Throughout 2019 and early 2020, as part of London Borough of Culture, Film Merton brought film to the entire borough, installing pop-up cinemas in unusual locations and commissioning new work by emerging filmmakers. Led by the council’s Cultural Advisory Group, with additional funding from Merton Council, the project used film to bring people together and celebrate Merton’s heritage.
Lights, Camera, Merton!
Film screenings by the community, for the community. That was the aim of Merton Council’s Cultural Advisory Group, after winning a Cultural Impact Award from the Mayor of London. And the numbers speak for themselves. Throughout 2019 and early 2020, Merton residents were treated to no less than 10 seasons of films and 99 film screenings in pop up locations all over the borough. Car parks, barber shops, parks and youth centres all doubled up as impromptu cinemas, literally bringing film to thousands of people’s doorsteps.
Merton didn’t used to have a lot of these kinds of events, so it’s great to have these things in the borough. Because there seems to be two different Mertons – those who have and those who are working class. It’s good to have something for everybody, especially in a borough that is so diverse.
– Film Merton Participant
Many of the films dealt with the kinds of issues directly affecting Merton’s diverse community. Themes such as dementia, gangs & peer pressure, LGBT history and the lives of inspirational black women. The screenings brought the community together, facilitated debate and informed a cadre of film fans in Merton. In addition, over 30 individuals were involved in selecting the films and designing the seasons – all of whom received support and mentoring over the course of the year.
On the streets of Merton
Merton itself starred in four short films, specially funded to showcase the talents of local emerging, as well as more established directors: Rosie Gaunt-Mathieson, Peter Lee Scott, Matvi Khosho and Charlie Strank. The films ranged from heart-warming romantic comedy, to an exploration of young people and bereavement, to an examination of the borough’s multi-cultural foundations, to the story of football coming home, told in Lego form!
Shot in the streets, homes and businesses of Merton, these shorts brought the dynamic spirit of filmmaking to the borough, and propelled the neighbourhood onto the screen. Each of the films celebrate businesses, street corners, symbols and stories true to the borough, drawing them out and sharing them with the world. Peter Lee Scott’s dramedy, His Name was Gerry, went on to win Best Director Award and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Short Film at the British Independent Film Festival.
His Name Was Gerry | Trailer from Peter Lee Scott on Vimeo.