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Bathgate graduate launches West Lothian Film Festival

Posted: 11th July 2024

Christopher McPhillips, a BA (Hons) Film and Media student who graduated from Queen Margaret University (QMU) in July, has received an award of £2,250 to launch the annual West Lothian Film Festival, which will be making its debut in July this year.

Made possible by an extended partnership between QMU and Santander Universities, the inaugural festival will take place on the 20th and 21st July 2024 at the Vue cinema in Livingston, with many of the films produced by QMU students and graduates, or filmed at the University itself.

This festival, which was born from the dreams of its film enthusiast founder with a passion to transform his idea into a tangible reality, aims to embody Christopher’s commitment to bridging the gap between aspiring filmmakers and the enthusiastic audiences who welcome a new cultural experience.

Thirty-nine-year-old Christopher said: “The West Lothian Film Festival will offer a cinematic experience to be remembered, bringing drama, creativity, and local connections together. It serves as a rallying point for filmmakers and residents alike – a celebration of the power of silver screen storytelling.

“Being from Bathgate myself, I know the significantly positive impact events like these will have on West Lothian and its residents, and this honestly wouldn’t have been made possible without the support I received from Queen Margaret University and the extra stability that was invested in me by Santander Universities.

“The fund allowed me to organise the venue, source the judging panel and other volunteers, initiate the marketing, and so much more. I’m proud that our festival can now be the platform that has been yearned for in West Lothian for so long.”

Each year since 2007, Santander has donated funds accumulating to more than £1.5 million to its inaugural partner, Queen Margaret University, to help with student success and progression.

The main aim of the partnership is to provide support for students who are most likely to face challenges when attending higher education. Santander’s support focuses on education, employability and entrepreneurship – helping to fund student start-ups, scholarships, internships and international educational experiences.

Not having the necessary grades to apply for university while at school, Christopher decided to return to education in 2021, driven by his new-found love of film production, encouragement from his wife (who was also a QMU graduate), and the desire to inspire his newborn daughter.

He decided to study Marketing Communications at West Lothian College, which then allowed him to directly transfer into the second year of the BA (Hons) Film and Media course at Queen Margaret University – providing him with new skills and a renewed drive to progress his dreams. It was there that he cultivated the idea for a festival in his local area that would celebrate the world of film. When one of his University lecturers informed him of the possible support available from the Santander Universities’ Fund, he could visualise his dreams turning into reality. His application was successful, and after a lot of hard work, Christopher’s plans for the first West Lothian Film festival began to take shape.

Thomas Kelly, Head of Development and Alumni at Queen Margaret University, said: “Our partnership with Santander Universities is key to enhancing the opportunities our students receive whilst at QMU. This support will not only help Christopher to achieve one of his ambitions but will also allow the people of West Lothian to enjoy a new cultural festival within their area. I’d like to thank Santander Universities for their continued support, and I wish the best of luck to Christopher – we are looking forward to seeing what you go on to achieve.”

On the day of Christopher’s graduation from QMU, he celebrated with his family and classmates at an impressive ceremony held in Edinburgh’s beautiful Usher Hall, attended by QMU’s Chancellor and TV presenter Dame Prue Leith CBE. Christopher was one of 1300 students who graduated in person from Queen Margaret University across three ceremonies in July.

Matt Farnham, a lecturer at West Lothian College who Christopher has asked to be a judge at the event, said: “For years, I have wanted to offer West Lothian the opportunity to showcase its creativity to the world. As an educator, you want nothing more than to inspire your students; I just didn’t realise how inspired Christopher would be. To be invited to judge the competition is an absolute honour, and I cannot wait to see entries from across the globe. I know that every film entry has had thousands of hours of love poured into it, and I cannot wait to get started.”

Find out more about the West Lothian Film Festival, visit: https://westlothianfilmfestival.scot/

Find out more about the Santander Universities fund, visit: www.qmu.ac.uk/alumni-and-friends/funding-opportunities-for-students/santander-universities-enterprise-fund-guidelines

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