Venue Case Studies
Case Study: The Place, Bedford
The Place in Bedford is a multi-arts venue run by a committed and ambitious group of freelance arts practitioners. With a strong history of theatre and drama events and activities for youth, we wanted to expand our offer to include film.
Why We Started This Work
As a venue we have been moving towards a youth orientated programme. The pandemic had left its mark, with one of our main youth groups completely folding. In 2021 things started moving forward for us again, with clubs and activities starting up again in a real-life capacity. At that stage our regular D&D group was starting up but our youth theatre plans were still in progress. The Film programmers club would sit nicely alongside our existing film programme and also engage our target youth audience.
Our Planning and Approach
I got involved with the Young Film Programmers project at the start because it interested me. The recruitment stage was tricky as our young ‘audience’ were hard to track as we simply do not have that direct data. We had our best engagement online with a slightly younger audience on Instagram, but otherwise we were reaching out through schools, colleges, youth clubs and organisations such as Young Carers. Some of our first members were actually our kickstart employees. (One of them stayed with us throughout the whole project.)
My involvement was to offer support with marketing and social media. As a team we felt we wanted to recruit an expert film facilitator and so with the help of Film Hub we advertised and recruited the brilliant, Emily Steele who runs the Film Festival in Peterborough among many other film related projects. This was a huge help for us as we could concentrate on the venue liaison and recruitment and learn directly from Emily about how to facilitate a group and discuss things like cinema history, film exhibition and film distribution. Then we recruited a small group of young people aged 16-24. The plans were to start the group, get them marketing events as early as possible and use those events to gain assets and recruit even more young people.
Our weekly sessions were either online or real life and we often started by discussing films we had seen and rating them. Emily Steele taught the history of cinema, film distribution, licensing and how to plan an event. The group were brilliant at coming up with suggestions and ‘eventising’ them. Our screenings were all planned for the public at The Place. These events would be hosted by the Film Programmers and supported by the Place Front of House Team. We learned about targeting different audiences according to the genre of the film selected; Grease with popcorn and candy floss; Umbrellas of Cherbourg with Hot Chocolate (served with an umbrella obvs); La Vie En Rose with soup and a baguette. Our group were certainly keen on the food offer and nearly every event included something to eat or drink. The group sometimes stood and spoke to the audience before a screening, explaining why the film was chosen or the history of the movie.
For us the main barrier was recruitment. The numbers fluctuated. We reached out to schools and colleges, personal contacts, local press and any avenue we could think of. Those who joined us were all enthusiastic and wanted to help boat numbers. They ran an Instagram account to publicise the events and to try to recruit. At events we gave out feedback forms and tried to reach new audiences. Overall the audiences we got were not usually the young ones we were looking for. The group had great success in reaching good numbers for events, yet we often found the core audience to be our existing core audience; too old to recruit! At some events, like Grease and Romeo & Juliet, we had younger audiences at last. By this stage, however, exam pressure had stopped some of our weekly sessions. We were down to two members and Emily and myself.
The highlights had to be the huge audience of Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and seeing two of our programmers gain confidence to introduce the films. Our youth team was small and numbers fluctuated, but they really made the events work and saw some fantastic ticket sales as a result. In the end it was external pressure of exams, coursework or the need to work that made the group come to a conclusion. However, it was a very worthwhile experience and I was appreciative of the incredible support and training available with the YFP network.
Lissy Malt, Head of Comms and YFP Coordinator, The Place Bedford