GFT For All

Writer, Alison Irvine tells us more about Glasgow Film Theatre’s (GFT) For All Project…

Glasgow Film Theatre has embarked on a large-scale project to ask questions of its audience and potential audiences. The project is part of GFT’s equalities research – ‘Cinema For All’ is emblazoned above the doorway after all – and its Head of Learning, Emily Munro, wants to find out what makes people go to the cinema – any cinema – and what makes people go to GFT in particular. On the flip side of the coin she wants to know what makes people not go to the cinema and not go to GFT in particular.

She’s commissioned nine writers, one writer/facilitator (me) and an illustrator/animator (David Galletly). The nine writers have written short stories or poems as their response to the theme of equalities. Some pieces are about the cinema, some aren’t. It’s an eclectic, passionate, poignant and humorous collection. David Galletly has created animations based on a short extract from each piece which will be shown before each film at GFT. We’re on week three now and there’ll be a new animation and a new piece of writing released for a further six weeks with people being invited to give their own responses to the stories, poems and animations. As well as that, there are weekly questions posed, aimed at getting people to articulate just what it is that makes the cinema special for them – the thinking being know your audience and be better able to serve it.

So, GFT is stretching its arms wide and trying to draw people into this conversation. There are many ways of contributing: via GFT’s facebook, twitter (#filmforall), blog and post-it notes in the cinema foyer. And then there are the good old-fashioned focus groups, which is where I come in.

I specialise in writing fiction based on real-life stories. My first novel began as a community arts commission as part of the Red Road Flats legacy project. I collected and then fictionalised the stories of many of my interviewees. I will be working in a similar way for the GFT project. With one of the commissioned poems or stories as a stimulus and jumping-off point, we’ll ask questions about cinema in relation to equality – in particular Glasgow City Council’s single outcome agreements: improving the lives of vulnerable people, reducing alcohol abuse and increasing youth employment. We’ll ask about disabled access, about programming, about people’s perceptions of GFT and we’ll ask about poverty. And from these questions we hope to hear about people’s experiences of going to the cinema; the anecdotes, the incidents, the surprises, the best and the worst. From this wealth of material I’ll write a story.

My story will be published, along with the other nine pieces, in a book later this year. And it will tie in with the launch of the cinema’s third screen and refurbishment of the building.

Emily Munro will then gather up all the audience and focus-group feedback and she and her colleagues will interpret it and act on it!

The For All equalities project is a creative approach to an important, information-gathering exercise. And it’s a way of working that has a successful track record. Artlink commissioned writer Anne Donovan to write a story based on interviews with parents and carers of disabled children. She wrote a delicate and moving story that illuminates some of the complex and contradictory feelings of the people she interviewed. The story is not only a piece of art but it is informative as well.

Obviously, the writer puts their stamp on the story, in that it’s up to them to interpret what they hear and to create the characters and tone and style of the piece, but if it works, the piece will ultimately be imbued with a kind of honesty and empathy and a richness that perhaps could only be there because of the material that came out of the focus groups.

I clearly have my work cut out for me, but I am very much looking forward to my role in this expansive and collaborative project.

The artists involved in the For All Project are:

Tawona Sithole
Robin Yassin-Kassab
Eleanor Thom
Matthew Fitt
Nalini Paul
Bernard MacLaverty
Ewan Morrison
Cathy MacPhail
Janice Galloway

David Galletly
Alison Irvine

Details of how to participate in the For All project are here.

Alison Irvine Portrait copyright C Dooks
Alison Irvine Portrait copyright C Dooks

Alison Irvine’s first novel, This Road is Red (Luath Press), was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year award. She is the recipient of a Glasgow Life Commonwealth Games residency and will be writing a book on Glasgow’s arts and culture in the context of the Games. Fond of collaborating with other artists, for the Commonwealth Games residency she will be working alongside artist Mitch Miller and filmmaker and photographer Chris Leslie.

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