WELL known figure in Shetland’s arts scene Kathy Hubbard has hung up her boots as a Screenplay curator after many years’ involvement in the film festival.
Hubbard, who took over organisation of the event in 2009 after Screenplay was inaugurated by the late Alex Cluness two years previously, wished Shetland Arts all the best for the future of the burgeoning event.
That spell when she has been joint curator with film critic Mark Kermode and his partner Linda Ruth Williams has seen the event grow from humble beginnings in the Garrison theatre, with a major filip being the opening of Mareel arts centre in 2012.
Hubbard said: “If the old adage that you are only as good as your last gig is true, that was a good gig to go out on.
“Good luck to Shetland Arts and I look forward to seeing the direction where they take it next.”
She said that this year’s Screenplay, which ended on 2 September, had been the biggest yet with over 4000 attendees plus 1100 school pupils.
That youthful involvement is important to Hubbard, as it gives children the chance to see beyond the Holywood blockbusters that are the bulk of commercial film fare.
She said that many of the children end up enjoying films that would not normally be in their sights, with productive sessions following the showings.
It has been Hubbard’s aim to show a good mix of films at Screenplay, with children’s films, documentaries, the popular Look North strand and the films of invited guests almost picking themselves, leavened by a handful of blockbusters.
Hubbard started with the then Shetland Arts Trust in 1999 after a career as a criminal justice social worker, working in both England and Shetland.
She had, she said, thoroughly enjoyed her social work, but had reached time for a change, and was amazed to land the job with the arts trust.
Hubbard retired as development director with Shetland Arts in March 2014 but continued her hectic involvement with the film festival after that. “It’s grown in duration from a long weekend to 10 nights and nine days,” said Hubbard.
“As far as getting famous people to come up here that has been very much the job of Mark Kermode and his wife Linda. That’s what they do and I do the rest with the team at Shetland Arts,” said Hubbard.
The opening of Mareel was a turning point for the festival, which had been limited to showings in the Garrison and the occasional film elsewhere.
Hubbard said: “Mareel made a massive difference. We were able to open in a proper cinema which was great. Having digital cinema meant that we could show more up to date movies, and with two screens it meant we could show more films. So it opened it up in all sorts of ways for us. It was great.
“We also had that social mixing space that we did not have at the Garrison. You could go out and talk to people at the end of the screening. That was also very welcome.
“Someone said to me last week – ‘I have just seen Nick Park, Mark Kermode and Timothy Spall in the space of three minutes, what is going on?'”
But for Hubbard, it is not the big names who have attended the festival that are necessarily the most memorable. Many of the behind the scenes people are the ones she has gone on to become long-term friends with.
Other highlights have been the “quirky fun stuff” such as the “screening for dogs” at the Lerwick Marts which was “great fun to do” and a hit with the media.
Screenings at community halls and care homes have also provided special memories. One resident at Nordalea care home in Unst actually saw herself as a bride in a church documentary from the 1950s.
Hubbard said: “It was amazing. We were all watching it and one of the care workers said ‘that’s you’ and it was her on her wedding day, decades before. It is moving moments like that, that you can’t ever anticipate, that can take the legs off you.”
She plans to continue working with getting Shetland made films onto the screen. “It’s something that I really enjoy doing and it’s important to the festival as well,” said Hubbard, who will also continue as part of the monthly film quiz team.
“It started out as mostly young people’s input. Now people of all ages are putting in films, which is wonderful,” Hubbard added.
“These initiatives take a long time to bear fruit and people should never expect things to happen overnight. With the quality of what we saw this year, that year on year investment is starting to pay off.”
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