BFI London Film Festival announces dual London cultural hubs on the Southbank and in the West End

The 2021 edition sees a new partnership with the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, while UK-wide screenings return with venue partners across the country and virtual premieres return to BFI Player.

8 June 2021

The BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express has today announced a new structure for this year’s edition. Alongside flagship venue BFI Southbank, a new partnership with the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall will make London’s Southbank the heart of the film festival experience, with this iconic cultural neighbour hosting red carpet gala premieres.

Other London venue partners will return with the West End remaining a key hub for the festival’s film programme. This year’s LFF will bring back some of the most popular elements of 2020’s hugely successful hybrid edition that made it the most accessible festival ever, with a selected programme available at UK-wide cinema partners and a broad range of films from the programme screening on BFI Player alongside the in-cinema premieres. Again in 2021, special events and Screen Talks will be available digitally to audiences internationally.

In 2020, LFF announced an expansion of public programming to include artists working across different forms – from series television to VR – with a successful first edition of our LFF Expanded strand of XR and immersive art delivered digitally for the hybrid LFF 2020. LFF Expanded will once again be available across the UK and internationally via our virtual exhibition space, The Expanse, with the details of a major physical exhibition in London to be announced soon.

Following the high profile inclusion in 2020 of two works from Steve McQueen’s historic Small Axe series for BBC, the full LFF Series programme will be launched this year with 8 to 10 brand new international series receiving premieres at the festival, and including a high profile red carpet event for a major new show. Programming will spotlight the diversity of episodic filmmaking, from high end television to indie web series. 

BFI London Film Festival Director, Tricia Tuttle says: “Despite many challenges and restrictions, last year allowed us to work in new ways with important cultural cinemas around the UK, and also take festival films to audiences outside of London via BFI Player, so I am delighted to bring these elements into our model for this year. We’re also raring to get back to the large scale live festival in London, and what better way to do this than launch a new partnership with our legendary neighbours at the Southbank Centre, with the iconic and beautiful Royal Festival Hall becoming home to our galas. And with our dual hubs on Southbank and in the West End, we look forward to BFI London Film Festival playing a big part in London’s cultural recovery as the capital’s arts venues, festivals and night life bloom again.” 

Elaine Bedell, Chief Executive of The Southbank Centre, said: “We’re so pleased to be partnering with the BFI to host the 65th BFI London Film Festival in October. We’re busy reopening for the summer and planning for the autumn, bringing much-needed culture and entertainment back to the Southbank Centre. As a multi-arts centre we’re delighted to be able to host this important film festival in the Royal Festival Hall, which is a key cultural event in London.”

The Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall

Royal Festival Hall, a major international performance venue housed within the Southbank Centre, will host both the opening and closing night galas as well as 8 headline galas and a number of major special presentations across the 12 days of the festival.

BFI Southbank

The historic BFI Southbank will become the prestige home for LFF’s competitive strands: Official Competition, First Feature Competition and Documentary Competition and will also house exciting new international TV and series filmmaking, shown exclusively on the big screen. 

LFF Screen Talks will also return in venue and in virtual format with national and international access, giving audiences multiple ways to view the world’s most exciting and influential creators taking part in career conversations. 

All of the BFI Southbank public spaces will be enlivened with diverse, vibrant free programming. LFF for Free will offer a cornucopia of events, ranging from talks to DJ nights to short film screenings and book launches, all giving audiences opportunities to join in debate and dialogue around important themes and issues, many emerging from films showcased in the programme. 

UK-wide cinema screening partner venues

The LFF’s in-cinema physical screenings for the festival will be hosted at a number of partner venues in the West End as well as 8 cinemas around the UK that include: Broadway (Nottingham), Chapter (Cardiff), Glasgow Film (Glasgow), HOME (Manchester), Queens Film Theatre (Belfast), Showroom (Sheffield), Tyneside (Newcastle) and Watershed (Bristol). As in 2020, the LFF is working closely with the venues to offer audiences a great range of new programming with up to 12 exclusive previews from the festival.  

LFF digital programme

Presented via BFI Player, this year’s at home offering will include a wide selection of festival films with each scheduled to premiere at a particular time and include additional elements such as exclusive Q&As with filmmaking talent and programmers. Many of the films will include close captions and audio description. Short films from around the world will also be free to view and a programme of XR and immersive works will also be presented, with projects which can be experienced in a variety of ways online, with and without headsets.

The film and XR programmes will be complemented by a wide range of digital talks and events which will be free to access, and a free online awards ceremony on the final day of the festival.

Industry programme

The LFF will once again present a rich industry programme for UK and international delegates. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Dates for your diary

Submissions for film and expanded platform works for considerations are open until Thursday 17 June 2021, 17.00 BST.

The LFF programme launch will take place on Tuesday 7 September, 2021.

Tickets go on sale 20 September. BFI Members book early.

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