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23rd August 2016 Verity Sanderson

A better welcome #AMAconf

James Erwin, Marketing Coordinator at the Centre for the Moving Image, received a Creative Scotland bursary to attend this year’s AMA conference – here he explains the sessions that inspired him most.

It was a very exciting opportunity to be offered a Creative Scotland bursary to attend the AMA Conference, and (while travel broadens the mind, of course) it was a very convenient one to attend as an Edinburgh resident!

The ‘On a Mission to Matter’ theme resonated with me immediately, as I am part of an organisation that runs the longest continuously-running film festival in the world (Edinburgh International Film Festival) and two three-screen ‘art house’ cinemas in Edinburgh and Aberdeen – centres of culture with great historical significance that are always mindful of remaining fresh, relevant and accessible in a cinema exhibition industry with more consumer choice than ever.

Accessibility is a significant part of my role with Centre for the Moving Image, and there was no better inspiration at this year’s AMA Conference than the Reaching Out – Dementia Friendly Performances session with Kirsty Hoyle from Include Arts and Anna Kelner from West Yorkshire Playhouse. In a truly fascinating and example-focused session, I learned a great deal about dementia itself and the options available to help venues to better welcome people living with dementia – including Dementia Friends, Dementia Action Alliance and Arts 4 Dementia.

The step-by-step case study of the West Yorkshire Playhouse focused on training staff, collaborating with other groups in the community and adapting the fundamental parts of the show or event – from technical changes to the performers on stage. While it was made clear in the session that dementia is not exclusively an issue for older people, I did learn that 1 in 6 of people over the age of 80 will develop symptoms. When considering the demographics of our cinema audiences in Edinburgh it occurred to me that Dementia Friendly screenings should be an area of further research for our team. I was further encouraged by the session hosts’ openness to questions and lending their expertise to other organisations in the future, after the AMA Conference had finished, and this is an offer I intend to take up.

This was just one session in a massively helpful and very enjoyable AMA Conference – my first, hopefully of many. Honourable mentions go to Sharna Jackson for her session on Using Digital to Engage Younger Audiences and Jo Verrent and Jen Tomkins for Accessibility – Making Your Communications Matter, both absolutely excellent. The keynote speakers all presented their ideas and shared their experience in very engaging ways – not an easy task in front of a packed Festival Theatre!