Case Study: Visible Cinema

The pilot scheme enabled Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) to develop the tools, knowledge and methodology to deliver a high quality, engaging programme of film for deaf and hard of hearing audiences. At the core of this programme is a holistic approach to access, which included training, access technologies, social activity, BSL interpreted and Speech to Text reported discussions and participant feedback.

  • #VisibleCinema


As a sector, we absolutely need the lens of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to look through. It’s a real necessity across the entire creative sphere that we’re acknowledging the diversity and breadth of talent and skill in the various creative industry sector. It’s our duty as a cinema, and my duty as a programmer to be responding to that changing fabric because if we’re not providing events that are really resonating with or challenging our audience then we’re not doing our jobs properly

Project aims

  • Regular screenings for deaf and hard of hearing audiences

  • Training for venue staff - basic BSL & deaf awareness training

  • Availability of a hearing loop system and infrared in the cinema

  • BSL interpreted introductions, talks and post-film discussions

  • Social activity post-discussion

  • Support materials for the film with Plain English copy (as often British Sign Language (BSL) users first language is BSL, not English)

  • Reach the right audience with targeted marketing

  • Partner with representative organisations


  • The pilot project delivered positive cultural, social, community, organisational and individual impacts and embedded the project within on-going cinema provision

  • 785 people have been to Visible Cinema screening events

  • We were the first cinema venue to request a captioned film be made from scratch

  • Shortlisted for two Scottish Council On Deafness Star Awards 2016, for Research & Development and as Accessibility Champion

  • Legacy outcomes; Visible Cinema is now collaborating with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA Performance on bespoke short Deaf film screenings facilitated by Deaf artists who curate and host the event.


24 films screened:
Selma (captioned)
While We’re Young (captioned)
The Tribe
Mr Holmes (captioned)
Love & Mercy (captioned)
Marshland (foreign – subtitled)
La Famille Belier (foreign-subtitled)
The Wolfpack (captioned)
The Lady in the Van (captioned)
Sunset Song (captioned)
Joy (captioned)
Winter (captioned)
The Danish Girl ( captioned)
Power in our Hands (captioned)
Power in our Hands (captioned)
Eddie the Eagle (captioned)
Iona (captioned)
Everybody Wants Some (captioned)
Elvis & Nixon
Where to Invade Next
Swallows and Amazons
The Grump (as part of Luminate)
RCS Curates: Deafness & Dawn of the Deaf
The Imitation Game

Key partnerships

Glasgow Film, Film Hub Scotland, Solar Bear

What worked

  • Securing funding to enable the pilot programme to take place and evolve through doing

  • Providing space and importance on access and equality

  • Utilising social media to engage audiences

  • Making the programme and the venue philosophy visible

  • Engaging with people and organisations proactively

  • Taking time to understand the audience and their needs

  • Keeping dialogue open with the target community and remaining malleable to adapt access and programme accordingly

What has been difficult

  • Building and maintaining trust

  • Finding films that come with access formats - a big issue in the industry

  • Building a solid network of registered SLI’s and Stenographers who can be free to work the events

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • Develop earlier a clear pathway for Phase 2 of the project; securing funding and extending it to other exhibitors


Visible Cinema primary focus is to increase representation of the Deaf community within audiences, however the project is also committed to increasing and discussing on-screen representation of deafness. For example, in March 2016, we were the first Scottish venue to screen Power in our Hands, a compilation of historical BSL archive footage of the Deaf community. GFT was the only cinema venue nationwide to host a school screening and it proved to be a great success; we attracted a first-time GFT audience of 54 deaf and hard of hearing P7-S2 pupils and their teachers attended and the post film discussion hosted by a British Deaf Association Heritage Officer and incorporated a Q&A with an older profoundly deaf couple. This garnered some wonderful intergenerational discussion and later that same day, we hosted a sold out public evening show, which was provocative and politically charged.

Knowledge & Experience

GFT staff and volunteers have been given confidence and skills through Deaf Awareness and BSL training to better meet the needs of deaf audiences, Marketing staff have developed new, effective communication routes using social media and programming and project staff have developed understanding of the ‘Deaf Calendar’ and maintained programming at accessible, social times and encouraged a social aspect.

These are just a few of the many ways that knowledge has been developed within and between the project partners through delivery of the pilot.

Social Cohesion

The programme provides the opportunity to elevate aspiration and showcase positive representation of deaf and hard of hearing people artists/maker/creative within the creative screen industries. A key part of the programme are post-event screenings and dicussions – both formal and informal – encouraging and nurturing confidence and empowering often socially disabled people and communities.

What audiences said

  • I feel like this is what going to the cinema will be like in the utopian future I dream of!

  • What I enjoyed about tonight was the fact I could discuss the film after it finished. It is captioned which isn’t BSL so there were parts of it I didn’t clearly understand. Here in the bar area I was able to clarify a few things and understood the content to a better level. To add to that I love the fact that films aren’t only in the morning as in other cinemas. Love the name “Visible Cinema”

  • Visible Cinema is a fantastic idea. I love the idea of regular captioned/subtitled films, old and new. Mixing with other groups of people including Hard of Hearing etc. Can’t wait for more of the same.

  • Nice for our community to have more options rather than a limited choice of what we can and can’t see.

  • Superb… fantastic, I saw my Grandfather [on film]… a rich history of BSL culture… I hope more will come

What professionals, press and partners said

  • Jaki McDougall, Chief Executive of Glasgow Film said: “This new programme will bring more awareness to cinema access for the deaf and hard of hearing community – addressing issues such as more suitable film screening times, deaf and hard of hearing awareness training for staff and looking at ways we can enrich the overall cinema experience. We’re excited to be leading on this project with our partners Creative Scotland, Solar Bear and Film Hub Scotland.”

  • Karen Forbes, previously Training and Learning Manager at Solar Bear said: “This initiative will make cinema going more accessible. It is fantastic that GFT recognises the need for more captioned screenings and are aiming to make this art form more accessible to the deaf community. We look forward to working with GFT and Film Hub Scotland in the future as they look to expand captioned screenings to independent cinemas across Scotland"

  • Sambrooke Scott, Film Hub Scotland Manager said: “Film Hub Scotland is proud to have supported this pioneering work by GFT and Solar Bear working with deaf and hard of hearing audiences. Film Hub Scotland exists to increase the reach, depth and breadth of cinema programmes for audiences across Scotland, and Visible Cinema has done exactly that by piloting an integrated approach to audience engagement that offers a step-change in the provision cinemas are currently offering. Our hope is that this work will offer a model other cinemas can adopt to better serve their patrons.”

  • Delia Henry, Director, Action on Hearing Loss Scotland said: “It is important that people who are deaf or have hearing loss are able to access and enjoy entertainment, such as films, like everyone else. I commend Glasgow Film Theatre’s work in creating an accessible environment for movie fans who are deaf or hard of hearing and in providing communication support so that they can participate in post-film discussions.”

  • Leonie Bell, Director of Arts and Engagement at Creative Scotland, said: “There is a need for better provision for deaf and hard of hearing cinema-goers and it’s great that this gap has been identified and steps taken to provide support for deaf and hard of hearing audiences. The film club will use the introduction of British Sign Language interpretation into mainstream timeslot screenings, and explore new technologies such as live captioning. We hope this will open the world of cinema to deaf and hard of hearing audiences and allow them to experience and enjoy the true magic and power of cinema without barriers."

Press coverage

  • - Winner of ‘Cinema of the year- Scottish Screen Awards 2015- “Glasgow Film Theatre looks like what a cinema should look like and it has very impressive connections to its local community. “GFT has expanded its remit to provide “Cinema for All- a ballsy move which the industry is grateful for”. “GFT has collaborated with Solar Bear and Film Hub Scotland on Visible Cinema, a new programme for deaf and hard of hearing audiences. Each screening is captioned, or subtitled and is enhanced by BSL interpretation and Speech to Text Reporting”. The Judges highlighted that ‘GFT showcased exceptional audience development to all sectors of the community…you can always rely on them to do something special. GFT consistently punches above its weight”-

  • Scots magazine - “850,000 people are deaf or have hearing loss in Scotland so this new venture will be a welcome diary date for many”.

  • The List - Visible Cinema will enable the GFT to deliver a high quality programme of films for this demographic that includes captioned, subtitled and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted screenings, as well as BSL-interpreted post-show discussions.