IT’S got 110 films from more than 40 countries and it’s attracting some of the most successful and influential figures in cinema. And, best of all, it’s all happening in Bolton.

The curtain goes up on Bolton Film Festival on October 2 and today NEIL BRANDWOOD chats to visionary founder Adrian Barber.

“There’s a festival in France which has become the biggest short film festival in the world. You get 40,000 people going to that town now, but before the film festival existed it was just a normal, industrial town, a bit like Bolton,” said Adrian, 48.

“There’s no reason why our festival can’t do that for Bolton.”

Although BFF only began last year, it has already been included in the top 100 film festivals in the world on the Film Freeway website.

“Film Freeway is used by all film-makers and they leave feedback, so it was great to know they liked us and like what we are doing” explains Adrian.

The idea for BFF came from his partner partner, Zoe Rothwell.

“She literally ‘saw the light’ when she was cycling past The Light Cinema. She came home and suggested I organise a film festival. My initial response was to reject the idea because it sounded like too much work, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

A graphic design course Adrian studied at college introduced him to photography and then film, and then he was hooked.

Adrian, who grew up in Ainsworth before moving to Bolton as a teenager, began filming wedding videos in his spare time before moving into the world of community arts.

“I then became a social documentary photographer and filmmaker. I would normally work with community arts groups, museums, and organisations like the Arts Council.”

Last year, 57 films were shown over two days at The Light Cinema. This year, the festival will last three days and 110 films will be shown.

The festival will now be spread across five venues: The Albert Halls, Neo Artist Gallery, The Light Cinema, Holiday Inn and Bolton Museum and Library. These will host screenings, talks and masterclasses.

“The reason we’ve expanded is to encourage the wider public to come along and engage with some of these free talks. They are not just for industry professionals.

“We’re trying to highlight talent whether it’s a filmmaker, an actor, a writer or those working behind the scenes. We want people to realise that if they’ve got a dream, it’s not unachievable.”

One of the many strengths of the festival is the opportunity to question the film-makers about the film you have just seen.

“It’s having the opportunity to say ‘Where did you get the idea from?’ or “How did you make it?’ or ‘Why did you make it?’. It will be interesting not just for other film-makers in the audience, but for the public too.”

Adrian has visited film festivals around the world and has drawn on his experiences to ensure BFF incorporates ideas that work, as well as being careful to avoid some of the pitfalls he witnessed.

“One of the things that I recognised was how exhausting it was to watch documentaries back-to-back. You don’t do that at home ­— you flick from a comedy, to a drama to a documentary. So that’s how the screenings are organised ­— you will be able to watch an animation, a documentary and a drama. It helps sustain interest and energy so it becomes like a typical night with your feet up, but instead of being at home, you’re in a cinema with a glass of beer.”

Making the festival accessible to everyone is an important goal for Adrian.

“I think people have got a misconception of film festivals. I think they think they are too arty and not for them. But it’s not like that at all. I’m conscious of who lives in this town and I’m not going to bring them something they are not going to enjoy.

“The films we show are very similar to what you’d watch in your day-to- day life, except instead of being 90 minutes long, they’re more like 15 minutes.

“We do show foreign films but, other than the subtitles, they are no more complicated than any other film. And we do screen some experimental films but that part of the festival is in the Neo Artist Gallery where you would expect to see those sort of films.”