Terence Davies paid moving tribute to the BFI London Film Festival’s departing artistic director, Sandra Hebron, at the gala screening of his film “The Deep Blue Sea,” which closed the 55th edition Thursday.

Hebron has stepped down after nine years in charge. She joined the British Film Institute as a programmer in 1997, and become the LFF’s artistic director in 2003. Under her leadership, the fest grew from 120,000 admissions in 2003 to a record high of 133,000 at this year’s event.Introducing his film from the stage of the Odeon Leicester Square, Davies said he first met Hebron in 1992 when she ran Manchester’s Cornerhouse cinema and that ever since, she had been instrumental in finding an audience for his films.

“If the audience is not there, the act (of filmmaking) is not complete,” he said. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Tom Hiddleston, star of “The Deep Blue Sea,” seconded that emotion, saying that Hebron had been the first person in the industry to “give a pat on the back” to his 2007 debut movie “Unrelated” by Joanna Hogg.