Arts & Culture Film, Theatre & TV


  • March 15, 2023
  • 3 min read

RIP Leslie Hardcastle OBE aged 96. He was a founder member and Honorary President of The Soho Society, founder of The Soho Housing Association, and Administrator of Programming for The BFI’s London Film Festival for its first 23 years, following-on from his coming-up with the basic concept of that said festival, as well as the premise for a National Film Theatre on London’s Southbank, which opened as NFT 1 in 1957, alongside the later opening NFT 2 and the Thames-side restaurant. This all traced back to The Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951 on The Southbank, where Leslie administered the NFT’s template as controller of The Telecinema, showing examples of international cinema, which he curated from across the globe, and Europe in particular. Groundbreaking in 1951.

In the 1980’s, he was the deviser-founder-curator of The Museum of the Moving Image aka MOMI, working alongside The National Film Archive’s David Francis. MOMI ran from 1988 till 1999 within what is now The BFI Southbank complex, which itself had rebranded its name from The BFI’s The National Film Theatres in 2007. BAFTA gave Leslie a BAFTA special achievement award for his creation of MOMI. He had been the Controller of Programming at The BFI’s NFT complex since its inception, until the mid 1980’s, later becoming Honorary Chairman of The BFI through to his retirement in the mid 1990s. He also had a monthly radio show on Soho Radio up until last year.

Leslie passed on to the big film studio in the sky at his Soho home this morning. His family flat dates back to Queen Anne’s time, in a building which he himself had saved along with many buildings in what is the oldest part of London’s Soho. A Cordon Bleu Chef, he and his sons had worked at The Savoy. His legendary BFI lunches saw the likes of Bette Davis, Burt Lancaster and Federico Fellini, among numerous directors and stars, being entertained as his guests in his stylish flat with vermillion red walls in the dining room-cum-kitchen.

It was great to be in his company. A man who was always warm hearted, humble, cultured, and kind. He deserves a posthumous BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award surely? It was a huge pleasure to make a radio show with him, and to film some lengthy interviews with him recently too. Leslie Hardcastle will be greatly missed. My thoughts go out to his family and friends. Soho has lost its legendary forefather. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday March 14th 2023

Photo Courtesy of Gaëlle Denis


About Author

Henry Scott Irvine

The published author of Procol Harum's hardback Omnibus Press biography, Henry Scott-Irvine's writing began in the script departments of the British film industry. He continued as a Film & TV 'Music & Arts' researcher. He has a long background in published journalism. A radio producer-presenter since 2009 as well as a producer of the award winning documentary film Tales From Tin Pan Alley. He's a successful campaigner for securing listings and preservation for London's music & film heritage sites.

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