The Edinburgh Film Guild was established during 1929-1930 by luminaries of Scottish film and film studies – Forsyth Hardy and Norman Wilson among others. Since that time, the Guild has been a membership-based club where members can watch films not normally shown in mainstream cinemas. Since its inception, the Guild has also had a strong film education component. The Guild is run entirely by volunteers. See our French Cinema Programmes, > Our Screenings 2022-2023 > Our Screenings 2023-2024, for examples of our recent programming.
The Edinburgh Film Guild was based at 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ, from 1978 until the abrupt closure of Filmhouse in early October 2022. We had our own small cinema, office and club rooms within the Filmhouse building. Though the Guild continues to function as a film society and financially solvent charity, we are currently homeless.
The Guild is committed to film education and we have supported many educational initiatives over the years. We have held innumerable mini-seasons, introduced by experts and followed by post-film discussions. We have also held or facilitated a wide range of short courses in the Guild Cinema. These have included many of the University of Edinburgh’s Film and Media in-person short courses, some of which are taught by Guild members. Though we are currently unable to host courses, we have produced a summary of the University of Edinburgh’s Film and Media Short Courses for 2023-2024, which we hope will be useful.
Institut français d’Écosse (French Institute of Scotland)
The Guild entered into a formal partnership with the Institut français d’Ecosse in 2021 and has held several film seasons at the Institut since. Our most recent season, which started in September 2022, saw a large increase in audience size over the previous year, including a number of sold-out screenings. See above ‘Classic French Cinema Programme’, September 2022 to March 2023 (extended to May 2023). A new season of films takes place from October 2023 to March 2024.
We are in the process of writing a comprehensive document on the more than 90-year history of the Guild. We hope to chronicle the efforts and achievements of our predecessors and celebrate the spirit of the film society movement as a whole.
The Edinburgh Film Guild was established during 1929-1930 and is the oldest continuously running film society in the world. John Grierson wrote about the development of the Guild two decades after it was established, “The old London Film Society was the first to break from somewhat exclusive attention to the avant-garde… But it was the Edinburgh Film Guild which completed the movement – as the London Film Society did not – and saw the infinite variety of a Film Society’s obligations to all categories of the medium”.
Edinburgh International Film Festival
Our predecessors at the Edinburgh Film Guild established the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1947, first called the International Festival of Documentary Films. The first film festival was opened by John Grierson and ran alongside the official international Festival. Over the years, the Festival expanded to include feature films and experimental films as well as documentaries. The Guild “continued to be responsible for [the Festival’s] existence until the 1970s when the size of the annual event made its organisation on a voluntary basis impractical (quote from the Guild Programme 1986-1987).” The 31st Festival of 1977 was the last to be registered at the Edinburgh Film Guild’s Film House address (3 Randolph Crescent EH3 7TJ). In 1978 the registered office transferred to the newly opened Filmhouse (88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9B). The Festival, the longest continually-running film festival in the world, celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022.
The Guild was one of the key partners in establishing Filmhouse in 1978, alongside the Scottish Film Council, British Film Institute and City of Edinburgh Council. As part of this, the Guild invested in the purchase and development of the building at 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9B. Film House, the name of various Guild premises since the 1940s, would be recycled to become Filmhouse. (See: ‘Edinburgh’s original Filmhouse’) Mounting debt, amongst other factors, led to the abrupt closure of Filmhouse on the 6th of October 2020. The Guild participated in an unsuccessful attempt to save the Filmhouse building in late 2022.
The Guild and the Film Society movement
For an excellent overview of the early days of the film society movement, the establishment of the Guild, and the pivotal contribution to Scottish film culture of Forsyth Hardy (co-founder of the Guild and the Festival) see ’A bit of History: Philip French on the Edinburgh Film Guild at the time of its 75th anniversary in 2004’ It was written by the much-loved ‘Observer’ film critic Philip French (1933–2015) who was a great friend to the Guild.
90th Anniversary: Civic Reception
The City of Edinburgh Councillor Gillian Gloyer spoke in 2019 about the Edinburgh Film Guild’s contribution to the city’s cultural life over nine decades. The Lord Provost and other councillors agreed to hold a civic reception to mark the Guild’s 90th Season. (See: Council to throw a spotlight on the Edinburgh Film Guild, By Phyllis Stephen, The Edinburgh Reporter, 25 October 2019)
Formal Objectives and Status
“To encourage the study and advancement of the Art of the film, to foster public appreciation and study of it and to endeavour to increase public interest in the progressive applications of film.” (The Guild Memorandum of Association, March 1953)
The Edinburgh Film Guild is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in Scotland. Scottish Charity Number SC041851.