Find out how Ropetackle Arts Centre developed the capacity and skillset of their team to deliver Relaxed and Friendly screenings.
Relaxed and Friendly screenings have grown siginficantly in recent years, proving a succesful and valuable way to reach audiences that would not normally attend the cinema. Shoreham-by-Sea has a significant older population, with nine large care homes. Yet there was no activity of this kind taking place in the area which meant there was a significant number of people unable to access film screenings.
From the start, Ropetackle Film Club appreciated that this kind of project can not be approached with usual audience development strategies. They had thought about the target demographic audience and how engaging with them would take significant work and time. They were clearly committed to doing this and their efforts have created a valuable project that has already secured further funding.
We were delighted by our audience numbers, by the third event we had surpassed our expected average audience number and continued to grow.
We were not only pleased with the numbers of audiences attending, but also their reaction to the events as we had worked hard to ensure it was inclusive and welcoming to all.
The pride our volunteers took in being involved in such a worthwhile enterprise and the enjoyment they also got out of it, especially given their initial hesitation.
The project has played a significant role in solidifying Ropetackle’s value as a community resource, and strengthening its bid to the local council for funding.
Following the end of our funding from the Film Hub, the project’s success has enabled us to attract further funding from the McClay Trust for another year’s support.
Nine films, including Lady in the Van, Bohemian Rhapsody, Singin’ in the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Wizard of Oz.
- The Alzheimer’s Association provided us with support and in-house training prior to the commencement of the programme.
- Our Film Hub was tremendously helpful both before and during this project, providing us with points to consider and local contacts doing similar work.
- Glasgow Film Theatre kindly and generously shared their expertise and experience of running Access Film Club
- ‘Memory Cafes’ at nearby GP surgeries and the local Leisure Centre were vital to promoting the event to the target audience
- Local care homes
- The local Freemasons provided additional financial support
Budget in brief
Overall Budget: £6,500
Key Income Sources:
Cash (£3,600): Film Hub South East, Box Office, Freemasons
In-kind (£2,900): Project Management and Volunteer Time
FHSE Subsidy per head: £8.18
Ropetackle Film Club is a separate committee that programmes monthly film screenings at the Ropetackle Arts Centre. We benefitted from their central marketing support and publicity such as their social media channels, e-newsletters, website, and advertising in venue – including on-screens. But our evaluation showed that it was our ‘old-fashioned’ marketing strategy that worked best such as printed leaflets and posters left in key locations – for example, in particular we rented an advertising space for a nominal fee at a bus stop near a local care home and one of our regular audience members reported that is where he found out about the screenings. We visited local Memory Cafes and care homes to present the project in person. This not only gave us direct access to our target audience, but allowed us to develop a personal relationship with the ‘gatekeepers’ such as Activity Coordinators in local care homes. These relationships became key in not only engaging the target audience but also sustaining them.
With advice and support from the Alzheimer’s Association and our peers at Depot and Glasgow Film Theatre, we were able to develop an accessible and welcoming cinematic experience that worked for our audiences. Our team was on-hand to personally welcome audiences, assisting access to the space which we arranged in a horseshoe shape of tables (complete with tablecloths and a small vase of flowers!), each with three/four chairs around it. Refreshments were available before the screening and during the interval. We believe these steps made the screenings truly ‘relaxed and friendly’. Several audience members sang along and at the end of several screenings there was spontaneous applause.
We used the evaluation forms provided by the Hub to not only report back to them, but also take on board comments and adapt our screenings as necessary where we could.
The Ropetackle Arts Centre has a team of 90 volunteers who we approached about this project. There was original apprehension, and only nine became regular volunteers at the Relaxed and Friendly screenings. However, the positive reaction from these volunteers has been overwhelming. The training from the Alzheimer’s Association increased their confidence (and from which they proudly received badges!) and they have thoroughly enjoyed their experience. So much so that thirty of the Ropetackle’s volunteers now want to attend the next training session so they too can be involved in the project.
Our Film Hub was tremendously helpful both before and during this project. They provided me with contacts at other venues doing similar work successfully and facilitated the visit of myself and five of our committee members to see how they approached Dementia Friendly Cinemas. I then had regular contact with Hub staff and everything I produced was checked by them with extraordinary patience and superb, gentle advice. Their Development Officer even visited our third screening and looked through our advertising and heard about all the protocols and procedures we had developed. Without their constant availability and objective opinions, I’m sure our project would not have been so successful.
During the course of the project, Ropetackle Arts Centre itself was experiencing severe financial difficulty and launched an appeal to raise much-needed funds. The Arts Centre has now secured a three-year funding boost from the local council. We believe that our project was a significant building block in securing this financial support, as the Centre needed to provide greater clarity about the role it plays in the community and these benefit had to be prominent in their proposal.
Following the end of our funding from the Film Hub, the project’s success has enabled us to attract further funding from the McClay Trust for another year’s support, and despite initial apprehension about the project the Ropetackle Arts Centre also want it to continue. Furthermore, we have been approached by two further organisations who all want to be involved in our work and make a financial contribution to the screenings.
What has been difficult
The original apprehension mentioned above was disheartening, but we feel that we have overcome this by delivering a successful and valuable project.
The structure of having a film club operating within an arts centre and then operating a separate project meant a lot of committees! This was frustrating but reflective of a structure many film clubs operate in, and it is possible to work through.
Deciding on the films in the programme! There were many opinions from internal and external partners about what would best appeal to our target audience.
Lastly, the venue is situated at the end of the high street and parking is always difficult, especially for mini-buses hired for care homes. In addition, transport for the care homes could often be unreliable which did have an impact on their attendance.
What you would do differently if you did it again
Thanks to further funding, we will be doing this again! We are largely sticking to the same structure – the only minor change we will make is to our marketing material that we feel were too similar in appearance to the general ones produced for Ropetackle Cinema. But the positioning of the posters (e.g. in bus stops near care homes) and our targeted marketing strategy was successful so we will repeat that.
This project was run completely by volunteers, operating to some extent seperately from the Ropetackle Arts Centre itself. While this had its advantages, in that team members were passionately committed to the project, there were challenges in ensuring basic requirements (e.g. admistrative paperwork, evaluation, reporting) was fulfilled. This took a significant amount of Hub staff time, and staff at Depot and Glasgow Film Theatre also generously provided suppot and advice to Ropetackle directly. However, we are delighted that such a valuable project resulted from a relatively small amount of financial investment. This was further demonstrated by the response of attendees at the FHSE Forum to Ropetackle‘s presentation of their work, where many feedback forms cited they are now aware of the clear steps they have to take to implement a project of this kind.
The Project met the BFI Diversity Standards by:
Anyone coming to the screening was met as they entered the venue. Voluntary stewards were engaging and aware of the possible issues facing people with memory loss (the Alzheimer’s Association had provided training and Care Staff from local Homes had shared any possible concerns – additionally, there had been presentations to the Memory cafes run by local GP surgeries which had added to a building of local knowledge) Some of the films had subtitles and all were screened with an emphasis on relaxed and friendly with lowered volume and higher lighting.
The intended audiences were those suffering from memory loss or even dementia. There was nothing available for this type of audience within a ten-mile radius. The drive was to be totally inclusive, allowing anyone to pay and come, but any carer would come in free and the marketing was directed to adult mental health services, care homes and anyone suffering memory loss.
Representatives from the Ropetackle Cinema Committee (all of whom were volunteers) visited Care homes and memory cafes to explain the rationale behind the programme and try to find out more about needs and any practical difficulties about attendance (e.g. that discrete parking spaces might be needed)
The Alzheimer’s association were involved in deciding the programme, delivering training for volunteer stewards and checking that the venue was suitable. Five of the Committee visited Depot Cinema in Lewes to see how they delivered their programme and the links with memory cafe providers were developed.
The project highlighted the role of the cinematic experience as a means of developing community projects, genuinely facilitating a warm and friendly environment for an audience to come and enjoy films who would, otherwise, be too nervous to go to a typical cinema setting. Some audience members would often stay after the film to talk about the film and enjoy the company.
This valuable community activity helped Ropetackle Arts Centre with its funding bid to, and liaison with, the local Council and ensured that Ropetackle will remain at the heart of cultural activity in Shoreham-By-Sea. Ropetackle have already secured investment from the McClay Trust and the local Rotary Club to keep the project operating for another year. FHSE will continue to support Ropetackle as Hub members with any questions or queries they may have. However we feel confident that the scheme will continue to go from strength to strength.