Ashley Smith-Hammond

Culture Republic's research allowed the Glasgow Film Theatre to engage with a broader and more diverse audience of filmgoers.


Glasgow Film (GFT) received funding from Creative Scotland’s Promoting Equalities Programme (PEP), which was an organisational change programme running from 2012 – 2015. Seven arts organisations, including GFT, were supported to explore how they could build equality and diversity into their programme, organisational culture and audiences. Project work included testing and developing models of best practice, and identifying new engagement routes and new creative programmes within arts and cultural organisations.

The company were building on that legacy with a continuing action research project focused on programming for young people and adults with autism and/or additional support needs, D/deaf and hard of hearing people, migrant and low/unwaged audiences and people living with dementia, their carers and families. They wanted to make sure these events were meeting the needs of the different groups that they were aiming to serve.

What was needed?

GFT had already seen success from their participation in the PEP programme. Much good practice was already embedded in the programming, marketing and front of house teams and they wanted to make sure they kept it going.

GFT asked Culture Republic to develop a framework for monitoring how they were delivering against their equalities and access objectives. The framework needed to respond to internal objectives as well as those drawn from the PEP programme. Because the programming was targeted at very different communities of users, measurement needed to be specific to the needs of each group. The framework had to measure the performance of: the building (physical access, transportation issues); GFT’s information (marketing materials, internal signage); and access technologies (BSL interpretation, captioning, speech to text translation).

measuring access

This diversity meant that a mix of methodologies and measures was needed. The framework we devised combined a number of different research methods, which were adjusted to be appropriate for different user groups. This mix included:

  • Mystery shopping – We recruited people as members of the target communities (older people, people with dementia, people on the Autism Spectrum and D/deaf and hard of hearing people) to book and attend events at GFT. Their feedback helps us to better understand the experience and access needs of specific visitors.
  • Post event e-surveys asking about participants’ experiences.
  • In person survey asking about participants experience. All surveys were created to be sensitive to the needs of particular user groups.
  • Video vox pops – short informal interviews with participants to get an initial response to their experience.
  • Feedback cards – written feedback provided immediately after attending. These were also gathered from spontaneous feedback to GFT’s front of house staff members.

Research and monitoring took place over January-March 2016, targeting GFT’s fouraction research projects. We reached out to people on the day of and after the events to gather informationabout their experience.

What happened

 What came out of the evaluations was very largely positive and spoke to GFT continuing on the path of delivering regular, high quality accessible programming. The venue was praised. Users offered suggestions for improved signage and toilet accessibility (see also Euan’s Guide to accessible toilets) and were generous with additional ideas to enrich events in the future.

During Dementia Friendly research, patrons living with dementia noted that having a carer or ‘buddy’ with them enabled confident and safe travelling to the venue. Furthermore, once inside the venue, having support in the auditorium and to use the facilities was very valuable. They also reported that early afternoons were the best times for this programming.

live BSL and speech to text at GFT
GFT Visible Cinema. Photograph credit – Geraldine Heaney

D/deaf audiences noted the need for BSL interpreters. Subtitles are not written in BSL English and for the majority of people who are Deaf, BSL is their first language. Hard of hearing audiences really valued the speech to text service, offering a live visual script during the introduction and post film conversations.

Booking patterns for many of the events showed that the vast majority of tickets were sold on the day. This speaks to the importance for front of house staff to be confident interacting with people who may be D/deaf, hard of hearing, on the autistic spectrum or have another access requirement.

Several of the events programmed work from within communities – the Visible Cinema screening and the Access Film Club screenings had programmed work respectively about the BSL community through sourced archive footage and a personal story from the perspective of an autistic filmmaker. Ticket sales for these events generated the highest audience numbers to date for the two programming strands, suggesting that intergenerational audiences are responding to stories that resonate with their experience and the opportunity to experience this in a social cinema environment was highly attractive.

These findings were fed back to the Glasgow Film team and used to inform ongoing staff training procedures and the internal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee.


In their own words:

The impact of the research for the GFT has been vast and legacy building.

Jodie Wilkinson, Glasgow Film’s Public Engagement Coordinator said:

“Forging research and monitoring practice that are intrinsically defined by your audiences and considered as to what you want to interrogate through it, is vital. We have learnt so much and have developed meaningful patron relationships and continue to provide resonant programme strands, which match and challenge our audiences successfully. All of this has occurred because of the resource, time and investment that was afforded to the action research projects. This learning does not stop and we are consistently striving to improve and enhance our public engagement offer for current and new audiences alike.”

Listening to and learning from audiences has clearly paid off for the GFT. This year the venue was the first UK cinema to be awarded the prestigious Autism Friendly Award from the National Autistic Society.

Main image credit: GFT Visible Cinema. Photograph by Neil Thomas Douglas. All images copyright Glasgow Film.