Film Hub Wales (FHW) and the Wales Council for Deaf People (WCDP) are working with seven Welsh cinemas, to establish D/deaf volunteer groups who will help to improve cinema experiences for audiences with hearing loss, in their local communities.
The seven venues include The Torch Theatre (Milford Haven), The Maxime (Blackwood), Galeri (Caernarfon), Magic Lantern (Tywyn) Neuadd Dwyfor (Pwllheli), Chapter (Cardiff), and Theatr Gwaun (Fishguard). After participating in training with the WCDP, to explore how to meet the needs of cinema audiences with hearing loss, the organisations are putting exciting new activities in place.
With funding support from FHW, each venue will work with WCDP to connect with local D/deaf audiences, to form volunteer groups who can share their personal experiences of visiting the cinema and help to shape future activities.
Louise Sweeney from the Wales Council for Deaf People explains: “D/deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing people face accessibility issues and are often reluctant to visit cinemas because of this. Knowing that their experience will be improved at cinemas involved in this programme, with staff receiving D/deaf and Deafblind awareness training, Sign language training and venues becoming more Deaf friendly is a welcome and encouraging sign to the D/deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.”
At Galeri, Caernafon, in addition to working with the North Wales Deaf Association and Gwynedd Deaf Club, a 16-year-old Deaf student will work with the venue to create more accessible BSL marketing materials.
Galeri Caernarfon explain: “We strive to make Galeri a diverse, welcoming environment by programming subtitled screenings, and investing in Makaton training and BSL qualifications for our staff. We are also thrilled to be working with a young, local Deaf person to create BSL video content for our venue, not only to ensure that Galeri is an inclusive venue for all audiences, but also encourage and inspire others to do the same.”
In Tywyn, The Magic Lantern are inviting local Deafblind people and their families into the cinema for an open day, to explore the spaces and meet the staff, who will also be taking part in BSL training.
Annie Grundy from the Magic Lantern explains: “Our team prides itself on the welcome we give our audience, both local and visiting, so being able to convey that welcome to all visitors is really important to us. We know that we have a lot more to learn. We want to continue with BSL training and we need to explore more in terms of technologies to help us be more accessible, so step by step… we’ll keep going. After all, building and expanding audiences is always going to be key to our long-term survival.”
The project was set up by Film Hub Wales as a result of feedback from cinemas, D/deaf creatives and audiences themselves. Through the Inclusive Cinema project, which FHW lead on behalf of the BFI FAN network, the Film Distributor’s Association (FDA) will offer a selection of key films with suitable formats, which the eight venues will be able to access.
Hana Lewis, Film Hub Wales’ Strategic Manager, explains: “Cinemas offering film screenings for D/deaf communities can encounter barriers such as funding to update kit, lack of films with accessible formats, or enough notice to market the film. Our partnership with the FDA and WCDP aims to support cinemas, whilst also ensuring that D/deaf cinemagoers can access the latest independent films and offer direct feedback about their experiences.
This project is made possible thanks National Lottery funding from the BFI (British Film Institute), via its Film Audience Network (FAN). Film Hub Wales develop audiences for British independent and international film year-round, funds in Wales are administered by FHW via Chapter as the Film Hub Lead Organisation.
- The Torch Theatre in Milford Haven will build on their existing relationships in the county with community support groups: Sign and Share and PAVS. They plan to offer front of house volunteers training to support accessibility for audiences and work with WCDP to seek out further D/deaf communities.
They run two subtitled screenings each week, coming up next is Cyrano on Wednesday 30th March and The Phantom of the Open on Thursday 7th April.
- The Maximein Blackwood currently screen subtitled performances twice a week, each Sunday and Wednesday. They want to build on the success of their supportive environment screenings by reaching out to local community groups.Their next subtitled screening will be The Phantom of the Open on Wednesday 30th March.
- Galeri, Caernarfon run 3 films per week, on Monday evenings, a Thursday matinee and relaxed screenings with subtitles on Saturday mornings for family audiences.They are working with a 16 year old Deaf student, to create BSL marketing videos, including welcome and introductory messages for use in the building and online. They also hope to work with the North Wales Deaf Association and the Gwynedd Deaf Club, meeting groups in person where possible, really getting to know their audiences.Upcoming screenings include The Phantom of the Open running from 28th – 31st March.
- TheMagic Lantern in Tywyn will run at least two screening per month with additional films for families during the summer holidays. Special events will include an open day on May 7th, inviting deafblind audiences and their families to explore the cinema and meet the staff, who will also be taking part in BS training. From this they plan to form a volunteer group to help shape a further two special events and update their website.Their next screening is The Duke 28th and 31st March.
- Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli - Following significant renovations to the building, including a new accessible ground floor toilet, seating in the balcony and auditorium and coffee bar in the foyer, the cinema reopened on the 10th March.
Keep an eye on the cinema’s website for details on their upcoming film screenings for D/deaf audiences.
- Chapter in Cardiff are working with Cardiff Deaf Club to form a committee of D/deaf people for a new programme of monthly film screenings in 2022. The film will be followed by an interpreted discussion in the Cinema Foyer. They are also working Deaf artist, Jonny Cotsen on ‘Hear We Are’ a new two-year R&D project that will address access to creative production for Deaf artists and communities. Upcoming screenings include The Phantom of the Open which is running until Thursday 31st March.
- Theatr Gwaun in Fishguard will run a monthly screening, working to establish a group led by local deaf / HOH people interested in helping to develop cinema at the Theatr. They will also explore new partnerships with organisations such as Pembrokeshire based Sign and Share. Keep an eye on the cinema’s website for details on their upcoming film screenings for D/deaf audiences.