Venue Case Studies

Case Study: Maona Community Cinema

Maona Community Cinema is committed to exhibiting and producing the best of African and worldwide indie cinema. We work with the Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford, alongside other venues UK-wide to promote African cinema and new releases

Why We Started This Work

After the inception of Maona, I soon realised the lack of diversity and inclusion in the exhibition sector. One of the major factors that we face as exhibitors is the lack of representation on the screen. This stems from the basis of the workforce. The majority of curators and programmers are not from a diverse background and that has a direct correlation to the lack of diversity we are seeing in films being programmed in cinemas. To enable change, one of my long term solutions has been to start training a diverse future generation of curators and programmers so that in future we will begin to see the beauty of wider representation on screen.

Our Planning and Approach

The approach I have had towards the recruitment and planning for the training has been more organic approach as opposed to a formal. I worked with Oxford Youth to recruit local young people but in the end preferred having one to one conversations with individuals whom I had met over the year at our screenings. These individual conversations opened up the avenue to honest conversations and frustrations. They also allowed for us to explore and discuss what could be done better in the exhibition sector and how. It was very important to me to structure and personalise the training for young film programmers according to their needs, gaps of knowledge and interest. I valued their opinions and understanding what their interests may be. This approach was so beneficial as it cultivated a culture of ownership and responsibility towards the training as well as an excitement for what was to be taught.

For our Young Film Programmers we ran a one-off training course over the course of week, which suited my capacity (which was small) and suited the participants time working around their busy schedules. The week comprised of three online theory days followed by two in-person practical days. During our online days we covered several topics in relation to curation and programming. I ensured that the group had an opportunity to hear from a diverse range of guest speakers whom are highly experienced, innovative and seasoned within their fields. Our Young Film Programmers valued this opportunity to meet, discuss and ask these guest speakers any questions they had in relation to having a career in this industry. For day one of our in-person practical days, we attended the BFI Future Film Festival where we got to watch some of the films as well as connect with other aspiring young filmmakers. This day was also an opportunity for us to connect face to face as a group rather than online as we had done the previous three days. For our final practical day we had the opportunity to visit Ultimate Picture Palace (UPP), our local Oxford cinema. The team at UPP gave our Young Film Programmers a tour of the cinema, projection room as well as a talk through their 35mm projectors. I ensured the week was varied and exciting and now the group of programmers whom participated in the week have the opportunity of working alongside Maona in organising and co-curating an upcoming screening.


One of the main barriers I have encountered is a lack of interest from some of the established industry partners. Lack of representation on their screens is unfortunately an issue one not understood by some and this can at times be a barrier when presented with initiatives like this. Over the week of training the Young Film Programmers I learnt that we need to be more consistent with this generation if we want to see the sector being more widely represented. They are full of ideas and have big visions which need to be given a platform to be birthed. The initiatives which are presently there at the moment are very useful and are doing a great job in spearheading this process but more work is yet to be done and here at Maona we are up for it. Though this was a challenge, there were highlights within the process.

Also as a one-person organisation the main barrier to getting involved was my time. Running a weekly group was out of the question as my time was so limited. Equally, time to complete the relevant funding applications was also tricky but with support from FHSE we managed to secure a small pot to support a ‘boot-camp’ condensed week programme using the BFI Venue Education Funding opportunity.


My main highlight was seeing the enthusiasm of the group. They were so eager to learn and think much more broadly in regards to careers within exhibition. Some of the group left with a renewed enthusiasm in planning their own future events and exhibitions – a clear step in the right direction for the industry. Also, the team made a short film of our trip to the Future Film Festival and now, after receiving funding for a paid internship, I have managed to build capacity in my team with a new co-curator coming on board to develop our work.

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