Interview: Hand Of


Hand Of is an arts platform responsible for creating some unique and experimental events in Sheffield over a number of years with features ranging from live coding beats, to folk music, through comedy and more. Their latest venture is a two day festival of film this weekend at the wonderful Abbeydale Picture House, so of course, we wanted to know more…

Can you tell us a bit more about how Hand Of came to exist and why?

Hand Of started in the same place as so many other stories in this city; at University. We were exploring Sheffield and stumbling across chewed up old buildings, and wondered if we could put a gig on in one of them. After a couple of film screenings on Division Street, we ended up opting for a building in slightly better nick than the ones we’d seen, and at the end of first year put on a night called Vex at Portland Works. It sold out and we knew we had to do more.

Since then we’ve turned our hands to all sorts – ballet, electronic music, folk, jazz, film, comedy, spoken word. Last year we commissioned and produced an Arts Council funded project exploring the history of brass bands, with a documentary and an original composition merging electronic and brass band music. Now, a year after graduating, we’re putting together our biggest event to date: reviving the Abbeydale Picture House for a weekend of film screenings, food, and surprises.

How important is Hand Of’s involvement with the local community and institutions, such as the universities?

We’ve always put on a big variety of very different events, all across the city, so our involvement with communities and institutions changes on a per project basis. Because of that, we’ve made a lot of friends along the way; a whole host of brass bands and musical communities across South Yorkshire, designers, galleries, breweries, charities – too many people to list.

Community is a funny word and in a sense we’re both more connected but more scattered than ever before. On the one hand, you can go weeks without seeing your next door neighbour, and you might not even know their name, but you can also make friends with somebody on the other side of Sheffield and see them at all manner of places around the city. For this project we’re doing everything we can to start with our neighbours and work outwards from there. We’re keen to let those people know what’s going on just up the road, and get them involved.


Your latest event, Picture House Revival: A Festival of Film is taking place in July, in collaboration with Warp Films. What can we expect from the weekend?

We’ve always seen the Picture House as a cross road. It sits on top of the hill at the junction of different areas. We wanted to reflect that in our programme. On the Saturday we’re showing modern films with a link to filmmaking in the local area and on Sunday we’re showing old films with a link to the cinema itself. That interplay between new and old, between local and global is something that we’re captivated by. It should be a colourful mix of films and people to celebrate cinema history and the history of this cinema.

With events such as DocFest and ShAFF taking place each year, film continues to be an established part of Sheffield’s arts culture. Do you have any predictions for the future of film in the city?

The only way seems to be up. It’s attracting, and has attracted filmmakers and film organisations. From Warp Films shooting films to Showroom screening them, we’ve got highly specialised but also commercially successful film communities, with a whole load of other excellent events and enterprises too, from film clubs to film funders. We hope the sector continues to thrive and show that Sheffield is up there with the world’s best in terms of making and showcasing film. We’re excited to see what the younger generation builds on their foundations.

What plans do you have for after July’s Picture House Revival?

We’re looking to expand and find a creative space that can bring together a few kindred souls. Alongside that, we’re working on a new commission which will involve film, guitars and church organs, as well as offering more outreach work, specifically workshops for children with special educational needs.

What can the City Council do to help independent platforms and organisations?

I think the council is under enormous strains, but we’ve always found them welcoming and helpful and we couldn’t really have done as much as we have without their support. The reality is that the arts have always been a tricky proposition; we don’t have a right to public money, but more collaboration and conversation between the council and arts organisations would no doubt be positive.

Tickets available for the weekend here.

Interviewer: Melissa Fawcett.
Images courtesy of Hand Of.


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