Bonny Bo’Ness! – FAUK makes their mark on Hippfest

FAUK’s quarterly meetings are mostly hosted by member archives or organisations across the UK and always provide a welcome opportunity for members to visit other archives, hear about their work, see their facilities and share best practice.This March however, it was a trip with a difference – heading north of the border to enjoy the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival and also participate in the Festival programme with a special ‘Meet the Archives’ event.

Twenty miles west of Edinburgh on the banks of the Forth, Bo’ness was playing host to the 8th Silent Film Festival or Hippfest. With the wonderful Hippodrome venue, Scotland’s oldest purpose built cinema and an exciting programme of films from the silent era, the Festival draws crowds from far and wide.

The Last of the Mohicans (1920)


FAUK members too travelled from across the UK on March 21st, (some hindered by sheep on the line!) to attend the opening night premiere of ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ (1920) with live accompaniment by multi-instrumentalist, David Allison.

This was a rare screening of the original and most faithful film adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel.




The rest of the evening’s entertainment was a ‘surprise diversion’ exclusive to FAUK members as they headed off in convoy in search of the illuminated ‘Kelpies’ – spectacular gigantic equine monuments –  a ‘must see’ for any visitors.


The ‘Kelpies’
Grangemouth by night

The magical mystery tour also took us through Grangemouth oil refinery – lit up like a Star Wars film set.

Legend has it that the Kelpies, at times, can be difficult to reach…. – the spectacular horse head sculptures can be spotted on the M9 rearing up in the night sky above the motorists, but to get close? – that is a challenge only for the brave hearted and persistent!…..




Meeting with a view!

Thursday 22nd March and FAUK members had a chance to explore Bo’ness before a snack lunch ahead of their meeting. Our venue – the grand Auditorium on the first floor of the Town Hall, an imposing building with superb views out across the Forth.








Alison Strauss, Director of Hippfest addresses FAUK members




Bea Harbour (LSA) and Clare Watson (MACE)

Special and very welcome guest at the meeting was Alison Strauss, Director of Hippfest who joined us from the Festival to tell us more about the work involved in organising the Festival in this, its 8th year. Alison also expressed her delight in having FAUK participate in the Hippfest programme for the ‘Meet the Archives’ event. FAUK’S Agenda was busy as ever with discussions around Training, BFI 2022 and sharing news of their work..


Meet the Archive panel – L to R – Sue Howard, Ruth Washbrook and Iola Baines (Frank Gray on ‘keyboards’)



It was a quick walk down the hill from the Town Hall to a room at the Bo’ness Bakery for FAUK to host the ‘Meet the Archives’  in the form of a specialist panel –  Frank Gray (Chair of FAUK and Director of Screen Archive South East), Iola Baines (Director National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales), Sue Howard (Director of Yorkshire and North East Film Archives) and Ruth Watson (Moving Image & Sound Collections Manager of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive).

A small but enthusiastic audience of Festival goers attended to see footage from each archive and hear, from each panellist about the work the archives do and some of the special collections they have worked with – including Iola’s account of the amazing discovery of the Silent film of the Life of Lloyd George (1918) a few years ago.


The floor was thrown open to questions from the audience and proved an enjoyable afternoon for all concerned with new connections made with a number of organisations and something that FAUK could well be repeated at other venues and events around the UK.


Thursday evening the Hippfest entertainment continued with ‘Call of the North’, a celebration of the work of Scottish filmmaker, botanist, writer and Arctic explorer – Isobel Wylie Hutchison (1889-1982) who filmed in Alaska and Greenland.

Scottish singer-songwriter, Gerda Stevenson told us more of Hutchison’s life and performed song settings of the explorer’s own poetry with wonderful musical accompaniment.

With more music inspired by Hutchison’s films and played by Scottish-based Japanese composer, Atzi Muramatsu, this was a truly ‘international’ evening and greatly enjoyed.

FAUK’s visit to Bo’ness and the Hippfest was no doubt an enjoyable and constructive sojourn allowing more time for members to relax and meet, witness some wonderful silent film on the big screen and was also a welcome opportunity for FAUK to have a more public presence and network with other organisations with a passion for film, preservation and access.

Our thanks go to Alison Strauss and her team at Hippfest  for making us so welcome at Bo’ness and the opportunity to participate in the Festival. A big thank you too to our hosts at the Town Hall and Bo’ness Bakery.  We may well be back!