London Film Festival Director receives honorary award

A leading figure in the UK film industry has received an honorary doctorate from Edge Hill University today (20th July) for her contribution to national cinema.

Sandra Hebron, who until recently was the Artistic Director of Festivals at the British Film Institute (BFI) including the prestigious London Film Festival, left on an all-time high when her nine-year reign coincided with the rising popularity of the event, making it an international success.

Her honorary award is in recognition of her links with the north-west, the significant contribution she has made to UK cinema and her commitment to arts broadcasting and film writing. Listen to her interview here.

Speaking after her ceremony, Sandra said: “I’d like to thank the University – it is a particular pleasure to receive this honour here in the north-west, where I first learned the art and craft of being a film programmer.”

Sandra was born and brought up in Yorkshire and after taking her degree in Communication Studies at Sheffield Polytechnic, she started her career as an academic in cultural studies.

Her involvement with film programming and curating began in Manchester at Cornerhouse, the city’s major centre for film and the visual arts. Under her tenure they launched VIVA! Festival of New Spanish Cinema.

Sandra then moved to the British Film Institute in 1997 and transferred many of the themes honed in the regional context of the north-west to London. In 2003 she was made Artistic Director of the BFI London Film Festival, now the UK’s largest public film event, screening more than 300 feature films, documentaries and shorts from almost 50 countries. Her innovation, creativity and curatorial stance has also helped to foster a new generation of culturally engaged UK cinema.

So what does it take to make it in the industry? Sandra’s advice is: “Students graduating today have gained qualifications from a University that has important links with the region’s media and cultural industries. If you’re talented and motivated you can succeed. Those who shine will always find opportunities.

“I don’t know anyone who has achieved in a field that they don’t find fulfilling or rewarding. This is what will energise you and drive you forward, helping you to be the best that you can be.”

After spending a number of years on the red carpet with the likes of George Clooney, Madonna, Jude Law, Scarlet Johansson and David Morrissey, Sandra is now in training to become a psychotherapist.

Talking about her career change, Sandra said: “It seems like quite a big shift but is very similar. Working in the film industry is all about relationships and it’s very similar when building therapeutic relationships with a client. This is the next career step for me as this is where my curiosity is driving me towards.”