Uniting communities through Cinema

467. Sally Wilton (London)

A business woman founded the UK’s first social enterprise cinema, creating a hub for her local community while supporting a village in South Africa.

Sally Wilton was inspired to create a cinema in her local community in Kensal Rise when the area was hit by a tornado in 2006 and she was amazed by the community spirit shown by residents. She was visiting a project in South Africa when she heard of the news and was inspired to find a way to give back to the community she loved while helping those in South Africa. A life-long film fan, cinema was Sally’s first choice for a way to realise her vision, so after selling her business, in 2008 Sally used a substantial sum of her own personal funds to set up the Lexi Cinema.

As a social enterprise, 100% of the Lexi’s profits are donated to charity and it is staffed almost entirely by passionate local volunteers. The cinema is partnered with The Sustainability Institute which is the project Sally visited in South Africa. This pioneering sustainable living and learning centre focuses on projects to support children and their families in Lynedoch Village in the Stellenbosch region. As well as providing school meals so children aren’t too hungry to learn, supporting a creche and developing solar power and water management systems for the village the project also runs after school clubs to keep vulnerable teenagers occupied including filmmaking.

The local community in Kensal Rise are so supportive of the Lexi that there is a waiting list of nearly 50 volunteers waiting to join it’s team of 60. Sally has built such a strong bond between Kensal Rise and Lynedoch Village that her North West London neighbours have also started to travel out to South Africa and volunteer directly with the community they are supporting. Sally has continued to look for innovative ways to expand the project and in 2010 added The Nomad – London’s first wandering cinema. The team bring a festival atmosphere and immersive experience to their pop-up events and with all Nomad profits also going to The Sustainability Initiative they have raised even more money for Lynedoch Village.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“With The Lexi Cinema, Sally has created a fantastic hub for her local community which has inspired hundreds of people to give their time to volunteer. The huge amount of money the cinema has helped to raise is also making a real difference to communities in South Africa through The Sustainability Institute. I am delighted to recognise Sally as the UK’s 467th Point of Light.”

Sally Wilton said:

I am honoured to accept this award which l do on behalf of my fabulous management team and wonderful volunteers. Without them we could never make the difference that we do both within our local community and in South Africa.

Local MP, Tulip Siddiq said:

“Sally is an inspiration to so many and fully merits the Points of Light award from the Prime Minister. The Lexi Cinema provides a template for aspiring social entrepreneurs everywhere, showing how the passions of local residents can be utilised for humanitarian purposes. Sally’s personal drive and selflessness underpins an incredible success story, with projects in South Africa transforming children’s’ lives and the dozens of committed volunteers providing a treasured service in Kensal Rise. The Lexi is an institution I’m hugely proud to say belongs in Hampstead and Kilburn, and I want to wish Sally my sincerest congratulations for this deserved accolade.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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