Case Study: Playback Virtual Film Festival


We put a call out for young people across Northern Ireland aged 16 - 26 to participate in an event management course over 4 weeks in partnership with LUMI, Reimagine, Remake, Replay (RRR) and Zeppo Arts. This was delivered throughout April/May via zoom with a slack channel running parallel to check-in between workshop sessions. The workshops gave an overview of event management, branding and marketing, programming and producing a film festival online. Sessions were delivered by staff from Queen's Film Theatre (QFT), RRR and Zeppo Arts with presentations and case studies as well as group zoom sessions throughout April. Communication continued throughout May via slack to coordinate marketing and branding ideas, programming, workshops and ideas for a panel discussion as part of the festival.

Project aims

  • Meaningfully engage with young people aged 16 - 26

  • Develop audiences outside of Belfast

  • Provide a platform for young people to have an authentic voice/take the lead

  • Deepen participants knowledge and understanding of film exhibition as well as event management

  • Give participants an understanding of varying factors when planning virtual vs in person events

  • Give participants confidence to programme, produce and deliver a virtual film festival that would appeal to young audiences


  • Increased confidence of participants

  • Showcasing talents of participants - Illustrations by Lucy Gatson, Branding by Nicole Junkin

  • 78 views on panel discussion ‘Into The Known’ on QFT Player across Ireland, UK, USA and India.

  • Exclusive interview with Michelle Antoniades by program participant


Sweetheart (Irish Premier + Interview with Michelle Antoniades)
Cinema Paradiso

Key partnerships

The project was a partnership between LUMI (supported by QFT) Reimagine, Remake, Replay (supported by Nerve Centre) and Zeppo Arts (local arts management company). Within this collaboration, sponsors and funding bodies included; NI Screen, BFI FAN through Film Hub NI, Northern Ireland Museums Council, National Museums NI and Heritage Fund NI.

Budget in brief

Training facilitators (External) £400 (approx)
Follow up support £100 (approx)
Film Hire £450 (approx)
Talk £150
Workshop £150
Digital ads £50
Total: 1,300

What worked

  • Strategic partnerships allowed each organization to meet their own objectives and develop their networks and engagement with young people in NI.

  • Increased confidence in participants “I enjoyed creating illustrations for the festival. I felt a sense of accomplishment at the end that my skills somewhat helped and promoted the festival in an engaging way.”

  • Connecting with audiences across Northern Ireland and beyond - Film views/workshop participants across Aughnacloy, Ballyclare, Ballynahinch, Belfast, Bangor, Craigavon, Derry/Londonderry, Downpatrick, Dublin, Dungannon, Holywood, Limavady, Lisburn, Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Sheffield.

  • Learning how virtual communication has made youth-led activism and projects more accessible for young people living in rural areas and how we can continue to support it.

What has been difficult

  • Creating a successful timeline for the project in between lockdowns

  • Coordinating timelines with 3 partners

  • Festival dates fell the week after restrictions had lifted in NI when most cultural activities were allowed to resume which had a significant impact on our public engagement.

  • Sunny weather, who knew?

  • Maintaining momentum virtually

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • Shift the timeline - after Christmas possibly

  • Adopt a hybrid model of virtual and in person events. In person events allows for a unique face to face connection with participants and audiences, while providing the option of virtual communication and events at least provides a platform for engagement from rural audiences

  • More group sessions via zoom/in person depending on location of groups, focused on each groups aims and interests

  • Aim for at least one in person screening/watch party with more engagement from participants

  • Budget for gimmicks, popcorn, snack packs, props for socials


Focus on young people aged 16 – 26 in rural areas of Northern Ireland.
Positive impacts on their mental health, skills base and confidence.

Knowledge & Experience

We aimed to inspire confidence in participants and get them interested and enthusiastic in independent cinema. We provided resources on researching independent cinema in line with their chosen theme as well as background on how distribution works. We also encouraged participants to pursue their passions and interests and connected them with industry professional where possible. This resulted in a fantastic range of artworks, illustrations, social copy, videos with archive footage, journalist experiences, reviews, interviews and the opportunity for the participant to interact directly with young audiences.

Social Cohesion

We decided to keep the entire programme online in order to avoid isolating rural audiences or participants from any given area that weren’t able to travel to Belfast. We wanted to make the event management course and the festival itself as accessible as possible. Working with partners that are intrinsically linked to a geographical area (QFT Belfast, Nerve Centre, Derry) allowed both partners to widen our engagement with young audiences across these regions and also allowed participants the opportunity to meet people from outside their immediate location. Participants met new people through the project and have continued those relationships in real life since restrictions have eased.


Obviously the pandemic had impacted the mental health of young people. The festival provided an opportunity to up-skill, learn about independent cinema, film exhibition and events management and really take ownership of the festival programme with the support of the project partners. It provided a focus at a time when anxiety was rising and there was no other similar outlet for young people in the region. Participants met new people through the project and have continued those relationships in real life since restrictions have eased.

What audiences said

  • "I loved working as a team and discussing ideas. It was interesting to watch the development happen naturally. I enjoyed creating illustrations for the festival (something I did not expect to happen!). I felt as sense of accomplishment at the end at that my skills somewhat helped and promoted the festival in an engaging way."

  • "I think it was a great programme and had something for everyone interested in the arts/film- it was a really great experience getting to do some design work and get back and
    forth feedback. I think its been really exciting, a lot of fun and I'd love to do something similar again!! Thank you guys 💛💛"

  • "Loved being able to focus on one area e.g. presentation, design etc. and enjoyed how much support was given at each step while also allowing us to take the lead and work independently when necessary"