Last night was not only the climax of this year’s BFI London Film Festival, it was also the last time outgoing artistic director, Sandra Hebron, would come onto the stage to introduce a film.

Sandra Hebron with Terence Davies at LFF 2011 closing night

Sandra Hebron with Terence Davies at LFF 2011 closing night

When BFI head Amanda Nevill introduced Hebron there was a standing ovation in the cinema (Nevill compared her to Joan of Arc at one point). Hebron thanked everyone: including the filmmakers, production companies, the organisers, the audience, as well as all the well-wishers, revealing she received copious numbers of emails and Tweets (there was a campaign to get #hebronrules to trend on Thursday). “This also means that from tomorrow I have to learn how to Tweet”, she noted. (Actually, her next career move is into psychotherapy … and at the closing night party there were a number of film execs who noted they might need her services on that side of life too.)

When Terence Davis came to the stage to introduce his closing night film The Deep Blue Sea, he immediately took her hand and said that the two of them first met in 1992 but today “she is still as beautiful and chic as she was back then”. Davies thanked her personally for her support and on behalf of all the filmmmakers championed by her over the years, declaring “I would like to raise a metaphorical glass of champagne to you.” With the audience once again descending into a big round of applause, Davies finished with words taken straight from Bogart: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

There were real, not metaphorical, glasses (of not champagne, at least of some sort of Jacob’s Creek fizzyness) raised to her at the closing night gala, held at One Marylebone, where celebrations continued until after 1 am.

And in addition to toasting Hebron, there was another reason for the LFF to celebrate last night: This year’s festival sold a record 133,000 tickets, up from 132,000 last year.