This Way Up 2017 Conference Evaluation


This Way Up is the UK’s film exhibition innovation conference. Organised by Film Hubs Scotland, North West Central and North, and part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, This Way Up 2017 was held at Hull Truck Theatre in Hull on 7 and 8 November 2017. This Way Up 2017 attracted 218 attenders including delegates and speakers, and the programme included keynote talks, panel discussions, presentations and one to one surgery sessions, along with a VR demo, vintage cinema bus, and private view of the Turner Prize.
The objectives of the evaluation were to provide the organisers with information about who came to the conference; how they heard about it; their conference experience and expectations, compared to the previous conference in 2016; the positioning of the event in the sector; and the perception of conference partners. The data that follows is primarily based on a post conference e-survey along with conference registration data and semi-structured interviews with partners.

The findings

  • Delegate profile was broadly the same in 2017 as 2016. The conference attracts delegates from a wide range of organisations, and they are predominantly working in marketing, programming and leadership.
  • The majority of delegates are Female, and more than half of delegates are aged 30-44. In terms of ethnicity and gender This Way Up delegates are more diverse than the film exhibition sector as a whole. One in twenty delegates consider themselves to have a disability and the majority of delegates identify as heterosexual.
  • The conference attracted delegates from across the Hub network; one in three were from the Film Hub North area; one in five delegates from Scotland, and the remaining 50% from the other Hubs.
  • The most effective information sources for delegates are the fact they attended the previous conference in 2016, the network of Film Hubs, and positive word of mouth. Compared to 2016, Twitter increased from zero mentions to one in eight.
  • The top three motivations for attending the conference were broadly the same as in 2016 – To keep up with sector issues, To hear about new ideas and To meet new people
  • For the majority of delegates the conference met their expectations, for one in four delegates, it exceeded their expectations and for one in seven it did not meet their expectations, this is a similar pattern to 2016
  • The conference is most useful for delegates as an opportunity to network with existing colleagues, make new connections and keep up with sector issues, with no significant change from 2016.
  • The most highly rated conference sessions were How can we make our cinemas D/deaf friendly, Impacts, Campaigns and Data, and Jenny Sealey’s keynote.
  • The One to One sessions and the complementary aspects of the conference – Vintage Cinema Bus, Unrest VR and Turner Prize private view were all highly rated by delegates.
  • Delegates consider This Way Up has had a considerable positive impact on the sector, primarily in terms of:
    o Providing a sense of collective identity – “ it unites a sector which is quite disconnected by ethos and by geography, it’s a statement that there is a regional exhibition sector with a specific agenda”
    o As an opportunity to connect with colleagues
    o A platform for sharing practice and collaborative learning o Providing a ‘state of the nation’ moment
  • On a personal level the conference has had most impact in terms of Networking and connections, Learning, sharing ideas and developing practice, Opportunity for review and reflection, Confidence building and positive reinforcement of the value of their work
  • The three words most used to describe the conference are challenging, inspiring and friendly.
  • Delegates considered the best things about the conference to have been the keynotes and networking.
  • Areas for improvement are primarily around the format of the conference, with a desire for more small group, practical, workshop style sessions. Quality of some of the presentations, scheduling, and more structured networking were also noted as areas for improvement.
  • Conference administration and booking process and the venue were both highly rated; catering was the lowest rated practical aspect of the event.
  • Delegates willingness to pay closely matches the existing pricing bands, and over 70% consider the conference to be good or very good value for money. They are also very likely to recommend the conference.
  • Partners are very positive about their relationship with the conference; they consider they have achieved their objectives; they are very satisfied with their profile, benefits and reach; and are enthusiastic about continuing to work with the This Way Up team in the future.

Conclusions and recommendations

  • This Way Up conference provides a unique and highly rated platform for independent exhibitors to galvanise as a coherent group, make and build connections, and develop their practice in a warm, engaging, and provocative environment.
  • Three stimulating and engaging conferences have created high expectations amongst delegates, who are looking for a combination of inspirational and challenging thought leadership with practical and transferable approaches they can use in their organisations.
  • The most successful sessions at This Way Up 2017 demonstrated this – a call to arms from Jenny Sealey around the visibility of D/deaf and disabled people in the cultural sector, along with practical sessions focused on using data and making venues D/deaf friendly.
  • Going forward it will be important for the conference to: keep innovating in terms of conference format, attract the highest quality speakers, pay attention to ‘hygiene factors’ such as the quality of catering, consider how to make delegate networking even more effective


Melanie Iredale, Deputy Director of Sheffield Doc/ Fest spoke to Helen Thackery of Hull City Council, Mat Steel, Head of Production at Sheffield Doc / Fest, Tracy Ford of Sheffield Council and Maxine Rowson representing Rape Crisis,  in the wake of the recent Harvey Weinstein revelations, and asks what we could be doing as an industry to improve safety for staff and guests.

Iredale referred to a recent Indiewire article which suggests that film festivals often create an environment where there is potential for harm; namely, groups of people away from home for long periods of time, a culture of heavy drinking and partying, and the attitude that ‘what happens at a film festival, stays at a film festival.’

Maxime of Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland spoke of the importance of treating those who come forward with dignity and respect. It is vital not to tell victims that they are being silly, it is important to respect privacy, and to hand autonomy back to victims by asking them what they want to do.

All of the panelists reiterated the need to work with local authorities- councils, the emergency services, and other organisations which may have examples of best practice, and can help to create a safer environment for staff members and guests.

Tracy Ford spoke of the Ask for Angela campaign, which is now being rolled out across England and Wales, which aims to help women or men who are feeling vulnerable, and the Best Bar None campaign  which similarly aims to assist young people under the influence of alcohol. Whilst these schemes may not be relevant for the exhibition industry in their entirety, there are elements of both campaigns that could be used for events where many people are meeting, possibly for the first time, and alcohol is being consumed.

Once questions were thrown to the audience, many were asking for guidelines, with one suggestion being that members of the UK Cinema Association should be offering such guidelines. However, it was reiterated by Tracy Ford, that responsibility needs to fall on the venue, who may well have a different relationship with their customers, or different sorts of issues with their events.

It was also pointed out by other audience members that certain jobs within film festivals are at an increased risk of harm. Volunteers are particularly vulnerable, and with the role of Volunteer Coordinator often starting later than the rest of the core team, this can lead to serious breeches of safety. A shocking remark from Helen Thackery, was that the film industry is one of the only industries that still allows lone workers, and when female members of staff are being left alone to look after older, sometimes famous men, this immediately creates a high risk, and that risk needs to be eradicated.

The clear learnings from the panel, are that systems need to continuously be reviewed, and examples of best practice shared. Film festivals, for the most part, are fun, exciting, and sometimes glamorous events. But the fun can be easily spoiled if procedures aren’t in place. It is also important to remember that it is not just visiting guests that need to be protected, it is also the staff. An open environment where staff feel they can speak freely is essential in any organisation, and it is vital that the film industry gets up to speed.

Nia Childs

DAY TWO: Impacts, Campaigns and Data

As a strategic consultant, Sarah Mosses talked about the ways in which she and her organisation use data and analytics to more successfully put out projects such as campaigns or screenings.

Sarah argued that it is important to devise strategies that include distribution and revenue targets in line with the campaign’s impact strategies when thinking about how to put out a project. She went through one case study, which was a film project that Together Films not only consulted with, but also distributed. The film was Unrest, a documentary film about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) by Jennifer Brea, who suffers from it. The project was initially Kickstarted, but it found its way to Together Films as part of the Sundance Creative Distribution Funding Scheme. After Together Films got involved, they began devising marketing strategies to best put out this film to its appropriate audience.

Targeting appropriate audiences and collecting data were two key points in how to market the campaign successfully. Sarah discussed how Jennifer wanted to also do a VR experience alongside the film, which many exhibitors were really keen on, where others weren’t. By gathering data on who would be interested in pursuing their VR experience, they were able to market it differently for each exhibitor and distributor they got in contact with. They also collected data on a large part of the target audience that would not be able to actually go to the cinema to see the film – sufferers from CFS or similar illnesses that had them bedridden, and unable to leave the house for the screening. So they devised a virtual screening plan to send a feed of the actual cinema screening simultaneously to an online stream, which they could buy an online ticket for. All of this made it a more successful project in terms of understanding who they were marketing the film to and making sure that its main audience would have actual access to the film.

Beyond targeting audiences, Sarah also described how important it is to collect data in order to keep track of organisations and partners to work with in the future, by keeping a spreadsheet of detailed information on how they have worked together. She also explained that within any organisation, it’s imperative that this data be easily accessible to everyone who is involved in planning, programming and organising projects.

Sarah emphasised the importance of setting achievable goals but also to keep striving to beat these goals once they have been reached. For any exhibitor or distributor putting out a project, all this data collection, targeting audiences and strategizing needs to be met with goals that are realistic for where the organisation is at that given moment, and grow from there.  And deadlines were also a key element of this. Sarah spoke on how it is important to plan ahead and accordingly to how you want your project to be released, and also within the timelines of your partners.

Finally, Sarah spoke on how different platforms are equally important in managing the marketing and targets of projects. Press data as well as industry papers and audience responses are all good ways of gathering information, and social media as well as more analogue forms of marketing all serve their own purpose depending on who you are trying to engage with your project. She gave examples of apps to use to track social media reach, like Buffer and social press kits, as well as Facebook Pixel and Facebook analytics as a way to further understand who you are reaching and how to reach who you want to. Always striving to understand what you are marketing and how the audience you want to market it to will engage with it is the one of the most important points to consider when thinking of collecting data and the impact your project can have.

Mariana Duarte


The second and final day of This Way Up in Hull saw a wide range of subjects covered; failure, safety, the future of foreign language cinema, archiving of contemporary cinema, collecting data, and disruptive festival platforms. There was a lot of ground to cover, and a number of things to take away from the past two days. As much as being learnt in lunch breaks as from the panelists, and it is clearly vital that events such as This Way Up continue to bring exhibitors together.  The sharing of information and demonstrations of best practice are desperately needed, and that sense of community needs to be kept alive as things become more difficult.

A clear example of this was a panel on safety and safeguarding. Melanie Iredale of Sheffield Doc/Fest lead the panel, which wanted to discuss the topic  in the wake of the Weinstein allegations.  In the current climate where fresh allegations are being revealed daily, and conversations online and in the pub are still ongoing, it was useful and desperately needed to have a conversation that offered and discussed practical advice, and allowed members of the panel and the audience to highlight problem areas and share information.

As well as the need for community, diversity is still on everybody’s mind, but more importantly, it’s meaning is being interrogated- it truly needs to include EVERYONE.

As mentioned previously by Simran Hans in her keynote on day one, it’s deeply important that equality in all its forms is not performative or co-opted by organisations in a way that is insincere, and This Way Up does offer a space to go deeper beyond the hashtags and the online noise. Questions were raised about the true nature of diversity in our industry, and the consensus seems to be that we need to go deeper and expand our meaning of the word. Our industry is still not as inclusive as we are lead to believe; we are still incredibly London-centric, we do not include D/deaf and disabled people in our discussions, and funding is still something of a tick boxing exercise that only serves organisations that have the most choice in the first place. And we as exhibitors need to ensure that we keep having those discussions, and being bold enough to make changes to improve it; whether that means assigning some of that precious budget to ensure the safety of your staff,  or increasing the number of subtitled screenings to include your D/deaf audiences.

Looking to the future, let’s hope that at the next This Way Up, some of those learnings have been implemented and we can continue to see positive change.

Nia Childs

This Way Up 2017: What’s your story and how do you tell it?

Speakers: Hugh Odling-Smee, Sara Gunn-Smith, Aaron Guthrie, Andi Jarvis

Film Hub Northern Ireland presented  a case study using five small cinemas to demonstrate the ways in which cinemas can set their identity and engage their audiences. At the start of the event, audience members were asked to  write two sentences that described the identity of their venue or freelance work, as a means to demonstrate a starting point for thinking about how venues and community cinemas can market themselves by developing a sense of identity and gaining an understanding who their audience is.

Three case studies were discussed at length: the Black Moon Film Club, whose pitch began with a discussion around accessibility, as they wanted to be a film club for adults with learning disabilities. The second case was of Ballyclare Picturehouse, a small cinema in a rural community, who with the help of marketing training,  were able to use their rural identity in how they present themselves to their audience.

The last case that was discussed was that of the New Notions collective, a documentary screening group. They began with very small screenings, but eventually went on to put up an exhibition of original short films and archive footage about the Belfast shipyard and its workers and community, as well as live storytelling sessions. The New Notions screenings and events are free with a pay-as-you-can option, which Aaron Guthrie explained was actually beneficial to them because it invited audiences that could not afford to pay for a ticket to see, and it invited those who could pay to give however much money they could afford.

What became clear from the panelists was that with a limited budget,  marketing teams in community lead projects need to work with the communities they are trying to be effective. It is important to help build confidence in small film communities in their work, because, as Andi Jarvis highlighted, a lot of groups tend not to apply for funding for fear of not understanding the application process.  With the support these small cinemas received, they  were able to gain a clearer sense of identity and became more effective in engaging their audiences.

Mariana Duarte

This Way Up: Day One

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.

Nia Childs

How can we make our cinemas Deaf friendly?

Duncan Carson from the Independent Cinema Office spoke to David Ellington of VS1 Productions about how to best make cinemas accessible and engaging for D/deaf audiences.

David  (interpreted by Jess Veal) began by giving background information on how D/deaf people communicate, explaining British Sign Language (BSL), Sign Supported English (SSE), and oralism; and the difference between “Deaf” and “deaf,” which is significant in how exhibitors and distributors might want to engage with these communities, as well as  difference between captions, subtitles, descriptive subtitles and audio description. David explained how for D/deaf audiences, descriptive subtitles are preferred. The presence of descriptive subtitles makes the film entirely accessible for D/deaf audiences, as they would be experiencing a complete version of the film, not different from what hearing audiences would be watching.

The audience heard more about  Deaf Conversations About Cinema programme in Bristol, a monthly screening of mainstream films which are entirely accessible to D/deaf audiences, with BSL introductions and DS throughout the film, with post screening discussions, all in BSL. This is a clear demonstration that there is an appetite for BSL & DS screenings, which can be easily implemented. 

For the benefit of cinemas, David summarised the key factors that can make screenings feel less accessible, with captions and subitles and the variations of these being key In the case of foreign language films for example, films may already have subtitles, however they won’t be descriptive subtitles, so a lot of the nuance of diegetic sounds and dialogue will be overlooked. In order for this change to happen though, this needs to come from distributors.

Through research between the ICO and Film Audience Network, Duncan then summarised how best to engage deaf audiences. He explained the benefits of getting get a good D/deaf friendly programme and marketing  it well, as well as reaching out to members of the Deaf community and working alongside them to work out how to make accessible provisions for the audiences. Attendees were shown a video of BSL that ushers and front of house staff could use to speak to customers (such as “welcome” and “ticket please”) and were given a short tutorial on BSL to try it out. Improved screening times and set weekly or monthly slots for DS films are also ways to make advances towards a more D/deaf accessible venue.

Mariana Duarte  


This Way Up 2017- Ethics and Technology in VR

Screen Daily’s Tom Grater spoke to BAFTA Award-winning immersive media specialist Catherine Allen, following her keynote concerning ethics in VR.

Allen’s illuminating speech touched on key areas to consider when choosing to exhibit VR, as well as informing on the ethical challenges that VR creators face within the rapidly evolving industry.

As with cinema, VR can virtually transport users in to another realm. But the key difference is that with cinema, there is a very definite separation of space- there is the audience, and there is the screen.  VR experiences do not have such a definite separation. And this means that those who take part  can often have a deeper, more visceral response that can be harder to shake. People tend to remember a VR experience more clearly than when watching a film, because as humans, we remember things we did slightly more than we remember things we saw. And for creators (or ‘story-doers’, as Allen refers to them) it’s a gift- the opportunity to create an everlasting experience with a person who is then likely to tell others. It can also be used to treat phobias and PTSD, so has very real implications in terms of health and well-being.

Allen highlighted that as VR technology has evolved, more and more people are able to use it in the comfort of their own homes. With prices ranging in the thousands to less than £3 for Google cardboard glasses, it is becoming easier for people to enjoy and experience the technology, which on the surface, sounds like a good thing; it’s no longer something that is limited to early adopters or those who are privileged enough to be able to access VR events at festivals or other similar events.  But this raises questions  around what  creators should be thinking about when making stories that may be experienced within an environment that is less controlled. With VR in particular, context is key, and  there’s a concern that representation of characters and stories without due context can lead to a distortion of reality that remains once the headset is removed- particularity concerning when there is still a large male skew in terms of creators and users; the importance of representation is vital. However, things are improving, and guidelines are starting to  develop to safeguard users, with more research being done as VR increases in popularity.

Within a controlled environment, one recommendation from Allen for those who are considering VR as part of a festival or in a cinema is to ensure that there is a space afterwards for users to debrief, discuss, and unwind. VR can distort our sense of time and space, and this can be very disorientating.

A key takeaway from Allen’s speech  was that as a relativity new medium, those who create VR experiences have the benefit of being able to form these practices, and make them the status quo, and a lot of these practices do come from the cinema.  Allen posed the question, ‘what would Hollywood look like if it was created now? And it’s an important question,  particularly in the wake of the wave of allegations that are sweeping across the industry at this current time. What is apparent is that there here is a reassuring  sense of duty within the industry to  ensure that i is  inclusive, represents communities effectively and equally, and avoids harm.

Nia Childs

Keynotes: This Way Up 17

This Way Up  has come to the beautiful City of Hull, the City of Culture for 2017. Exhibitors from across the UK have gathered to learn and share knowledge about the concerns, challenges and developments that are currently facing the independent British cinema exhibition industry.

After a warm welcome address from Martin Green, CEO & Director of Hull City of Culture 2017, we heard from three keynote speakers who shed light on the key issues that are currently facing the British Film industry.

Moira Sinclair-Resilience
CEO of Paul Hamlyn Foundation 
Sinclair’s keynote focused primarily on resilience. At a time of great uncertainty, Sinclair highlighted the need for strength, camaraderie and change in this tough time for the exhibition industry. As the CEO of a funding body, she highlighted that a successful business model must include taking care of staff, investing in humans, and sharing a vision to serve communities.  Without a key sense of who your serving; artists, audiences and participants, then the purpose becomes muddled and lost. This is why, as Sinclair pointed out, organisations should not be looking to fit their vision around what funding bodies want; it is counter productive and loses a vital sense of purpose.  Resilience is vital, and everyone in the community can benefit from a willingness and desire to learn how to be better.

Jenny Sealey, MBE- Engaging D/deaf and disabled audiences
Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company
Jenny Searle MBE delivered a powerful keynote, confronting the dire need in the exhibition industry to engage D/deaf and disabled audiences.  Sealey highlighted the uncomfortable truth that, whilst diversity has moved along in recent times, D/deaf and disabled people are still very much being left in the dark; overlooked for work, and underrepresented in all areas of the arts. We still exist in a time where it is acceptable for able bodied actors to play disabled characters. Sealey’s solution is not radical; ask D/deaf and disabled people what they want. Work with and hire D/deaf and disabled people and engagement will increase.

Simran Hans- Reviewing Ethical Practices in the Exhibition Industry
Writer and Film Programmer
Simran’s keynote honed in on the importance of organisations practicing what they preach. As we celebrate the diversity that is flourishing with the rise of independent film collectives, she questioned how much we can celebrate without gaining a full understanding of what this means; are these collectives being fairly compensated for their work? Are young programmers and new members of the film industry really benefiting from the work they’re being offered if they’re not being paid? And what will our industry look like if only those who can afford to work for free take part?  Simran also touched on the more recent issues concerning the London living wage, and how ushers in cinemas are being treated; a seemingly endemic issue in the Capital. With diversity being co-opted by organisations who don’t follow ethical practices, Simran concluded with a call to arms, to dismantle the inequality faced within the industry.

The keynotes were followed by a discussion with the speakers, lead by Gaylene Gould, Head of Cinemas and Events at the BFI. What came out of the discussion is a need for a reinvention of the culture and the way in which organisations operate.  We are starting to see a refusal to accept the current power structures in place and the results of those, and a need for a radical change seems to be very much at the forefront of everybody’s minds.

Nia Childs