Article: REACH: Strategic Audience Development

A beige background with circles of different colours dotted around. Large grey text in the middle reads: REACH Strategic Audience Development. Smaller grey text around the image reads: build your expertise in attracting cinema audiences.

BFI FAN Training Course – Open to all FAN members across the UK

Want to grow the audience for your venue? Find ways to bring in people who have never been before? Or diversify the types of people who regularly attend?

REACH: Strategic Audience Development is a workshop-based, project-driven training programme for BFI Film Audience Network members from across the UK who want to build on their expertise in growing and diversifying audiences.

Delivered by leading industry professionals, REACH can make a real impact on your cinema or film festival’s ability to attract new audiences, encourage them to explore independent film and keep them coming back. As you develop a real-life project at your venue or festival, you’ll benefit from several months of tailored support from an advisor.

REACH 2024 will be delivered over six months, with one workshop in London on 5-7 March 2024, project work from March to September 2024, and finishing with an in-person workshop in Nottingham.

This is a UK-wide opportunity open to BFI FAN members from all Film Hubs. Find your local film hub here.

REACH was created by the ICO. This 4th edition of the course is funded by the BFI Film Audience Network.

What does the course cover?

The programme has been designed especially for independent film exhibitors (including cinemas, film festivals and community screens), looking closely at:

  • How to understand, research and build audiences
  • Delivering practical projects that produce clear results
  • Bringing new audiences to a wider range of films
  • Engaging audiences from diverse backgrounds
  • Encouraging public participation and inclusion
  • Making use of your resources to achieve goals

Programme structure

Module 1 – Audience Development Forum
(5 – 7 March 2024, BFI Stephen Street, London)

Three days of workshops, presentations and case studies to help participants develop a greater understanding of their organisation and the current cinema audience landscape. Participants will be encouraged to use pioneering audience development success stories as the springboard for their own projects. This section of the course is led by experts with a proven track record of working with venues and festivals facing all kinds of audience challenges and with high aspirations.

Module 2 – Project Delivery
(March – September 2024, in your organisations)

Having designed an Audience Development Project, participants will be matched to an expert advisor to help them implement their plans over the course of several months.

Examples of previous REACH projects include:

  • A new weekly Sunday Film Club based in a mixed arts venue to establish a new audience for cinema
  • Using social media to grow young audiences for an arthouse venue by introducing new branding
  • Increasing accessibility in the venue for groups living with Autism and Dementia
  • Increasing young audiences by introducing a new strand programmed by a young programmer
  • Establishing a new network of partnerships between venues in rural areas
  • Engaging family audiences with children aged 7 – 12 who do not attend film events at the venue, but do attend other activities
  • Establishing a community hub for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the city around film screenings and workshops
  • Hosting a commercially successful two-day festival to generate a new audience for the regular programming strands
Module 3 – Mid-Point Sessions
(June 2024, online via Zoom)

A day of online sessions to provide you with the opportunity to discuss your progress so far, and help work through any roadblocks you may have come across.

Module 4 – Seminar Day and Exit Sessions
(September 2024, Nottingham, venue TBC)

Participants will present their projects to their peers, with feedback workshops and discussion groups formed from these findings. Participants will have a final advisory session with their matched advisor and case studies will be posted online.

Session topics (more to be announced)

Landscape of film exhibition

The first session in the programme will set the stage for the course by providing an overview of the current state of the exhibition sector. You can look forward to a detailed analysis of data from the past few years, which will offer valuable learnings that can be applied to your audience development project.

Audience research and evaluation

You can’t develop your audiences if you aren’t aware of who your audience currently is. Kerry Radden (Associate Director at Indigo) will share insights to help your organisation become more data-driven and knowledgeable about the people who come into your venue, enabling your development work to be more tailored and effective.

Audience segmentation

It can be difficult to target your audience effectively if you look at them as one homogenous group, so this session is designed to show you methods of breaking down your audiences and enabling you to target them more effectively as a result.

Membership programmes

Membership programmes can be a great way to encourage your most invested audiences to visit your venue more frequently. This session will look at a practical example of how these schemes can be implemented in independent cinemas.

Digital accessibility

Whilst the majority of cinemas have now introduced an online box office system, many struggle to make their websites accessible to everyone — limiting audience reach and potentially alienating prospective visitors to your venue. Caspian Turner (Director of Accessible by Design) will show you ways to ensure that every stage of your audience experience is as accessible as possible, expanding your potential audience base and enhancing overall satisfaction.

Speakers (announced so far)

Catharine Des Forges

Director, Independent Cinema Office

Catharine has spent over 20 years working in the exhibition sector for a variety of organisations including the BFI and Arts Council England. She has worked as a freelance programmer and arts consultant and progammed for festivals and cinemas both in the UK and internationally. Catharine founded the ICO in 2003 and has been its Director ever since.

David Sin

Head of Cinemas, Independent Cinema Office

Over the past 25 years, David has worked as a Programmer, Consultant and Distributor, on occasions two or three of these at the same time. From 1998-2002, he was Director of Cinema at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) where he programmed an award-winning season of Japanese experimental film, increased admissions by 100% and also made a success of the ICA’s cutting edge distribution company; releasing over 40 films including Ring, A One and a Two and Kandahar.

Caspian Turner

Director, Accessible by Design

Caspian Turner is a digital accessibility specialist and director of Accessible by Design. Accessible by Design is a digital accessibility consultancy working with arts and cultural organisations in Europe and North America. Before starting Accessible by Design, Caspian held in-house roles at Glyndebourne and Southbank Centre. Following this he was a Web Implementation Specialist at Tessitura Network and most recently held the post of Head of Strategy and Consulting at Substrakt. Caspian is a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals and an accredited Web Accessibility Specialist.

Kerry Radden

Associate Director, Indigo

Kerry is Associate Director at Indigo, leading on audience-centred projects across the cultural sector. Indigo is a team of audience specialists, driving strategy through audience insight. Kerry has over 20 years of marketing experience, gained predominantly in the arts and charity sector. For over a decade, she ran her own marketing and brand consultancy, working with cultural organisations and charities to design audience and business strategies. Her previous in-house roles included senior marketing and insight roles at Battersea Arts Centre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Kerry holds the Market Research Society Advanced Certificate in Market and Social Research and a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. She loves supporting organisations to become more effectively data-driven and audience-centred in their programming and marketing and to help them communicate with confidence and clarity.


We have delivered four successful editions of REACH. Since running the course, 100% of participants have said:

  • attending REACH had a practical and positive impact on their working practices
  • they would recommend the course to others
  • they considered the course to be good value for money

As a result of the new approach to audience development which REACH directly informed, we are currently on track to meet our increased admission targets – despite new cost of living pressures – as well as shift the cinema’s audience demographics to be more representative of our local community. – Ollie Jenkins, Hyde Park Picture House

REACH supported me in developing a strategic and clear plan for Deaf audience development, a model which has successfully resulted in 100% of our screenings being accessible to Deaf audiences, our marketing clearly communicating our access provision and sustained addressing of the historic trust issues Deaf audiences have with the sector.
Sean Welsh, Matchbox Cine

Who is this course for?

Applicants must have at least 1 – 2 years experience working in the film exhibition sector (e.g. a cinema or film festival), should have the ability to effect change and have the authority to instigate or have agreed sign off from senior management in their venue or festival to instigate an audience development project in their venue.

You must work for an organisation that is a member of the BFI Film Audience Network. Find your local film hub here. Participant data may be passed on to the course funder, BFI Film Audience Network, for monitoring purposes.


To apply, please complete the application form below:

REACH: Strategic Audience Development Application Form

The deadline for applications is Wednesday 24 January 2024. Applicants will be informed of decisions no later than Friday 2 February 2024.

The course fee is £800 (see information about bursaries below). If you are unable to pay the full fees before the course starts, please let us know and we may be able to agree a staggered payment plan.

If you have any queries about your application or the course, please contact:


A limited number of bursaries of up to £500 are available to individuals working for not-for-profit organisations (priority will be given to venues with an annual turnover of less than £400,000) to help cover fees. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please complete the additional form as part of the application process.

Remember that many of the Film Hubs will be able to offer exhibitors bursary support for training. Please ensure that you have contacted your local Film Hub to apply for support in advance of your application to this course.

If you are successful, your organisation will need to pay the remaining fees to confirm your place, so please ensure you have funds in place.

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