Developing an inclusive approach to film audiences

In some areas of the South East there are communities that don't regularly engage with cinema. We want to change this by helping venues become more inclusive, welcoming places.

Data shows that the audience for watching film outside mainstream contexts does not accurately represent the UK population’s diversity – particularly in terms of ethnic origin, and those who consider themselves to have a disability.

We want to help exhibitors address this and become spaces for all members of the community to enjoy a wide variety of film.

The aim of this scheme is to provide bespoke consultancy to selected cinemas and film festivals in the South East to identify and attract particular new audiences to film screenings. In some cases, we will fund activity that venues and film festivals have already identified as essential for them to better work with new audiences.

This scheme aims to enable film exhibitors attract specific new audiences as delineated by the BFI Diversity Standards; which directly address disability, race, age, gender, and sexual orientation as well as acknowledging the need to better include people from lower socioeconomic groups in film industry engagement (industry employment, on-screen representation and audience make-up).

How does the scheme work?

This is an open call for applications from cinemas and festivals who would like to develop a priority audience.

We are keen to build capacity in organisations to ensure the support we have is used in the most cost-effective way, whilst at the same time instigating a level of cultural change in terms of thinking about questions of access and inclusivity. We anticipate working with three organisations in the first year and matching them with an audience development consultant to audit areas of operation and to develop an audience development plan with them.

We will select 2 or 3 cinemas or film festivals in the South East for a pilot project that will enable them to work closely with an audience development specialist to identify and target priority underserved communities within their area.

The audiences will be distinct depending on the venue location: those who consider themselves disabled; those with learning difficulties; those with mental health issues or audiences from Black and Minority Ethnicity (BAME) communities.

We are particularly keen to support venues and festivals looking to attract young audiences from underrepresented groups.

The main principle of this initiative is that it should be venue-led. The support available can be used to work closely with a specialist to look at all areas of operation, outreach, marketing and programming to enable venues to maximise their resources, train staff and build specialism in their dialogue with specific audiences.

In some cases, we will support activity a venue has already identified as key for them to start reaching a new audience; but in most cases, we would expect the venue to work with an audience development specialist to identify future activity. Venues may already have identified a particular specialist but we are also happy to facilitate a relevant connection to a specialist if applicable. We don’t envisage this support lasting longer than one year.

What support is offered?

The total budget for this scheme is £7,500.

The support offered will in most cases be for a bespoke package of consultancy based on the needs and objectives of the selected venues. It is envisaged this support will last between six months to a year and will be tailored to the specific needs of the venue and community / group they seek to engage with. We can help match organisations with a relevant consultant where appropriate.

In some cases, we can also award funds for activity or specialist training the venue or film festival has already been identified as essential for developing deeper engagement with new communities or groups. In these cases we can fund no more than 90% of the overall cost of the identified activity, but would not usually expect to be contributing more than 60%.


What is the BFI Film Audience Network?

The BFI Film Audience Network (or FAN) was originally set up in 2012, using funds from the National Lottery, to support a stronger and more connected approach to growing audiences for British and international film on the big screen.  It divided film exhibition activity in the UK into regions, each led by a regional Film Hub.

From 2017, FAN is part of the BFI’s five-year plan BFI2022 and central to BFI2022’s commitment to give everyone, everywhere in the UK the opportunity to enjoy and learn from the richest and most diverse range of great British and international filmmaking, past, present and future.

The priorities for FAN under BFI2022 are to:

  • Increase access to a wide range of independent British and international film for audiences – especially those outside London;
  • Extend engagement with BFI supported activities across the UK and enhance the quality and cultural depth of audience experience;
  • Increase access to the UK’s screen heritage especially via the BFI’s National Film and TV Archive and those of the regions and nations;
  • Enhance the quality of audience-facing activity, deepen knowledge and build capability in its membership, and;
  • To do this with a particular emphasis on increasing the diversity of audiences and boosting the number of 16-30 year old’s engaging with film activity.

What is Film Hub South East?

Film Hub South East is the Hub region for the South East of England.  Geographically it has grown from the previous iteration of FAN and now covers the following local authority areas: Bedfordshire, Bracknell Forest, Brighton and Hove, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, East Sussex, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Luton, Medway, Milton Keynes, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Peterborough, Reading, Slough, Southend-on-Sea, Suffolk, Surrey, Thurrock, West Berkshire, West Sussex, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham.

From 2018, Film Hub South East is managed by the Independent Cinema Office (ICO), the UK’s national agency for the development and support of independent film exhibition.

What does Film Hub South East do?

Like all of the regional Film Hubs, Film Hub South East works on behalf of the BFI and in partnership with its members to deliver specific outcomes in its region against the priorities listed above.

Who is eligible for this scheme?

To submit a proposal for consideration your organisation must be a member of Film Hub South East. To read more about becoming a member, click here.

If you were a member of the previous iteration of Film Hub South East, please note that you will still need to reapply for membership before you can access our opportunities. This is due to the fact that BFI membership guidelines have now been standardised across all of the different BFI Film Audience Network regions.

This opportunity is available to cinemas and arts centres in the South East region that have a regular film programme, as well as film festivals.

Applicants must have a member of staff nominated to take a lead on the project.

How do I submit?

Download a proposal form, and once completed, please email to

How will a decision be made?

Each proposal will be assessed by two members of senior ICO staff, who will then discuss and finalise the decision.

Do I need to do anything in return for receiving this support?

Yes. At the outset of your project we will agree performance measures for your activity, against which you will need to collect data. You will need to submit this data in a final report no later than one month following the end of your activity.

How much support is available for the scheme?

£7,500 from 1st January 2018 until 31st March 2019.

Once all support has all been allocated and the scheme closed, this will be communicated to Film Hub South East members.

What do I do if I have further questions about submitting a proposal?

Please ensure you have downloaded and read through the full guidelines in the first instance. If you still have a query, please contact Film Hub South East via or 0207 636 7120.

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