Case Study: WOW Women’s Film Club

  • Wow Womens Film Club Sonita Screening Screening

WOW Women’s Film Club runs female-friendly daytime screenings and mixed-gender evening events. Their events enable minority ethnic women, young people and communities across Cardiff and Swansea watch films in affordable and accessible spaces - with childcare, transport and refreshments taken care of.

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Why this matters

Many of the women who attend WOW Film Club events face language and economic barriers or different experiences of isolation and exclusion from mainstream cultural provision. The female-friendly spaces provided by the Film Club enable nuanced faith and cultural needs to be met and provide a welcoming environment for women who may have limited English language skills, childcare needs, health challenges, or are living in precarious circumstances (such as those escaping domestic violence, or seeking sanctuary, for whom free tickets are offered).

Project aims

  • Events engage with mainstream, ethnically diverse and (often) excluded audiences, with the aim of addressing access, social isolation and cultural integration.
  • The volunteer programme ran in association with the screenings enables women to develop skills, confidence and expertise around supporting and organising Film Club activities.

Headlines

  • The Film Club has ran 19 screenings in 10 venues (7 of which were new) across Cardiff and Swansea reaching 1200 people, 90% of whom are from Black or Minority Ethnic communities. They presented an eclectic mix of British and independent film titles to audiences who may not otherwise have had access to them.
  • The Film Club are developing a team of young skilled BME women to run their own screenings, starting with an ICO Technical Skills for Exhibition Course.
  • Two new members of staff joined as a result of time and investment, a Project Coordinator, and Outreach Coordinator.
  • Screenings have increased from 6 per year to 19 per year, welcoming over 100 attendees at times - double the club's original target.
  • The Film Club draws women, men, young people and children from diverse communities. New screenings have been established to appeal to wider audiences through dedicated outreach, including screenings for young women and girls, young men and boys, and family screenings.
  • As part of the BFI Film Hub Wales ‘Opening Our Doors’ Diversity training day, Film Club Director Rabab Ghazoul presented to 48 exhibitors across two events held in Cardiff and Colwyn about the Film Club and how to reach isolated audiences.
  • The Film Club facilitates vital post-screening discussions with ethnically, linguistically, academically and economically diverse groups of people, on subjects that encompass race, power, privilege, oppression, climate change, feminism, conflict, the asylum experience, police brutality and more.
  • The Film Club piloted a series of youth-focused screening events aimed at young people of colour providing opportunities for young people to access great cinema.

Films

19 films were shown between March 2016-17 across Cardiff and Swansea. These films were representative of the club’s diverse audiences, including 'Bagdad Café', 'Good Hair', 'The Hard Stop', 'Timbuctoo' and BFI FAN New Release Strategy titles 'Mustang' and 'Sonita'.

Key partnerships

WOW Women’s Film Club and Gentle/Radical work with various bodies and partners to deliver screenings. These include a number of venues across South Wales (South Riverside Community Development Centre, Women Connect First, BAWSO, Butetown Community Centre, Butetown Pavilion, Loudoun Square Media Centre, National Gallery & Museum/Artes Mundi, National Waterfront Museum, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Riverside Warehouse, The Samaj Centre, Unity in Diversity and Wales Millennium Centre). Other partners include Film Hub Wales , Arts Council Wales , Big Lottery People and Places and Cinema For All.

Budget in brief

WOW Women’s Film Club was awarded £5,000 from Film Hub Wales through an Open Call for Audience Development. The subsidy per head has so far equalled £4.80. Big Lottery People and Places also awarded a grant of £153,658 over three years (2015-18) plus £5400 annually from an Arts Council Wales Our Space Grant.

What worked

  • A regular, long-term inclusive programme has been established in urban areas (averaging 2 x screenings/events per month across a 12 month period).
  • The project has become a popular social hub, providing a space for women and people from a variety of communities, to meet, share food, company, and dialogue.
  • Audiences who were not accessing mainstream cultural provision are regularly attending arthouse cinemas, or in many cases knowing the whereabouts or even existence of venues in their locality.
  • Film choices are tailored and accessible - designed to meet the needs of BME women – including both documentaries and feature films, a number of which focused on topical issues - from gender, to colonialism, to struggles for political freedom. Emphasis on enabling access to those stories, themes and issues so that enjoyment or engagement with those titles was genuinely open to all.
  • Outreach and a highly personable delivery with over 35 partners - this strengthened the reach though the resources of partners and their various project officers, community workers, volunteers, and ESOL teachers who championed the Film Club project - and also directly accompanied or sign-posted women to the project’s activities.
  • Films often were introduced alongside interpreters, who would provide a short synopsis of the film in different languages to be accessed by the wide cross section of women present.
  • A range of inclusive workshops and speakers invited such as Tanya Muneera Williams - a Bristol-born, London-based rapper, poet, writer, cultural commentator and aspiring comedian; Tatiana Garavito, migrant rights activist; and campaigners such as Onjali Rauf, founder of 'Making Herstory' an organisation which works to end exploitation of girls and young women.

What has been difficult

  • A rise in the number of screenings has increased demand on the team resources.
  • The shift from one longstanding venue (Chapter) to a variety of spaces across South Wales required new outreach, partnerships, and development of audiences.
  • Funding cuts to partner projects have had impacts. For example, key project officers who regularly accompanied women from a specific project/initiative were no longer in post, in turn meaning that signposting/encouragement from these individuals was lost.
  • The time and resources required to export and establish a new branch of the Film Club in Swansea from scratch.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • Initial attempts at setting up membership schemes and an online presence on the Chapter website were not necessary as the club moved to more grassroots venues.
  • A longer acclimatisation from Chapter to new venues for audiences.
  • Plans are underway for a new website and blog run by younger Film Club members, a project identity rebrand, refreshed marketing strategy and new set of promotional tools including materials in multiple languages.

Awareness / Attitudes

The WOW Women's Film Club has always been committed to engaging a wide cross section of communities. Moreover, bringing together people from different  ethnic, faith, class backgrounds and ages is a key to building more tolerant, open, and strong cities where all have access to rich dialogues with each other, in safe spaces where all voices are welcome. This is reflected in the project’s programming, with a variety of international and British films telling human stories from all over the world.

Diversity

The Film Club is incredibly proud of its diversity, with over 90% of women attending from minority BME communities. The screenings are specifically designed to meet the needs of BME women, with childcare and transport helping to reach those that might otherwise feel isolated. The films shown represent people of all ethnicities and nationalities, reflecting the composition of the Film Club’s own audiences.

The Film Club is proud of its ever-expanding remit to work with diverse communities, with over 90% of women attending its events from minority ethnic backgrounds. The project is also proud to be showcasing films and content whereby people of colour can see themselves on screen, affirm their sense of identity and belonging, and experience the highlighting of issues and histories often overlooked by mainstream culture.

Knowledge & Experience

WOW Women’s Film Club is committed to improving training within the exhibition sector. Film Director Rabab Ghazoul was a presenter at Film Hub Wales’ ‘Opening Doors’ Diversity Training Days (in Cardiff and Conwy), where she presented to 48 industry professionals on how to work with BME/diverse audiences.

The Film Club has also recently introduced a volunteer programme, which offers training and development opportunities. The aim is to build the confidence of women who want to discover their potential, or offer new skills to those looking for opportunities within the sector. The training includes administration, marketing, film programming, outreach, event planning and grassroots community organising.

Social Cohesion

The diverse nature of Film Club screenings allow communities to come together across social divides through the medium of film. This celebrates both the unique cultural differences we all have, while building stronger shared spaces and identities together. The grassroots nature of the Film Club and accompanying outreach model mean that access to cultural content and film becomes a naturally occurring part of people’s lives, where often it has been missing. This means in turn an impact on social isolation with a reported increase for many Film Club members in their sense of connectivity. This occurs through watching films, sharing stories, dialogue and experiences. The Film Club and Gentle/Radical define this process as ‘radical access’ – the means whereby access to cultural provision has a long term sustained foundation, enabling ‘non-mainstream’ groups to become the new ‘mainstream’.

What audiences said

  • “These kind of opportunities are really important for networking, community cohesion, as well as for meeting other women and building friendships. An extremely useful platform to learn about different culture as well as share/exchange information and experiences.”
  • “The Film Club is very important because I normally do not come to the cinema, but the Film Club help me to hear about new films. When we are ladies I feel more comfortable. This is the second time for me, I would like to see more films available by Film Club.”
  • “It was lovely watching the movie. It was really thought provoking, the message of hope was fantastic, positivity in life – this was all good about the film. The Film Club is a ray of hope, light and enjoyment for women. We want to see films more often. It was really thought provoking, it touched my heart.”
  • “I think it’s the most happy evening. It’s so full of joy and it’s so wonderful to be with so many cultures and people. It’s such a great community spirit, bringing everyone together – different languages, different cultures, different families, there’s men and women here, children. We love it, and please please bring us together again, it’s fantastic.”
  • “Such a lovely atmosphere, it’s really warm, the music is fantastic, the food is amazing, everyone seems really happy and excited, really really lovely. You feel like you’ve walked into a community here. There’s children dancing and running around, there’s whole families, it feels really nice to be in the middle of a real community.”
  • “Made me cry deep inside. Made me believe. Made me hope. Made me feel strong. Made me smile in the end.”

What professionals, press and partners said

  • “It was a fantastic event and I was actually slightly surprised and overwhelmed at the extent of how this event impacted upon the women who attended as well as myself. At the end of the screening the women were brought into a large circle to discuss their thoughts and feelings after the film – which was a very emotional and powerful Turkish film.”
  • “I was amazed at how many of the women spoke and shared very honest and frank accounts of their feelings, emotions, reactions and some even shared their experiences. It was clear that some of these women had very little else to do for themselves and that they really need something to look forward to. There was a huge sense of sisterhood among them.”
  • “I spoke with two asylum seekers from Albania who only had one another – and one of them had an 8-month-old. One had extremely good English but the other did not. It was extremely emotional speaking to the mother who said she feels so trapped and alone and without her friend she didn’t know what she would do. She was asking for volunteering for her friend who had real confidence issues with her English skills. It was clear she could understand as she started to cry as her friend was speaking about her.”
  • “One local artist attended and she spoke about the group potentially linking with other venues. She also wanted to work with the group with other methods as she had never seen any of these women throughout Swansea and definitely not within the arts movement that she is heavily involved with. The Film Club concentrates on getting the highest quality international inspiring and often challenging film.”
  • "The feedback on the forms was also amazing. One lady gave me a huge hug and thanked me. Thank you so much for letting us host the Film Club. It was really inspiring and encouraging to see the impact your work is having.” – Zoe Gealy, National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
  • “It made for one of the most interesting discussions I’ve had after a screening. The work that the WOW Women’s Film Club does in showing films to audiences who would otherwise not have the opportunity to come to the cinema is extremely inspiring. It’s a model that should be rolled out across the country.”– Nick Francis, director of When China Met Africa