7. chicken connoisseur

Sheffield Doc/Fest Celebrates Wider Audience Inclusiveness and Accessibility Opportunities Across the Festival Programme in 2017 

The 24th Sheffield Doc/Fest, which wrapped on 14  June, successfully continued and broadened its strong commitment across the Festival programme – and beyond via online and broadcast platforms – towards audience engagement, inclusion and accessibility geographically, socially and for BAME audiences.

A total of 60,856 attendances across the Festival programmes were enjoyed by international and UK delegates and members of the public this year.

The 2017 Film Programme included a record 250 screenings at 14 screens across the city attended by 200 filmmakers and producers; an increased range of Alternate Realities exhibition spaces, including four Alternate Realities exhibitions at Millennium Gallery and two bespoke venues in Tudor Square and Upper Chapel, featured work from 35 project makers.

81 industry and public Talks & Sessions featured 290 speakers taking place at seven venues, with some BSL interpretation continuing across selected events. In line with the Festival’s strategy of widest industry access for business and creative effectiveness, we significantly increased discussions and initiatives for unlocking talent from widest geographical, social and BAME backgrounds, including the new BBC Northern Docs Pitch, the new Reggie Yates’ Doc/Dinner, impact of Brexit discussions; Maxine Peake on Northern and class stereotypes; new UK Talent Delegations for widest festival access. 

Continuing our strategy of attracting the broadest range of new audiences from the widest geographical, social and BAME backgrounds to engage with documentary, and to increase accessibility to the broadest range of potential new filmmakers for a new talent pipeline, this year’s Festival boasted a wide range of free events including Talks in Doc/Fest Exchange developed with Wellcome (featuring such diverse speakers as YouTube’s Elijah Quashie, aka The Chicken Connoisseur, to legendary film editor Walter Murch); our two Free Screens on Tudor Square and Howard Street; the free Alternative Realities exhibitions across the city; and the free Question Time style debate, ‘Does the Media reflect the real opinions of the people?’ for both public and industry audiences.

Public audiences engaging in the programme numbered more than 36,000 in 2017, which included the screening of Whitney 'Can I Be Me' broadcast live via satellite from Sheffield’s City Hall to 146 venues around the country. Our commitment to geographical inclusion continues post-Festival, including film screenings at Hull City of Culture, festivals such as Latitude, Sheffield Film Days in Jordan, Days of Cinema in Palestine, and Realidades Alternativas/Alternate Realities tour in Latin America in partnership with British Council.

Further opportunities for audiences to engage with Doc/Fest via virtual platforms, come via Doc/Player, our digital platform, which promotes documentaries seeking sales, distribution and screening opportunities. Over 900 industry delegates have already accessed documentaries from the catalogue of 169 titles during and since the close of the festival. Doc/Player remains online and available to Festival Delegates and for Virtual Passholders until 28 July 2017. And starting this week, a selection of the Festival’s Talks & Sessions will be made available to all to view on our website.

A total of 40 social events including parties, drinks and networking events took place over six days, with some open to the public, including the Awards Ceremony. 

Says Liz McIntyre, CEO & Festival Director, Sheffield Doc/Fest, "I am thrilled by the success of our strategy to welcome the fullest range of audiences to engage with the Festival in new ways, including those curious to try documentaries for the first time, as we strive to increase the visibility and accessibility to documentary story-telling for inspiration, and vital, relevant new business. I am passionate about the festival being a forum for new opportunities and widening points of entry into the documentary world – both for public audiences and for potential and emerging talent, as well as welcoming outstanding established filmmakers and decision makers. Alongside programme firm favourites, I am delighted by the response to our new initiatives for wider access, including Reggie Yates’ Doc/Dinner which created a unique informal mentoring opportunity for emerging and particularly BAME filmmakers; the new BBC Northern Pitch and our new UK delegations for greater geographical, social and BAME inclusion. I look forward to building on that success in 2018 and beyond."

Across the Festival’s programme female representation was significant in 2017: 51% of the documentary programme credited a female primary producer and 46% had a female director; 46% of speakers in Talks & Sessions programme were female, along with 48.5% of makers in the Alternate Realities programme.

The 25th edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest will open on Thursday 7 June 2018 and close Tuesday 12 June 2018, with the Annual Awards’ Ceremony and Closing Night Film.

The Lightning Pass, costing £159 + VAT, is available to purchase here.