Screen Argyll: Hope in the Hebrides

Jen Skinner //

Screen Argyll's Jen Skinner reflects on the impact of the pandemic on one of the most remote parts of the UK and looks forward to the hopeful return of cinema to the islands.

My name is Jen Skinner and I am a director of a company called Screen Argyll. I write this from my home on the Isle of Tiree, the most Westerly Isle of the Inner Hebrides.

The key word for me in the last year is community. I am so thankful to our film community, for the support I received from colleagues across the U.K, thank you! I went from someone who left the island, at least once a month for work, to not leaving Tiree for a year. I am now able to attend meetings, events and festivals without spending nights away from my children. The world turned on its head. Before Christmas the only cinemas that were open in the U.K were those based in rural locations, mainly on the West Coast of Scotland. These smaller cinemas, often community run, were the U.K Film Industry for a couple of weeks.

New technologies have created new ways of developing access to audiences and building film communities. This year we ran an online screening with a directors Q&A, building on a partnership with two other rural networks in Scotland, we had over 200 people sign up from across the U.K. We partnered with other organisations to deliver online screenings, bringing films to rural audiences, on release in some cases. It is so important on an island to feel part of the cultural conversation. We are developing a Virtual Screen with Indy, which will be used for the first time to host some of the titles from our Film Feels programme. We will then use it to deliver a blended model for our festival, Sea Change.

We ran our BFI Film Academy online last year, this enabled young people from Stornoway, Ullapool and Islay to attend. It also enabled out participants to attend Manchester Animation Festival online. We are planning simultaneous screenings, where we can meet for post film discussions online with other islands and communities in the Hebrides. By making the films available online via our virtual screen those unable to attend the screening will be able to watch the film as part of the wider community. We are piloting the first online film festival for young people living on Islands, with the Scottish Island Federation. This has involved connecting young people through workshops and will be followed by an online showcase of their films. We took a boat to finally deliver a cinema kit to the Small Isles. It made my heart sing to be thanked for bringing them cinema!

We are delighted to have the opportunity to develop a programme as part of Film Feels expanding on the work that the artists collective SO:AR have been exploring on the Isle of Jura. We will be asking the audience to reflect on the last 18 months, opening up the conversation across Argyll and the Isles as well as online. Enabling communities and individuals to reflect and discuss, exploring thoughts and ideas which radiate out from communities through the shared experience of film. We can’t wait to get screening films again and this programme is a wonderful way to start!

Screen Argyll and Film Feels Hopeful

Screen Argyll are delighted to be working with Island Arts Collective SO:AR to deliver a film- based weekend and touring programme as part of the BFI Film Feels: Hopeful season. The programme on Jura also acts as a centrepiece of their ‘Take Flight’ project which is part of the CHArts Argyll & The Isles Placemakers Micro Cluster Networks programme, funded by Creative Scotland. Find out more about Screen Argyll's Film Feels Hopeful activity here.