ICO’s Training Courses Report


Throughout 2016, the ICO ran their REACH: Strategic Audience Development for Independent Exhibitors training course. The course was a workshop based, project focused programme designed to fulfill specific audience development needs of the independent film exhibition sector, with specific recourse to:

  • How to understand, research and build audiences
  • Delivering practical projects that deliver clear results
  • Bringing new audiences to a wider range of films
  • Engaging audiences from diverse backgrounds
  • Encouraging public participation
  • Making use of resources to achieve goals

Two Film Hub North West Central Hub Members report back about their experience on the course…

Salla Virman/The Hive

The Hive is an independent registered charity working across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. The organisation has since 2005 operated a unique creative venue in Shrewsbury town centre with a 100 seat performance space, music studio, media studio and gallery space. Through its own venue activity the Hive wants to provide high quality artistic activity for local audiences and communities.

As part of this process, we wanted to develop a programme of non-mainstream films for family, SEN/D and young audiences. The venue was already used by Shrewsbury Film, who provide opportunities for adult audiences to access the best of independent and non-mainstream cinema. We therefore felt that it would be important to provide same opportunities for younger audiences, as well as help to build audiences for the future. During 2015, we trialled a few family films but as this was a new programming strand for us, we did not feel that we particularly knew what we were doing and it was difficult to engage with audiences.

We therefore applied for the REACH audience development programme and also very fortunate to get a bursary from Film Hub North to support our audience development journey. The REACH programme has been fantastic; not only has it provided us with practical skills and knowledge, but it has also extended our contacts within the sector, including festivals, distributors, venues and other industry professionals. The programme has had a profound impact not just on our audience development activities, but also marketing, press & PR, youth engagement, access & diversity work and film programming. With the support from the REACH participant group, it has given us a unique opportunity to learn from other venues and festivals and reflect our learning. It has also been reassuring to learn that we all have very similar problems, regardless of the size of the venue or the length of the programme – these might just be on a different scale.

As part of the programme, we attended 2 sessions in London and 1 in London, as well as had a visit from our very own audience development advisor, Sarah Boiling. The programme also enabled us to attend ‘This Way Up’ conference in Glasgow,

As a result of this programme, we now have a clear game plan on how to develop the activities further and are engaging better with our audiences. It has also helped us to focus on the essential things and also consider what activities we may not want to continue, which is equally valuable.

Website: www.hiveonline.org.uk

Facebook & Twitter: @HiveShrewsbury

Vimeo: Hiveshrewsbury


Jo Mohammed/Elsewhere Cinema

Following our successful Audience development funding application for 58%, a project aiming to dedicate 58% of Liverpool Small Cinema’s programming to Female, Trans and Non-Binary filmmakers, I was advised by Film Hub North West Central to attend ICO’s REACH audience development training programme and was fortunate to receive the necessary funding to from both ICO and Film Hub NWC to attend.

The REACH programme involved developing a project specific to each participant’s own organisation and allowing six months to identify and implement the best practices to building new audiences.

The training began with two sunny days of talks on film exhibition landscape, understanding audiences, audience segmentation, PR, social media, accessibility and working with young programmers. It covered a lot of new ground for me, so the fact that the course was designed around working on a specific projects was really helpful as it allowed us to select which parts resonated the most and put this into practice.

I was lucky to be assigned Sophie Mayer as our advisor for 58%, she was a wealth of knowledge on feminist cinema and practical advise that helped us identify ways in which we could lead the project more effectively and to continue it post the initial season. We were also fortunate that part of the ICO’s programme budget allowed Sophie to attend our venue for a panel discussion about Kathleen Collins’ Losing Ground.

The REACH programme finished of with presentations from all the participants about their own projects. This was really useful as it allowed us all to share our knowledge, success and methods of best practice. It was reassuring to find out that all venues encounter unexpected trials and tribulations, but we all agreed that those are often the biggest learning curve.

The overall experience has been instrumental in allowing us to develop a clearer vision for 58% in 2017. We are planning new collaborations, talks and 58% on tour that we hope will expand our reach and bring us in touch with new audiences.

Coming from an arts background and having operated independently meant that I was quite naive about audience development strategies up until now and so I couldn’t recommend this or a similar ICO programme more to anyone new to cinema exhibition or setting up a new venue.


Salla and Jo attended the REACH course with help from a Film Hub North West Central Bursary, for more information on the bursary scheme click here

Photo credit: Chris Payne


The ICO’s Elevate: Introduction to Leadership course took place in September 2016 and it was an opportunity for managers in film exhibition  to learn practical management skills to make sure their film career is moving in the right direction. The bespoke training experience aimed to accelerate participants development through a holistic approach, with expert support, coaching and peer-to-peer learning.

Jackie from They Eat Culture attended the course with help from a Film Hub North West Central bursary. Here she shares her thoughts about the programme…

The Elevate course has been a real eye opener for me, a chance to really take a step back from the day to day and consider different personalities and how I communicate with those around me. The course provided a wealth of tools to give real insight into the different approaches for improving relationships & motivating team members, and through application (often very simple small tweaks) I have seen such a benefit in many working relationships.

I have learnt more than I expected about myself and had the luxury of time to think about my core values, areas I would like to improve and practical techniques to do this.  It has given me a lot more confidence and motivation as a person and in management.

It was a truly inspirational, dynamic group and I do feel if this is an indication of the future managers in Film Exhibition and The Arts we are in good hands. Thank you to the ICO for this fantastic opportunity, I hope more people get the chance to go on this journey of discovery.

The ICO’s Data Driven Marketing intensive four day course provided a chance to hear the key ideas in marketing and helped Film Exhibiton marketing professionals to develop their own strategy that will deliver results. The focus on this course was to bring a data-driven approach to marketing, to turn data into information and information into insight.

Craig from The Light Cinemas group attended the course with help from a Film Hub North West Central bursary. Here he shares his thoughts about the programme…

The Data Driven Marketing course was the first ICO course that I have attended. I was delighted that the course exceeded my expectations in terms of content of the modules and industry speakers. I was also pleased to be surround by fellow exhibitors whose experience and different approaches to data driven marketing added to the overall experience exponentially. There was even a couple of distributors in attendance who helped give balance to the discussions and added context from the other side of the industry.

Overall I feel that this course was hugely beneficial to my personal development and also to the development of how data is assessed and treated at our cinemas. I wouldn’t hesitate to apply for future ICO courses and feel extremely grateful for all of their hard work that went into the Data course.