Cinema For All is delighted to welcome three brilliant individuals to our Board as brand new trustees – Rico Johnson-Sinclair from CineQ, Elizabeth Costello from Leigh Film, and Denyce Blackman from Caribbean Pop-up Cinema. They are all extremely accomplished innovators in their fields, and we are excited to have their knowledge, skills and new perspectives on the Board. We are all very honoured to work with them.
We asked them some questions to discover a bit more about their experiences.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
RICO: I’m a born and bred Brummie from a low-income household. I’ve overcome homelessness, extreme poverty, psychosis and a lifetime of internal and external racism.
The film industry has been my life since I was 20, falling in love with the beautiful cinematography in Melancholia. Before that, my obsession with stories has been long standing.
I studied Production for Live Events and Television at University of the Arts London, before returning to Birmingham and volunteering for 17 different arts organisations while I tried to overcome a psychotic break and thereafter, auditory and visual hallucinations.
I first worked in the film industry through the Independent Cinema Office’s FEDS Traineeship where I was placed at Flatpack Film Festival, and where I first started CineQ.
From there, I’ve worked in roles for the BFI, Film Hub Midlands, Birmingham LGBT and SHOUT Festival, whilst maintaining CineQ and cultivating it into a 4 day festival.
In my spare time, I write and produce films.
ELIZABETH: My passion for film started at a very early age, growing up with four brothers and a sister, we would spend evenings as a family watching films together. To earn extra money while I was at college, I worked as an usherette in the local multiplex in Salford. Although I spent 25 years working in NHS Financial Management, my love of film has never left me.
In 2006, I stopped working due to serious ill health and it wasn’t until 2012 that I was able to get back into a normal life again. I wanted to do something that brought together my love of film and community.
At the time, I wasn’t aware of film societies and set up the Tyldesley Film Club in a local café based on the same premise as a book club – watching a film together and then having a discussion afterwards. This soon became very popular and it was decided to move to bigger premises and take on a wider programme of film delivery!
This relaunch in 2014 included a name change to Leigh Film Society and an ethos of how we wanted to use film screenings, which has been maintained for the last seven years. Leigh Film have gone from strength to strength winning national awards, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and in 2020 they received Edge Hill Universities ‘Employer of the Year’. I am so proud of everything we have achieved, and still describe the group as “only getting started”!
DENYCE: After 8 years working as a journalist and writer for Caribbean media and spending 3 years in Brazil, I migrated from Barbados to Birmingham to study film and television, where I was awarded a Masters distinction at University of Birmingham in Film and Television: Research and Production.
Already in love with Birmingham, I threw myself into the local film industry, and it wasn’t long before I was absorbed into the world of programming and film events within the West Midlands. I realised I really love film exhibition!
I worked with some organisations and festivals on their film events as well as Caribbean Pop-Up Cinema, which I went on to found. Through community cinema I found a way to connect others to an incredible array of Caribbean narratives which were previously not accessible.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE COMMUNITY CINEMA EXPERIENCE?
RICO: My most memorable community cinema experience was probably watching Dispossession at Yellow Wednesdays, which used to take place at Impact Hub Birmingham and was run by Paul Stringer.
I just remember feeling galvanised by the film, but also realising I was in a room filled with people that felt the same way. That was a special feeling.
ELIZABETH: That would be Easter 2017, when Leigh Film screened Life of Brian in our local Leigh Parish Church. It was only the second time since its release that it had been screened in a Church.
A full house of fun, laughter and positive vibes enjoying a comedy about mistaken identity.
DENYCE: It’s not often that my passions for great short films, the Caribbean, and my love for programming get to intersect. When I hosted my first shorts programme under Caribbean Pop-Up Cinema, the entire night at the Mockingbird Cinema in Birmingham felt surreal.
To be surrounded by a captive – mostly West Indian – audience who were just as moved as I was to see these types of diverse and authentic Caribbean stories on screen for the first time in the UK – it truly made us all feel like family that evening!
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 FILMS OF ALL TIME?
- Tongues Untied by Marlon T Riggs
- Elephant by Gus Van Sant
- Doom Generation by Gregg Araki
I get asked this a lot and it depends so much on genre or the mood I’m in but I if had to name only 3…
- 12 Angry Men
- Life of Brian
- Star Wars
- The Waking Life by Richard Linklater
- Beasts of the Southern Wild by Benh Zeitlin
- Baraka by Ron Fricke
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO WANT TO JOIN THE BOARD?
RICO: I’ve seen and experienced all of the great work that Cinema For All does. They are an amazing driving force for supporting some of the most necessary kinds of Cinemas; those run by and for communities.
However I wondered about conversations around diversity, inclusion and anti-racism within the organisation, and thought I could offer my perspective, experiences and skill set to that conversation.
ELIZABETH: It is an honour and a privilege to be a representative for community cinemas across the country, bringing my experience of setting up a film society and festival from scratch and how we use film to benefit our community at Leigh Film. I think I have a lot of experience to offer and I can’t wait to get started.
DENYCE: Cinema For All for me represents an organisation which encourages. It encourages people with an idea to construct a plan, and people with a plan to act on it. When making the leap, Cinema for All is there to help fill in the knowledge gaps and provide practical support. I want to give back in any way possible to this organisation which has helped me explore my passions, and am enthused to think I can contribute to other people pursuing theirs.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO ABOUT BEING ON THE CINEMA FOR ALL BOARD?
RICO: Honestly, I’m most looking forward to working with the incredible people in the board and in the organisation. I just want to be a part of the amazing things that Cinema For All does!
ELIZABETH: I want to support the other trustees in ensuring that Cinema For All Members feel connected with the board, with open and transparent communication.
Working alongside the board of trustees so that we listen to members’ exchanging ideas and reflect the memberships view.
DENYCE: The Cinema For All team is a knowledgeable bunch! One thing I’m definitely looking forward to during my tenure is absorbing as much as I can from the amazing board, and helping build on the work they’ve already done in presenting community cinema as an option for under-represented populations.