Specialist Dementia and Access Officers appointed across the BFI Film Audience Network


Isolated audiences across the UK to experience exciting new supported film environments


The BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN), led by Film Hub Wales and Chapter, the Welsh Hub Lead organisation, have announced two significant new appointments designed to support accessible cinema for underserved audiences across Wales and UK-wide. This initiative, one of many supported with National Lottery money aims to bring quality independent films to a wider, more diverse audience.
 

Toki Allison joins BFI FAN as the new Access Officer, starting with Film Hub Wales this week, as a base for UK-wide work, joining Ellie Russell in her regional activities at Chapter as the Dementia Project Officer.
 

The roles were developed in response to the success of initial projects across all nine BFI Film Hubs and a need to unite these activities, offering a strong message for audiences who may otherwise have difficulty engaging with cinema. This seemed particularly apparent for people with dementia, their families, carers and specialists:
 

"My husband's dementia has excluded us from many activities with the general public but with dementia screening we feel safe enough to enjoy going to the cinema again. It has been liberating for us both as we cope with this isolating illness." – Linda (Chapter pilot event)
 

In Wales, three venues (Chapter, Pontio and Clwyd Theatr Cymru) came together with Film Hub Wales, Public Health Wales, Cardiff University (Dr Katie Featherstone) and the Alzheimer’s Society to develop a joint pilot, with Dementia Project Officer, Ellie Russell brought in to manage. Thanks to dedicated funding from the Rayne Foundation for the Dementia Officer role, Ellie will develop and deliver a year round programme of dementia-friendly film screenings and supporting events, both at Chapter and at venues across Wales. Ellie has a PhD in Psychological Medicine and has worked as a Research Psychologist, Mental Health Coordinator and Wellbeing Manager for various organisations. Ellie comments:
 

“I’m so excited to be working on this project, and to have the opportunity to play a role in breaking down some of the barriers that can prevent people with dementia leading full and rich lives. I believe that cinema should be accessible to all, and that promoting inclusivity and embracing diversity has the power to enrich the lives of everyone in society.  I’ve seen how isolating a dementia diagnosis can be, both for the person living with dementia and for their families and friends, and I love the way our screenings provide a relaxed, supportive and inclusive environment for people to come together to enjoy some really fantastic films.  I feel so lucky to be working on the Dementia Project at Chapter, and can’t wait to develop it even further.”
 

Ellie will work alongside Toki, who will be hosted by Film Hub Waleson behalf of BFI FAN . Film Hub Wales are well placed to manage this post, with a number of accessible schemes for venues and audiences developed since 2013, including the establishment of:

 

  • The Queer Film Network UK which supports LGBTQIA* audiences, industry and promotes quality film content,
  • The Contact a Family Kite Mark which mentors venues and offers supported screenings for with families of children who have multi-sensory needs,
  • Opening Doors, a training event designed to support exhibitors with accessible screening models.
     

Toki whose background is in marketing, audience development, film programming and event production, will begin by developing a pool of UK resources, links, case studies and guides for audiences with additional needs, with long term goals to develop year-round events, training and national opportunities. Toki comments on her appointment:
 

"Honestly, I can't imagine a better use of my time than to be a cog in the process of making cinema accessible to anyone and everyone. For me, films trace a path through my life, and some of the feelings and connections I've had with characters and stories have had a true and deep impact on me. I feel like everyone should have the chance to experience this and, also, the entertainment and escapism that film can offer. Cinema should be for everyone and making that a reality doesn't have to involve mammoth, expensive changes for venues and staff – in many cases, it can simply come down to better communication, and a few tweaks."
 

Film Hub Wales Strategic Manager Hana Lewis, who is also based in Chapter, explains why the posts are so important to BFI FAN:
 

“It’s hugely important to each of the nine hubs in the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) that the projects we develop are accessible and diverse. Our audiences are at the heart of what we do and exhibitors of all shapes and sizes, endeavor to offer engaging and welcoming film experiences year-round. We found collectively that cinema is making a real impact on people whose lives are touched by dementia and by bringing together our shared learnings across the country, we can begin to form an exciting new strategy that will support not only dementia awareness but, in years to come, accessible screenings and events for all audiences. We’re excited to host both Ellie and Toki, as we explore new possibilities both regionally and nationally.” 
 

Chapter Art Centre’s Director Andy Eagle adds:
 

          “Chapter is very proud to be leading on this strategy which delivers on The Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government’s Arts, Health and Wellbeing agenda. With this initiative we are able to welcome audiences from across Wales and the UK to high quality world cinema programming who may otherwise not feel confident to access it”