Opening our doors: inclusive cinema
For the last six months or so we have been working with Sense, TouchBase Pears in Selly Oak to develop a sensory film offer in a bid to make Flatpack Festival more accessible.
We have been offering accessible screenings at the festival for a couple of years now, subtitled screenings, relaxed performances, occasional BSL interpretation for Q&As but after a trip to TouchBase Pears in 2019 it became clear to us that wasn’t enough.
TouchBase Pears is a pioneering, multi-purpose centre for the whole community in Birmingham and beyond – a place that brings people together in a welcoming environment where everyone can feel connected, included and part of the community.
Offering a range of events and activities from sensory gardens to therapeutic sound baths, the incredible work they do has inspired us and started us on a journey to think about access in all we do. Teaming up with artist and theatre-maker Sarah Baker-Groves we began developing a new and exciting project for the 2020 festival called Touch Screen.
Working in partnership with Sense and their service-users, Touch Screen is made up of sensory tactile offerings inspired by, and aiming to translate, a selection of short films from our Colour Box archive. Creating an entry point that doesn’t just require words and visuals, the translations will explore the senses with the audience being invited to touch, smell, taste, hear and feel their way through the films whilst playing around with new SubPac technology, which generates sound vibrations, as well as more tangible objects. The project is important to us as it aims to go beyond the multiplex to reach audiences that may not have access to independent film and have additional needs which may not be catered for by accessing traditional cinema-going. Sadly due to the COVID-19 outbreak Flatpack Festival 2020 is cancelled and our plans for Touch Screen are on hold until next year but we’re still developing bits of the project that we can whilst in lockdown.
In the meantime we’ve been busy moving parts of the Flatpack programme online for our very first virtual edition. Producing a digital festival in less than 6 weeks was challenging and a big part of that was around access. The team at Sense have been really supportive in helping us to make the programme accessible at such short notice and we’re proud to be offering audio description for competition short film My Dad’s Name Was Huw. He Was An Alcoholic Poet. (below) along with a selection of subtitled films.
"Sense Arts puts people with complex disabilities, including those who are deafblind, at the forefront of creative excellence. We make sure inclusion and access is core in our approach and having the opportunity to partner and support Flatpack Festival this year, even during these challenging and isolating times, using such a brilliant platform allowing new audiences to be able to experience the fantastic work in film and media." Sunney Sharma, Arts & Wellbeing Manager