Exeter Phoenix Young Audiences Panel

Thea Berry – Freelance Outreach Officer

Throughout 2021, the Exeter Phoenix recruited a group of 18-25 year olds to form the first Young Audience Panel.


In January 2021, Exeter Phoenix worked with a freelance Cinema Outreach Coordinator to work on an audience development project aimed at strengthening visibility of their new cinema screen Studio 74 and to find new ways to reach under 25s with a focus on connecting with Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic audiences.

Throughout March and April, the research shifted from reading and attending webinars, to
conversations with the different departments in the Exeter Phoenix: Visual Arts, Film, Theatre and Dance and Marketing and Communications. These conversations were focussed on how those different departments have historically engaged with young people, what programmes worked and, essentially, what didn’t work and what they think needs to be done to further engage with young people.

Following these conversations, throughout the first half of May meetings were held with community partners explaining the aims of the project. Connections were established and Exeter Phoenix was able to widen their reach with other groups. Exeter Phoenix connected with representatives from:

● Inclusive Education Exeter
● Arts and Culture University of Exeter
● Free Fall Plus and The Pelican Project
● Modern Languages at University of Exeter

There was a real sense of enthusiasm and willingness to help and contribute to the development. As a result, a new list of connections and partnerships were established:

● Creative Switch
● Exeter Student Media Team
● Roots Resistance
● Exeter Mosque
● Exeter Film Society
● Innovation, Impact, Business (IIB) UoE

Development of the Young Audience Panel project

Traditionally audience development for cinema activity has been film by film, which is essential but there have been limited opportunities to promote the overall Studio 74 brand. The project’s aims therefore were to reach out to under 25s with a focus on BAME audiences and allow Exeter Phoenix the time to consider new options, invite conversation and develop solutions to improve the overall offer.

Exeter Phoenix wished to focus on building a trusted and positive reputation for the cinema, enabling these new audiences to engage with us.

The project aims:

● to build on our track record of delivering outstanding cinematic events
● to build confidence with our ability to engage with new, diverse and hard to reach
● Identify relatable titles and new releases, which can be tagged to a campaign.
● Work with partners to foster confidence to talk to diverse audiences with a view to
eventually being able to establish opportunities for this audience to feed back into the
programme in the future.
● To build the confidence of the Young Audience Panel when working within a cultural
organisation and to further their knowledge of the exhibition sector across the UK

Workshop development

Following the recruitment of 14 young people to join the Young Audience Panel, a series of
workshops were curated aimed at furthering the groups’ knowledge and skill set with regards to Film Exhibition.

Week 1: Anthony Andrew – case study from We Are Parable

Week 2: Ti Singh, Campaign Manager from FHSW gave an overview of BFI NRS and also alternative programming with the Bristol Bad Film Club.

Week 3: Irsa Al Kassi – case study from T A P E Collective

Week 4: Megan Mitchell from Matchbox Cineclub – inclusive, accessible and alternative

Subsequent opportunities were made available to the Young Audience Panel which offered them access to industry events and new skills.

● Two Short Nights Film Festival – Pre selection panel. Watching and short listing submissions.

● Collaboration with BFI NETWORK and Encounters film festival – inviting individual panel
members, Tina Valentine (she/they), Laura Webster (she/her) and Arsalan Motavali (he/him) to review Encuonter Student Awards programme and interview select directors from the Film Academy at Encounters. This was a paid opportunity.

● Exeter Phoenix, Studio 74 Programming, Halloween Strand – working with the programmer to develop and present a Halloween offer that will appeal to young people.

● Invitation to shape and influence a new Studio 74 promotional strategy – Young Audience
panel were invited to submit a redesign of the Studio 74 Logo, which will feed into a wider
promotional strategy.

● Supplementing audience engagement with the film programme – providing the panel access to screener links for select titles and inviting them to generate copy, reviews, programming notes which are published and shared with Studio 74 Audience.

Project highlights

● Developed partnerships with national programmers furthering the reach of Studio 74

● Developed relationships with local organisations and community groups.

● Grew in confidence and found new ways to include young people in the organisation.

● Provided the Young Audience Panel with further paid opportunities to further their
knowledge and skill set within film exhibition

● Rebranded the Studio 74 Logo in collaboration with local artists and the Young Audience

Key partnerships

The project strengthened partnerships with key organisations across the UK and allowed Studio 74 to foster new collaborations. Since the online workshops Exeter Phoenix has secured plans with We Are Parable, T A P E Collective and have been invited to work with Bristol Bad Film Club on an event for BFI’s Japan Blockbuster season.

Conversations were also had within Exeter’s community and plans are forming to work
collaboratively with The Roots Resistance and Creative Switch, as well as Inclusive Exeter. The project has laid the foundations to generate new ways of working and given Exeter Phoenix confidence and new reason.

Budget and source of funding

Our funding for this project came from Film Hub South West:

Overall budget: £5200
Cinema Outreach Coordinator: £2700
Marketing Strategy and Development: £950
Outreach Workshops: £400
Film Licenses: £200
Evaluation: £350
Film Content Creation: £500

What worked well?

● The project has laid the foundations to generate new ways of working and given Exeter
Phoenix confidence and a new sense of purpose.

● Inviting organisations and individuals to share their experiences. Found speakers were very happy to present and share their stories and were very willing to answer questions.

What was challenging about the project

● Making quick and collective decisions on programming has been difficult over email/zoom and that email is not the best method of communication.

● We have learnt that deadlines need to be set and clear guidelines need to be established for each opportunity.

● Finding a balance between giving the Young Audience Panel complete freedom and offering inspiration and boundaries.

● With workshops and further programming opportunities happening virtually, it’s been
difficult to run workshops for practical skills.

● Allowing enough time /space for the Young Audience panel to discuss among themselves.

● Reaching non-academic young people / those not already immersed in film or cinema

● As workshops had to take place over zoom, it was difficult to provide practical training

What you’d do differently if you did it again

● Make the recruitment window at least 4 weeks in order to spend time connecting with
audiences that don’t already have their fingers on the pulse.

● Make more time and space for the young people to talk, share and get to know each other.
Find ways to give the YAP more ownership/confidence

● Have a selection of opportunities available to participants at the beginning of the workshop series and with a clear timeframe attached.

Impact on the young people

The development of the Young Audience Panel has not only led to participants gaining work
experience within the sector in film programming, panel moderation and content creation,
furthering their own development and providing them with confidence and agency around their own creative ideas, but it has injected a new energy and sense of possibility into Studio 74 and Exeter Phoenix as a whole.