BFI To Invest $8m In Audience Engagement Projects

The British Film Institute (BFI) will hand out $8m (£6.48m) in cash awards to 17 organizations as part of the first run of its new National Lottery Audience Projects Fund.

The cash awards include a combination of long-term funding pacts spread across three years to support for short-term projects, all centered around growing and increasing the diversity of film audiences across the UK.

Thirteen awards are for multi-year projects running until March 2026. The fund will support six venues and four festivals, alongside three audience development organizations over three years and four awards for short-term activity.

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The BFI has said the 17 projects aim to generate 4.67m admissions UK-wide and represent support for 203,846 screenings, of which 91,357 the BFI said will be accessible screenings (45%). Of the 17 awards, 11 have been handed to organizations based outside London and South East England, although all awarded projects will have activity outside the region.

The list of awardees:
Multi-Year Awards (April 2023-March 2026)

  • Broadway Cinema awarded £480,000, for ‘BROADER’ —  Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema will pilot targeted marketing initiatives and partner with community organizations in order to develop audiences that currently have low engagement with the venue.
  • HOME awarded £555,000, for ‘Re-building a diverse audience’ — Focusing on opening up the venue to a greater range of audiences that are representative of Manchester’s population, funding will support increased partnership working, changes in working practices, and new programming/marketing initiatives.
  • Phoenix Leicester awarded £270,000, for ‘MyPhoenix 2026’ — Phoenix will rebuild its audience following a large capital project, Phoenix 2020, extending its reach to new, young, and diverse audiences through a newly created outreach role, new partnerships and guest curators as well as an increased commitment to access to ensure more people in Leicester have access to a breadth of film.
  • Queen’s Film Theatre awarded £270,000, for ‘Priority Audiences’ — Belfast’s QFT will undertake a comprehensive audience research project to better understand its audiences and their relationship with the venue. It aims to use it to engage more diverse audiences in its program, and will invest in the expansion of its young audience initiative, LUMI.
  • Showroom Cinema awarded £480,000, for ‘Another Country’ — Sheffield’s Showroom will change working practices and activities in a long-lasting and meaningful way, with a focus on increasing young audience numbers and broadening engagement with local communities, especially those from disadvantaged and socio-economic backgrounds with traditional low engagement. It will also look to build its audience for relaxed/accessible screenings.
  • Watershed awarded £585,000, for ‘Rebuilding audiences better – with inclusion at the centre’ — Bristol’s Watershed will develop and test new marketing and promotional initiatives as part of a cinema communication strategy to engage younger and more diverse audiences in its program.

Festivals And Special Programmes:

  • Arts Alive in Shropshire and Herefordshire awarded £180,000, for ‘Flicks in the Sticks – Reaching Out…’ —  The Festival will appoint two new part time roles (Audience Outreach and Digital Marketing) to engage new audiences in specific areas across Shropshire and Herefordshire through new and innovative marketing approaches.
  • Reclaim The Frame awarded £420,000, ‘Reclaim The Frame With Me’ — Focusing on those that are currently underrepresented amongst Reclaim The Frame audiences, there will be a significant focus on reaching a wider audience across the UK. Growing its impact across the nations and regions, the funding will also support new approaches to marketing, promotion, and outreach.
  • Carousel Project awarded £363,000, for ‘Oska Bright Film Festival’ — Supporting two editions of the Oska Bright Film Festival plus one UK tour to showcase the work of learning-disabled and autistic people. The festival will work with partner venues to ensure they welcome learning-disabled audiences as well as provide mentoring and opportunities for new programmers and regional assistants.
  • Tongues on Fire awarded £105,000, for ‘UK Asian Film Festival 2023-2026’ — The festival will invest in additional curatorial expertise and marketing activity to rebuild audiences, particularly through its Celebrating Womanhood strand.

Audience Initiatives:

  • Cinema For All awarded £520,440, for ‘Building diverse grassroots audiences through the power of affordable, local, volunteer-led cinema’ — Enabling Cinema For All to support the community cinema sector to grow and expand through a number of initiatives aimed at ensuring everyone has access to a cinema experience, breaking down barriers for people in areas of low provision to engage, providing the necessary skills and resources to support cinema within the community; and support the sector in addressing their environmental impact.
  • Independent Cinema Office (ICO) awarded £1,329,999, for ‘Support for screening specialised film to the widest range of audiences’ — Supporting the ICO to deliver a number of initiatives for the independent exhibition sector with a focus on supporting venues to identify gaps in the audiences engaging with their venues and new approaches to achieve this. This includes the ICO’s Programming service, the ICO Screening Days, and market intelligence.
  • YourLocalCinema awarded £114,000, for ‘YourLocalCinema Audience Development’ — YourLocalCinema’s website provides D/deaf audiences with up-to-date information on captioned screenings, the funding increases this to include foreign language titles and to enable the organization to play a stronger role in UK-wide discussions about accessible screenings.
  • Short-Term Projects (April 2023-March 2024)
  • Derby QUAD awarded £70,000, for ‘New Worlds of Cinema’ — A new marketing approach at QUAD will focus on guest programmers and community partnerships to provide new and existing audiences in Derby access to a refreshed program of new releases, seasons, and festivals.
  • Flatpack Festival awarded £90,000 for up to 12 months, for ‘Open Up’ — Supporting the 17th edition of the festival to help develop Flatpack’s working practices and programming/marketing activity in order to reach new audiences via a unique program of screenings and events.
  • StoryFutures awarded £66,000, for ‘Virtual Reality Hubs Network’ — StoryFutures is establishing a Virtual Reality Hubs Network to present VR work in five cinemas and cultural venues across the UK. Up to 21 diverse, engaging VR experiences will be available for audiences by autumn 2023 as part of a wider StoryFutures immersive storytelling program of activities which will also be available in 17 UK libraries. Funding will also support local marketing activities, packages of VR material, and a workforce development program to enable venues to feel confident in exploring new forms of screen-based exhibition.
  • Tyneside Cinema awarded £150,000, for ‘Tyneside Cinema Audience Development Project’ — To establish a sustainable approach to audience and programme development, connecting representative audiences to the venue. Funding will help Tyneside to undertake data-driven research with the aim of designing a long-term ambitious audience development plan to reach identified audiences.

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