About us

The ICO is the UK’s support organisation for independent cinema.

Why we do what we do

Like all art forms, film has the power change people’s lives. To change and challenge the way they think about themselves and their place in the world, and to stimulate ideas, creativity and imagination. There is no substitute for watching films in a communal setting — that sense of experiencing something together is often transformational and certainly empowering.

The organisations and venues we work with are not-for-profit and housed in community spaces. They prioritise what matters most to local audiences and focus on cinema beyond the mainstream. They create a sense of place and transform local economies.

Our work in programming, training and distribution, alongside our bespoke consultancies and vast array of practical resources, all contribute to this.

Read more about our strategy, vision and mission

What we do

  • We programme a network of over 20 cinemas, festivals and mixed arts venues so that anyone can access a shared experience of life-changing cinema in their community, offering a wider range of films to a wider range of people.
  • We offer training so that independent cinema professionals can benefit from high-level knowledge that ensure our sector is successful, innovative and progressive.
  • We offer consultancy to help start, save and grow cinemas, making sure they stay economically viable and build their capacity.
  • We distribute films that make a contribution to the diversity of cinema culture in the UK and make a cultural intervention into the marketplace.
  • We offer free advice and information to make sure that everyone can show films and take part in our sector.
  • We run events for cinema professionals that help build a robust sector and encourage collaboration.

What’s the history of the ICO?

The Independent Cinema Office was founded in 2003, with a vision of everyone in the UK having access to life-changing cinema. This vision grew so that we could support the skills of the incredible people who work in those venues (via our training and professional development), increasing access to the films available to these venues (via our distribution and Screening Days projects) and making sure they had access to the best advice and information. The ICO was founded by Catharine Des Forges, who is still the Director of the organisation.

Find out more

Who we are

The ICO is a small, vibrant arts organisation, reliant on the talent and enthusiasm of its staff.  In 2003, we started out with three members of staff, today we have 22.

For information on the demographics of our staff and board of trustees, please download our demographic data. The data was collected in April 2024 and will be updated in April 2025.

ICO staff

Our trustees

The ICO’s development is guided by the support and industry knowledge of the charity’s trustees. Under the leadership of Dorothy Wilson as Chair, the board and management team work closely to set and monitor the strategic direction of the organisation.

ICO board of trustees

Annual reports

The best way to understand how we work is to read our annual reports, featuring overviews of our projects and snapshots of what’s happening in independent cinema right now.

Desk space

Located just a few minutes walk from London Bridge, our office provides a convenient working space within a vibrant cultural organisation. We have up to six desks available to rent and can offer short and long-term rentals with flexible contracts.

Learn more

Feed back to the ICO

At the ICO, we are committed to providing a high quality, transparent, accessible and friendly service. We welcome all feedback and when we get things wrong, want to know about it so we can put them right. Read about the ICO’s complaints policy and procedure and other ways to feed back here.

Find out more

Our funders

We have developed strong partnerships with a variety of national and international agencies and funders to deliver our programme of activities. The BFI has supported the ICO since its inception and is now a major funder of programming, information and specialised events for the independent exhibition sector through a range of activities. We are a national strategic partner of BFI FAN, the BFI’s network of agencies tasked with supporting audience development across the UK.

We have also grown partnerships with a huge range of organisations both in the UK and internationally including the Japan Foundation, the Korean Film Council, Esmée Fairbairn, Europa Cinemas, ScreenSkills (who support our training and professional development projects), MEDIA programme of Creative Europe and the British Council (who back our portfolio of activities supporting European film festivals) and Arts Council England (who support a range of activities developing audiences for artists’ moving image).

Subscribe to our mailing list

What would you like to receive emails about? *
* indicates required