SCOTLAND’S only silent film festival enjoyed a boost in ticket income and five complete sell-outs this year, writes Nan Spowart. Movie buffs travelled from as far away as California to attend the award-winning event in Bo’ness last month.

The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival, affectionately known as HippFest, was described as a “triumph” by director Alison Strauss after a three per cent increase in ticket sales.

Voted “best overall event” by audiences was Call of the North, which included a selection of short silent films by pioneering Scottish filmmaker Isobel Wylie Hutchison whose documentary records of her travels are preserved by the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive.

The evening featured song settings of Hutchison’s poetry from award-winning writer, actor and singer Gerda Stevenson, accompanied by Rob MacNeacail, and music written and performed live by Japanese composer Atzi Muramatsu, whose composition was inspired by the life and work of the intrepid Scottish explorer.

Second place went to the New Found Sound event which is part of HippFest’s wider youth engagement programme. The event showcased new film scores by pupils from St Mungo’s High School, performed by Falkirk Schools Senior Orchestra with live accompaniment from local junior and senior trad bands.

The innovative event also included a short, modern-day silent film created by Falkirk Champions Board – young people who have been, or are currently in care – made possible through funding from Cashback for Creativity.

The Penalty, starring the great American actor Lon Chaney as a criminal mastermind bent on sadistic revenge, will tour Scotland this year thanks to support from Film Hub Scotland, a member of the BFI Film Audience Network.

It is accompanied by a new score commissioned by HippFest and performed by Scottish jazz guitarist and composer Graeme Stephen and cellist Pete Harvey.

“Our eighth HippFest was a triumph,” Strauss said. “A first look at the feedback has shown how much impact the festival has – people really value the chance to see rare films, the gorgeous cinema, the calibre of the musicians, the inclusive atmosphere, and the sense of fun.

“It really is a privilege to share these memorable, communal cinema experiences with such terrific audiences.”