Helen Jaffa, Front of House Manager at Watershed, reports back on her Bursary funded trip to Opening our Doors: Inclusive Cinema day at the BFI
On Tuesday 30th January I attended Opening our Doors: Inclusive Cinema at the BFI, alongside one of our Duty Managers Abbie Sutcliffe. We had a brilliant day full of inspiring presentations, thought provoking discussions and delicious sandwiches. The morning started with a presentation by Jo Verrent from Unlimited, who gave some great context as to where we are with accessibility in the arts and what we can do to improve it. Jo had a refreshing, no nonsense approach which came across in her talk. This helped everyone feel much more at ease about discussing some challenging subjects, and aided some helpful reflection on what our venues were doing for disabled customers, artists and facilitators.
Jo was followed by Priscilla Igwe from The New Black Film Collective who gave a great overview of the work she’s done with the 888 Film Club in London, engaging with people from the Deaf & hard of hearing community in cinema and providing accessible screenings and events. Having done a huge amount of work at Watershed over the last few years with the Deaf & hard of hearing community, this was an area where we felt most comfortable. Priscilla and her guest Adewale, a member of the film club, gave us a new perspective on this level of engagement and the intersectional aspects of any community. They showed a small film about being Black and Deaf in Britain, and left us with some positive actions to bring back to the venue. We even learned some basic BSL signs from Adewale interpreter!
After lunch, Helen Wright from SQIFF gave a really interesting recap on their experiences as a film festival. Helen shared some really useful information about their approach to gender neutral toilets, pricing and accessibility as a whole. As Watershed regularly works and partners with the LGBTQ+ community in Bristol, it was really beneficial for us to gain some insight from SQIFF about the operational aspects of welcoming members of the LGBTQ+ community and becoming a safe space for that community to access cinema.
Lastly, Lizzie Banks from the Oska Bright Film Festival gave an incredibly engaging talk about who they are, what they do and how they’ve grown. Personally, this was a highlight of the day, and it left Abbie and I full of ideas about how Watershed could develop even further to welcome and collaborate with people with learning disabilities and other access requirements. We stayed on after the event to watch three Oska Bright shorts which were all brilliant and gave us a taste of some of the content that the festival shows.
In between each talk we had discussions with attendees from different organisations which was really useful, it put the work we do at Watershed into context and helped us understand how much we’ve achieved in some areas, and which areas need work. As Abbie and I are both in Operational roles at Watershed, we had a real focus on how things work in practice, and with our experience of working with the public, it felt like we contributed a good perspective to the discussion and gained other perspectives in return from people in programming and curating roles.
A couple of days after the event we received an email from Toki Allison (BFI FAN Access Officer) full of helpful links and resources to help us take forward our actions and make achievable changes with the support of the Film Audience Network. It was a brilliant day all round and we’re looking forward to making our actions a reality.
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