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FAN Innovation Lab for Young Audience Development

Film Hub Scotland and the ICO ran a residental lab across 31 Jan – 1 Feb 2019, bringing together venues from across the UK with a focus on sharing, learning and developing ideas around young audiences.


The Lab involved presentations from experts (from film exhibition and other art forms), participant sharing sessions, workshops, ideas generation and discussions. Participants attended from the eight Film Audience Network regions across the UK, with a focus on ideas exchange and sharing of experiences.

Sessions were led by David Sin and Catherine Des Forges, ICO. Speakers included Mark Miller, Convenor Young People’s Programmes at Tate Modern and Tate Britain and Debbie Ramsey, Editor BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra Newsbeat focusing on young audiences.

Here's two participants of the Lab on how the two days helped them develop ideas and working practices.

Linnea Pettersson, Showroom Sheffield

Finding and developing young audiences is a key target for many independent cinemas across the UK. And rightly so: one of the largest sections of the multiplex audience falls into this category, yet independents can struggle to reach them. With a reduced ticket scheme for young people already in place at our venue, the question for us has been: what do we do next? So, when the opportunity to attend a 2-day Innovation Lab on developing young audiences came up, we jumped at the chance. Here are some key things I took away from the lab:

A lot of venues have an issue with visibility. Take us at Showroom in Sheffield. We are right across from the train station, next to one of the busiest roads that runs through the city, around the corner from several colleges and unis, and there’s a glowing neon sign that says ‘cinema’ at the front of the building. But there are people who pass it every day but don’t realise what we are. Get to those college and freshers’ fairs, visit schools to talk about what you do and if they can, visit your venue for a screening.

Disrupt spaces! Mark Miller, Convenor of Young People’s Programmes at Tate, talked about disrupting spaces; how the four-year Tate Circuit programme worked to bring 15-25-year-olds into galleries by working in partnership with youth groups to transform how their venues appeared to young people, encouraging them to get involved, contribute and create.

Recognise, represent, respect. Debbie Ramsey and Deena Saeed provided a case study on the work BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra have done to engage young people, developing its voice to include the stories of its younger listeners and provide opportunities for them to get work experience at the station. Give them the space to look at what you do and tell you how to improve it if you want to attract their peers – don’t fear criticism, work with it!

Be consistent and welcoming. Not everyone can put on the latest Marvel film, or programme films week-in, week-out that are going to appeal to all young people. But are there other events you can be hosting that will keep you in their minds and familiarise them with you? If you have a café, bar or restaurant in venue, do you have offers for students and young people and/or a good selection of affordable snacks?

Let’s launch a nationwide campaign to raise the profile of our amazing independent venues! Admittedly this one’s a bit ambitious…but we have so many fantastic indies around the UK offering a whole world of content, we need to work with schools, colleges, universities, youth groups and the media to build independent and world film culture among young people.
Each session was varied enough so that you weren’t just repeating things you’d already covered but not so different that you completely forgot what you’d talked about before, allowing you to develop your ideas across the 2 days. This meant that an exercise on the second day about establishing goals and planning how to achieve them was a lot easier; I felt much more focused and confident about the activities I’d like to bring back to my venue. I cannot stress enough the value of taking a few days away from your venue and sharing ideas and experiences (good and…interesting! Film screenings in a cave on a trampoline, anyone?) with other organisations, which the Innovation Lab provided the perfect opportunity for.

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