Open Cinema

Open Cinema is 10!

Under the banner of the Open House Film Club (running continuously to this day), we held our first community screening for a gathering of homeless men and women in Lent 2005. This actually makes us 14 and a quarter! But the voluntary project became a registered social enterprise on this day in 2009. 

The film we presented was Mel Gibson's brutalist, Aramaic-language The Passion of the Christ, and since hosted by St Patrick's Catholic Church in Soho Square, we thought we might only be able to show religious films. The programme quickly evolved to more fully respond to the interests and ideas of its members, many experiencing the programmer's role for the first time. 

So was unfolding the founding ideas and ethos of Open Cinema: participatory, inclusive, responsive cinema - just as it should be!

The last ten years have seen us move from Soho to Bethnal Green, back to Soho, to Bermondsey, Shoreditch, Sheffield, and now Somerset House in central London. 

We've worked hard to propel young people into work and street homeless people into employment; we've shown and made films in the Houses of Parliament; participated in the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad (with a screening at the Royal Opera House of films made by homeless people from all over the world); collaborated with major brands, charities and universities; we've won our share of awards; we've shared our learning with peer organisations; and we've mentored, apprenticed and given the first rungs on the employment ladder to dozens of gifted young people. 

But above all, through contributions to panels, forums, conferences, expert panels and consultations, and collaborations with academic researchers, law firms, business schools and government departments in the UK and internationally, we have championed the idea that community is at the heart of cinema; that without community, cinema risks perishing, and without locally owned and managed cinema, communities suffer exclusion and the loss of vital social and economic benefits. 

Here then to the next 10 years (and the next 14 and a quarter), during which we hope to focus increasingly on the environmental crisis, and help communities address it by connecting them with the best films, speakers and resources in this all-defining area of the coming decades. Cinema as a business model may have had a wobble around its centenary. But its role in helping communities gather, explore, celebrate and imagine is more important now than ever.  

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