Why the project matters
Social isolation is a problem within the LGBTQ+ community at the best of times, but even more so during the pandemic as the few social spaces (bars and events) that were in place were removed. The LGBTQ+ community suffers increased poor mental health and this can be driven by both isolation and also around understanding your sexual identification.
To increase opportunities for the community to come together in a safe way to be entertained, distracted and to provide important space for conversation and discussion around a relaxed, fun topic.
We saw a number of attendees outside our traditional reach with face to face events. It was exciting to see parents (who normally could not go out due to having children in bed), disabled women (who struggle to access LGBTQ+ spaces which are often not accessible), remote women (who don’t have a local scene or community) and socially isolated women (those who don’t know many/any other LGBTQ+ people and live a fairly heterosexual life normally). We also went from a local community in London to a global online community worldwide. This meant we had meaningful conversations, were able to educate and support whilst entertaining. Being online also allowed us to support content on a range of platforms. Everyone watched on their local device so we didn’t have to worry about expensive hire fees or venue costs. This meant the events were affordable for every budget.
We covered a wide range of films and TV. Batwoman (Channel 4), Feel Good (Channel 4/Netflix), Good Kisser (Netflix), Motherland Fort Salem (BBC iPlayer), The Wilds (Amazon Prime), AESOP, Forever Not Maybe, Rain Beau’s End, Butch Jamie, Heterosexual Jill, S&M Sally feature films (LesflicksVOD), Nice Chinese Girls Don’t and other short films (LesflicksVOD). We were also able to run live Q&As which we live streamed.
We reached out to various community groups to offer easy access to LesflicksVOD catalogues. We worked with HereNI, a film club in Northern Ireland to bring easy access to their members. We also put together a community package to support future partnerships.
What didn’t work
You just can’t replicate physical contact and so whilst an option, I don’t think it can survive on its own. There are definitely pros and cons to both physical and digital. Digital can be cheaper if you utilise simple tools like Zoom and Streamyard, but expensive if you need a streaming platform to host video files. We have a streaming platform so the largest cost is not a concern for us. Real life has greater restrictions on capacity and also you are restricted on available venues. We found the tech side straightforward because we are a tech organisation. Outreach is not much different for an LGBTQ+ organisation as most LGBT communities don’t have physical spaces and meet online.
The diversity of attendees at events was huge. From countries to race, to age and also marital status. It was exciting to see everyone come together around a common passion that is film. We saw a mix of US, European and UK attendees. 60% were UK but 40% were from elsewhere. We also found 80% of attendees were not the attendees we saw at physical events. We had Mum’s, people who didn’t have lesbian friends before lockdown or who live somewhere there isn’t a scene or venues.
We had a small grant from a local LGBTQ+ grant fund related to social isolation and communities during the pandemic. This meant we could offer access to events at low costs and our budgets were low. We were able to have tickets priced as free for unemployed/furlough/students and low price £3 for others. We also offered a £5 ticket including a donation for those that wanted to support Lesflicks.
Online was surprisingly successful. I was reluctant as I’m a fan of face to face and wasn’t sure I could replicate that but the results were interesting. Conversations were more deep and inclusive as you could hear what everyone was saying.
What didn’t work
You just can’t replicate physical contact and so whilst an option, I don’t think it can survive on its own.
What you’d do differently if you did it again
I would probably promote differently and coordinate with other organisers. Everyone was setting up events at the same time and the market was crowded. There was little coordination around what was on in the wider community.
Awareness & attitudes
Awareness of lesbian films was hugely increased; and not just for traditional mainstream releases but for lots of more independent films.
The diversity of attendees at events was huge. From countries to race, to age and also marital status. It was exciting to see everyone come together around a common passion that is film.
Knowledge & experience
A lot was learned as we took our physical events and pivoted online. We’ve researched and trialled a number of platforms for community engagement and events. The steep learning curve has helped us to be more resilient as an organisation.