The first day of This Way Up 17 was kick started with the theme of resilience. Resilience is vital when working in the cultural sector, and part of being resilient is coping with and implementing change. Whether it’s achieved through a review of pay practices in the workplace, an overhaul of exhibition windows or a development of a code of ethics for emerging technologies, it is very much at the forefront of every exhibitor’s mind.
The audience in the sessions I attended were particularity interactive, and what is obvious is that those working on the ground in the industry are desperate for action. It is not enough just to discuss the issues we’re facing as an industry, there needs to be changes implemented, and quickly. There were solutions being offered publicly in the auditorium, and among ourselves between breaks. What is clear is the real sense of community within the industry, with everyone wanting to help each other, but feeling strangled by the structures in place that may work well for big cities like London, but do nothing to help cinemas and community lead projects in smaller cities and rural areas.
Diversity has been discussed at length in the film industry for some time now, and today was a day to take stock and reflect on whether it’s really being achieved. Is diversity really being achieved, when as Jenny Sealey’s rousing keynote rightly pointed out, disabled people are still regularly being played by able bodied actors? Is diversity really being achieved, if it’s merely being co-opted by corporations with poor ethical practices to push ticket sales, as Simran Hans remarked in her keynote? Do we need to start thinking about programming diversity, when currently, smaller community projects are denied funding because they can’t meet tick boxing requirements, a problem that was pointed out by Louise Carney of Heartland Film Society in Scotland?
Despite the challenges however, one thing that remained was the sense of togetherness. Cinema is not for the individual, it is for everyone. A standout moment came from Moira .Sinclair, CEO of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. As the CEO of a funding body, Sinclair has a breadth of knowledge across a wide range of organisations and the ways in which they operate. And what was made clear was this- if, as an organisation, you don’t have serving your community, through love as well as duty, at the very heart of what you do, then you are far more likely to come unstuck. And this attitude needs to permeate throughout the organisation, which cannot be achieved without treating each member of the team fairly, and kindly.