The Edinburgh International Film Audiences Conference held in Filmhouse Cinema, Edinburgh in March 2014 sparked initial thoughts for a new project around local audiences and creative participation in remote and rural places. Andrew Ormston and I were both speaking on an industry panel with Jennifer Armitage of Creative Scotland chaired by Jonathan Melville where questions debated included:

  • Is the way industry is identifying, investigating and analysing audiences changing?
  • What challenges are seen when undertaking research on audiences?
  • What are the links between audiences, communities and policy?
  • How are contemporary screen audiences changing? Do new forms of exhibition (e.g. online) and new media (e.g. interactive series, social media) change the concept of screen audiences?
  • What’s the role of film programming / film exhibition in the construction of audience?

Bringing together thoughts, ideas and experiences Andrew and I had been developing individually on projects like Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival (Andrew is a Board Member) and Hippodrome Silent Film Festival (I was producing this at the time), more conversations and research between us continued during 2014 in amongst our busy freelancer portfolios.

2015 found us making initial connections and taking our ideas further with our national partners: Regional Screen Scotland, Film Hub Scotland (part of the BFI Film Audience Network), TRACS – Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, and the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive. Some R&D funding was gratefully received from Film Hub Scotland which enabled us to work with the national partners to develop a clear vision for the project based on:

  • The affinity of oral storytelling and cinematic storytelling as intangible cultural heritage – using the stories that exist in published form, oral tradition and screen archives as a starting point for creative work and community engagement.
  • The popularity and potency of screen heritage as a platform for cross artform and trans-disciplinary artists collaboration.
  • The digital shift creating opportunities for the distribution, presentation and creation of work in communities with limited cultural infrastructure and capacity.
  • The current interest in the creative community in working across different creative and artistic classifications and media.
  • The desire to create platforms for communities to tell their own stories.
  • The value of culture in place-making and in stimulating urban / rural cross pollination of practice and audience.
  • A desire to stimulate and support more transnational cultural cooperation and project development.

These discussions also led us to confirming the three local authority areas in which Sensing Place would take place: East Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway, and the Scottish Borders.  Find out more why these areas where chosen.

By June 2015, this gave us a solid foundation to seek full project funding from Creative Scotland – Scotland’s national public body supporting the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.