Our History

Cheltenham is synonymous with arts festivals starting with Performing Arts (1926), Music (1945), Literary (1949), Jazz (1996), Science (2002), Poetry (2011) and Film (2019). Through the decades, the world’s leading filmmakers, actors, musicians, writers, artists, poets and respected figures from politics, science and even astronauts have come to Cheltenham: Mike Leigh, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dame Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Roger Daltrey, David Attenborough, Prince Charles, Salman Rushdie, Van Morrison, Hilary Clinton, Michael Palin and Bob Geldof, among them.  And, most recently, former British Prime Minister, David Cameron and the singer, Debbie Harry.

The famous and celebrated come to Cheltenham as it is the home of arts festivals in the UK and is known to attract a loyal base of audience from nearby and further afield who have the luxury to choose from among the town’s many hotels to enjoy their stay.

The film festival is founded to give voice to emerging filmmakers and to honour the legacy of cinema by paying tribute to cinema’s great filmmakers. In 2019, the Festival was delighted to welcome and pay tribute to cinema great, Mike Leigh. Education is Integral to the Festival; at the last festival, the organisers introduced a series of master classes, now branded “Open Call”, in the arts & crafts of filmmaking delivered by respected film industry professionals.   In 2020, we shall subsidise a youth film festival alongside the main festival reaching out to young people from hard to reach, marginalised communities of the town.  Attracting and inspiring young people to engage with the best of independent cinema and to consider a career path in film.