continue working with Danny in his new role as Patron and I’m sure our members will be thrilled at this new development too.’

With thanks to our student volunteer from the University of Sheffield, Linnea Pettersson.