Case Study: Screen25: The Harder They Come screening

South London community cinema Screen25 partnered with the events company We Are Parable to deliver a free and immersive pop-up screening of The Harder They Come, the first Jamaican produced feature film, with the aim of engaging with local Black audiences.

  • #Screen25THTC


Screen25 is an independent community cinema based at the Harris Academy South Norwood in London, and on Saturday 11 August 2018, they partnered with immersive events company We Are Parable to deliver a free one-off pop-up screening of The Harder They Come, which was the first Jamaican produced feature film. The timing of the event was significant as it tied in with Jamaican Independence Day (6 August), and also with the 70th anniversary of Windrush.

A main focus of the marketing strategy was print marketing and face-to-face engagement. This included working with We Are Parable to harness their reach into Black communities in London, but also visiting a range of Afro-Caribbean businesses and establishments to speak with members of the community directly and hand out physical tickets. These included barber shops, hairdressers, Caribbean cafes and takeaway shops, and the local dominoes club. There was also cross-promotional support from cultural partners including Black Cultural Archives, BME Forum and The New Black Film Collective.

Before the screening commenced, audience members were treated to an immersive Jamaican experience with a recreation of a Jamaican marketplace delivered in partnership with fashion/lifestyle brand Uptown Yardie, a DJ set by Maurice Cunningham aka DJ Croc, and a performance and singing workshop led Reggae Choir. The marketplace consisted of around a dozen stalls, selling clothing, jewellery, beauty products and authentic Jamaican food and drink including jerk chicken, patties, sugar cane, fresh coconut juice, sorrel-based drinks and rum punch. There were also banners and decorations donated by the Jamaican High Commission.

Project aims

  • To celebrate the rich Jamaican culture in South Norwood and ensure that local Caribbean communities are proportionally represented in local cinema programming.

  • To bring together people from different backgrounds through a unified love for film.

  • To diversify Screen25's audiences in the long-term by raising awareness of their cultural film programme, which was to become twice-weekly in autumn.


  • The event was a great success at reaching the primary target audience of the local African Caribbean community and achieved the most diverse audience for a Screen25 event so far. The audience was made up of an estimated 75% non-white cinema-goers, compared to the usual average of 8%.

  • Coverage on social media was extensive with audience members, stallholders, and partners sharing Instagram stories, images, videos and tweets across networks throughout the day helping to reach Black audiences on a London-wide scale.

  • The event was covered exclusively by leading Black British newspaper The Voice which helped to promote Screen25 and their work to a wider audience and encourage additional engagement.

  • Screen25 and We Are Parable had developed a weather contingency plan which meant the event was able to continue successfully despite the inclement weather.

  • The Reggae Choir added a participatory element that meant the event exceeded expectations as a tool for encouraging community cohesion and interaction.


The Harder They Come (Dir. Perry Henzell, 1972, Jamaica)

Key partnerships

Screen25 worked in partnership with experiential events company and exhibitor We Are Parable on this event, harnessing their extensive experience of developing and crafting events for Black audiences.

Additional partnerships were developed with Reggae Choir, leading Black newspaper The Voice, and Uptown Yardie, a clothing and footwear company who curated the Jamaican themed marketplace.

The idea for the project was developed as a result of the Independent Cinema Office's Reach: Strategic Audience Development course.

Budget in brief

The overall budget for this event was £4,584 which included £1,500 investment from Film Hub London. Additional funding was also secured with £1,500 from Croydon Community Grants, and £1,000 from the Community Ward Budget. £570 of the budget was in-kind support.

What worked

  • The event was very successful in reaching the primary target audience of the local African and Caribbean community, achieving the most diverse Screen25 audience ever with an estimated 75% non-white cinema-goers making up the audience.

  • Coverage on social media was extensive with stall holders and partners sharking Instagram stories, photos and tweets pre, post and during the event.

  • The weather contingency plan to move the film screening undercover helped to secure the success of the event which would otherwise have struggled due to the rain.

  • The Reggae Choir added a participatory element that meant the event exceeded expectations as a tool for encouraging community cohesion and interaction.

  • Collaborating with partners meant that Screen25 was able to successfully reach and engage with a new audience. Only 15% of attendees heard about the event through Screen25 branded marketing.

What has been difficult

  • There was a much lower turn-out on the day compared to the number of tickets that had been booked in advance, which was probably largely caused by the poor weather on the day coupled with the lack of investment from ticket-holders for a free event.

  • There was a slight shortfall on the funding in the end, due to lower audience numbers than expected and therefore an overestimation of revenue to be generated by food and drink sales.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • Publicise the contingency plan for poor weather conditions to reassure ticket holders and encourage them to come along whatever the weather.

  • Overbook the event. With free events there's often a drop-off between the number of ticket holders and attendees.

  • Be conservative with budgets so that there is no gap in funding if ticket holders do not attend.

Awareness / Attitudes

The event was a complete celebration of Jamaica with attendees invited to embrace Jamaican culture through and through. Attendees were invited to wear the national colours of Jamaica, and the venue was proudly decorated with swathes of fabric and Jamaican flags. Uptown Yardie’s centrepiece installation took direct inspiration from the image of a Jamaican marketplace and used various props including jerk pans, oil drums and vinyl to bring the concept to life. The stalls sold authentic Caribbean food and drink and there were performances from the Reggae Choir.

The film and event theme was selected due to the substantial local Caribbean community and with the aim of engaging with them and encouraging others to experience the culture. The Harder They Come specifically resonated with the Jamaican community due to its significance as Jamaica’s first feature film. One audience member stated that it is “a film that represents Jamaica”.

The event also tied in with Jamaican Independence Day and the 70th anniversary of Windrush.


The event was developed as a response to the under-representation of non-white and specifically Black audience members at Screen25 events. Only 8% of attendees before this point identified as Black compared to 33% of the local population. This screening resulted in an audience that was approximately 75% non-white (a 67% increase). This is part of a wider programme of engagement with the local Black community by Screen25, which includes diversifying the screening programme to include more representative films and enrich the lives of local people both socially and culturally.

Social Cohesion

There was a specific emphasis as part of this project on reaching out to the older generation. In particular local Jamaican people aged 60-90 from the Windrush generation with strong memories of the release of the film, and those in their 40s and 50s who were born in the UK and who want to explore their Caribbean identity. Audience monitoring shows that 35% of attendees were aged 50 and above.


There was an emphasis on supporting local businesses in the themed marketplace, with three of the four food and drink stalls being based within 3km of the venue.

Partnerships were made with local businesses to distribute tickets which helped to involve them in the overall event.

The Mayor of Croydon, Cllr Bernadette Khan was in attendance, along with South Norwood councillor Patsy Cummings.

What audiences said

  • “What I like about community cinema is that it […] creates a space for people to come together and share a moment. It’s funny because coming here today made me think that I really miss spaces like this. I grew up in Hackney, and there’s a lot of gentrification, […] so spaces like this that are created by the community are becoming rarer and harder to find.”

  • “I liked the mix of people, there’s a lot of people here from different cultures, different age groups. It was just nice coming together and hearing about the event, about the school as well. It’s something that I’d possibly like to sponsor maybe in the future.”

  • “It’s the first time I’ve seen [The Harder They Come] on a large screen, as I’ve always watched it on video and DVD on the TV at home. So to actually come out and see it with my friends on a large screen was really good, we’ve really enjoyed it. […] This is the first [Screen25 event] I’ve been to, so I will be coming again. I’m on the mailing list now.”

  • “It was great that everything, all the experience today led up to the film. It was so well themed, the shops were great, the people were great, the music was awesome so we spent a lot of time dancing. […] Everything just prepared you for how good the movie was. After 46 years it’s still a really good film to watch”

  • “The Harder They Come preceded by Reggae choir, which was itself preceded by the best jerk chicken....and rum punch. Thanks @weareparable #Screen25THTC” (via Twitter)

What professionals, press and partners said

  • "We thoroughly enjoyed working on “The Harder They Come” with Screen 25. What Katie achieved with making her event more reflective of the area she works in was a bold move, but executed brilliantly. We are firm believers in the power of cinema to bring communities together and this event did that, from the Jamaican marketplace, to the Reggae Choir, to the local politicians showing support of the event. It’s always great to be able to offer a free screening that was inclusive, diverse and fun - everything cinema should be." (We Are Parable)

  • “I was glad to be able to support the event, especially given the limbo you’d been left in regarding the music. I thought it was a great event and salute you and Screen25 for its success.”(DJ Croc)

  • “We thoroughly enjoyed being part of the event and I wanted to thank you both for inviting us along. It was a lovely afternoon/ evening with a great vibe and wonderful crowd.” (Sarah, Stallholder)

Press coverage

  • “For some, Saturday may well have been the first time they had seen The Harder They Come or sang its songs. However, thanks to the free screening from community cinema Screen25 and We Are Parable, they were treated to an iconic work from Jamaican culture. Alas, after weeks of atypically scorching British summer weather, the heavens opened and rain fell. But it didn’t matter; nothing mattered. The audience’s spirits wouldn’t be dampened. For just for a few hours in South Norwood, Londoners could be seen lapping up the sunshine and party vibes of downtown Kingston.”
    Nigel Gordon, The Voice.