Case study: Working with Young Audiences

“Our engagement is up to unbelieveable levels!”

Jess Thomas, of the Gulbenkian in Canterbury, was awarded a Travel and Training bursary to take part in two training programmes designed to improve engagement with young audiences.

Jess Thomas of the Gulbenkian, Canterbury

Jess Thomas (left) of the Gulbenkian, Canterbury

“Participating on the Independent Cinema Office’s REACH programme has really focused our development of targeting young people at Gulbenkian.

The challenge I undertook for the course was to focus on student attendance and engagement – the Gulbenkian is on a University of Kent campus.  At the beginning of this course we had a waning student membership and a student night that was wavering in popularity, and no real cohesive approach to programme or marketing to this audience.

Influenced by the course, we redid all our branding in consultation with students and drew up a strategic, targeted campaign to increase student attendance.  Figures are showing an increase in our student attendance in particular for 2ForTuesday evenings, but our engagement is up to unbelievable levels.  The clarity of the message and the cohesive branding campaign launched at Fresher’s Fayre last September has infiltrated the student community and is more widely known.

Positive results of Cinema+ and special offers

We’ve added value with Cinema+ activities such as sausage bobbing and sausage tasting at the student screening of Sausage Party, plus post-show discussions with directors. For example, Amir Amirani came to do a Q&A following a screening of We Are Many and nearly missed his train as the students in the audience had so many questions.  Our Café has also come on board with a 2 pints for £5 offer that has been successful run alongside the 2ForTuesday screenings.  We also introduced a Student Society offer when societies group book which has been successful.

We have fine-tuned the weekly student night offer of 2For1 tickets on a Tuesday and under this campaign I have really investigated Facebook and Instagram advertising to the point that Gulbenkian now has a committed amount for advertising through these channels.  Through doing this I have learned an incredible amount very rapidly about advertising and really made it work for Gulbenkian.

Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Gulbenkian

Rocky Horror Picture Show

As part of the engagement element of REACH, my colleague Ali and I established a young programmers group called Gulbenkian Uncovered, with 30 members and growing.  Members have helped us to select 2ForTuesday films, written successful applications for funding to support BFI Black Star screenings, organised various initiative ideas such as running a bed-style photobooth at The Rocky Horror Picture Screening (pictured) and an immersive spooky trail in the woods before an outdoor screening of The Blair Witch Project.

I also want to give a special shout out to the mentor allocated to me by the ICO during the scheme, Mike Tait from Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) who really took the time to help – even just being a sounding board for ideas.  His guidance was priceless. He really gave me the structure and guidelines to work within – stressing the importance of a structure and communication when working with young people.  It is an important lesson to learn to keep everyone updated and in the loop to maintain interest while setting achievable goals.”

Working with Young Programmers event, Scotland 2016

“Attending the course has had an impact in our approach to our Young Programmers group as we are reshaping and altering our communication to engage, set more appropriate timescales and communicate better while providing ownership to the group.

Black Star event at the Gulbenkian

Black Star event at the Gulbenkian

We are reviewing how we promote training and gaining valuable skills in order for the Gulbenkian Uncovered group to become self-running and build skills for future careers.

The group also has more involvement  in selecting our 2ForTuesday film series per season and the group is also involved with running a series of FilmTalks aligned with Conversations About Cinema to specifically target the group’s peers and provide a platform for discussion.”

So what’s next?

“We’re setting in motion an idea of curating a series of pop-up screenings in unusual spaces across the University campus targeting our student audiences.  The idea is that the Gulbenkian Uncovered group will have ownership of programming and running these events with support of Gulbenkian team members in a mentoring capacity.

The course reassured me, and made me feel supported by a network of people trying to achieve similar goals. It also highlighted to me how much more we can be doing but that it won’t be done overnight – there will be challenges along the way, but if you are open and communicate the group will overcome these.”