Doc’n Roll’s first ever audience award has been claimed by Free Party: A Folk History, Aaron Trinder’s fascinating look at the UK’s free party movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Launched this year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the UK’s music documentary festival, the Doc’n Roll Audience Award provided an opportunity for everyone attending screenings in London and across 12 other UK cities to cast ballots for their favourites among the 25 feature-length films premiered in 2023.

The award, say Doc’n Roll co-directors and founders Colm Forde and Vanessa Lobon, marks an opportunity for festival-goers to share their views on the wide range of documentaries that Doc’n Roll brings to the UK’s big screens.

“We were very happy to see the level of engagement in this audience award, which highlights the great taste of the Doc’n Roll audience, their willingness to experiment beyond their comfort zones and discover new scenes, sounds and artists via documentaries – and their understanding of what makes a great documentary, too,” Lobon and Forde said.

Trinder: 'humbled' to be honoured

Acknowledging the honour, Free Party director Aaron Trinder said: “I’m Incredibly humbled to discover the amazing news that our film has been awarded Doc’n Roll’s first annual Audience Award! With so many other amazing films being shown as part of the festival, it really is astonishing to me that this entirely independent project has been chosen!

Trinder added: “In some ways, as it is a ‘folk history’, it feels particularly poetic to receive this honour from the people themselves. The responses at our screenings all across the country have been, to be honest, mind-blowing. Hearing people’s comments, reviews and thoughts on the film really makes the many many challenges we’ve had making it, all worthwhile. Thanks so much to everyone for supporting our project and for voting for us – it makes all the difference!! BIG UP YOURSELF! You’ve MADE SOME FXXING NOISE!!”

Free Party: A Folk History played to multiple sell-out houses in London, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh, Hastings, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Totnes, and drew large crowds in Cardiff, Derby, Glasgow, Newcastle and Stockport.

A filmic tribute to the unexpected coming-together of new age travellers and urban rave kids, Free Party spotlights events such as the unprecedented and infamous Castlemorton festival of 1992 and its organisers, and chronicles the swift repercussions of the Tories’ 1994 Criminal Justice Bill, via the recollections of people who were there and lived it, including members of Spiral Tribe, DiY, Circus Warp and Bedlam Sound Systems.

Treen's Session Man draws applause

The Session Man: Nicky Hopkins, directed by Michael Treen, drew the second highest number of votes in the Doc’n Roll Audience Award 2023.

Treen’s acclaimed documentary on the life and work of keyboard player Hopkins, who collaborated with musical giants including all four Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who and was instrumental in shaping some of those artists’ greatest songs, opened Doc’n Roll Music Festival 2023 with a gala screening at the Barbican.

A number of other documentaries were rated highly by the hundreds of Doc’n Roll festival-goers who voted this year.

They included Don’t Ever Stop: Tony De Vit, Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill (winner of this year’s Jury Award for Documentary of the Year), Born Innocent: The Redd Kross Story, TLC Forever, Hung Up On A Dream: The Zombies, Storm Heaven: Trampolene, Blues Run the Game: The Strange Tale of Jackson C. Frank, Don Lewis and the Live Electronic Orchestra, Even Hell Has its Heroes: Earth, Mutiny in Heaven: The Birthday Party, The Skids: Revolution, and Still Working 9 to 5.

The last word: Doc'n Rollers on the docs that got their votes

“Absolutely brilliant and a much needed coverage of a scene that rocked thousands. It had my footage in it of Spiral Tribe getting nicked at Castlemorton. I hadn’t seen that in over 30 years!” – Neil, London

“A fantastic documentary, really capturing the time, energy and culture in an accessible way for all, not just the people who were there.” – Andy, Brighton

“An important part of social history that hadn’t been told before. Compassionate and beautifully told.” – Sara, London

“So evocative of a time period and the madness that went alongside it. Felt like I was still living it when I left the cinema.” – Alan, Glasgow

“It captured the time well. We need some more of that feeling of connection for sure.” – Geza, Cardiff

“Folk history at its finest and most important. We need to remember and sometimes be reminded of just how powerful this movement was and still is. Thanks for that.” – Sally, Nottingham


“I loved it because it was about my late husband, who truly was a musical genius, and this film shone a spotlight on his achievements, which are very well deserved!” – Moira Hopkins, Ardrossan

“Just wow! Nicky Hopkins, the man, the legend. I was just musing to myself at one point how, in fact, one man was quietly responsible for the majority of the magic of an era of exceptional music and the very next item was that he had been Chopin. Made total sense to me… An unsung hero of maestrodom and rock legendary folklore and music history from the mouths of the best of the best. It doesn't get better than that! And who knew? The greats! And now, so do we thanks to The Session Man!” – Katy, East Grinstead

“Inspirational life of an unsung, or at least not-sung-enough-about, hero!!!” – Frank, London

“I had no idea who Nicky Hopkins was and, having seen this wonderful documentary, I am awestruck how unbelievably talented he was and delighted that I had the opportunity of seeing this film.” – Caroline, London

“What a quite splendid obituary for my colleague, musician and friend... Your splendid film captured the time Nicky had, how he made the world and just a few records, even better. He was a low-key guy who graced our world and era with his musical mind, a quite enormous talent, unaware really of his own much loved stature. Your beautiful film stands as a remarkable testament to Nicky Hopkins. Well done.” – Alan, Hertfordshire


“Emotional and gripping the whole way through. Shone a light on a great man, his kindness shone through. Thank you x” – Adam, Stourport-on-Severn

“Absolutely amazing, thank you to Stuart Pollitt for making this film. I cried the whole way through.” – Leanne, Leicester


“This film captured something really special and important here, something much bigger than we know, about that life force that came through in her music.” – Jayne, London


“Found out about a band that I hadn’t heard of before, and that I now love, thanks to a really well-told story.” – James, Chislehurst


“Gave everything a doc should give: footage from way back that was never seen, balanced screen time for each member, true insight into why certain songs were written and what lyrics meant, in-depth background to the artists creating a feeling of connection to them and the film. I walked out of there feeling deeply emotionally moved and richer for having experienced it.” – Belle, London