Glasgow Film Theatre has become the first cinema in the UK to scoop the prestigious Autism Friendly Award. Scotland’s oldest independent cinema was honoured with the award on Tuesday 21 February at a special Glasgow Film Festival screening of Swim Team, a documentary about a group of autistic teenagers from New Jersey who form a competitive swim team.
The Autism Friendly Award, administered by The National Autistic Society Scotland, recognises organisations that ensure autistic visitors can access and enjoy their venues. Glasgow Film Theatre is only the fourth organisation in Scotland to achieve the award, which is also held by Scottish Parliament, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and a branch of Specsavers in Glasgow.
Jodie Wilkinson, GFT Public Engagement Co-ordinator said: “Glasgow Film Theatre is extremely proud to be the first cinema in the UK to receive this accolade. We believe it is our duty to use film to explore and engage with issues that will help transform and improve people’s lives in meaningful and inspiring ways. We hope the award will help get the word out that with a forward thinking approach and the right partners it’s not that difficult to remove the barriers to enable cinema to be truly available for all.”
Jenny Paterson, director of The National Autistic Society Scotland, said: “We know that two thirds of autistic people in Scotland feel socially isolated – but we also know that very small adjustments can often make a big difference, meaning they can access and enjoy the places that many of us take for granted. The Autism Friendly Award encourages organisations to learn about autism and make these adjustments.”
Glasgow Film Theatre received the award in recognition of Access Film Club and Take 2 Access Film Club, monthly screenings for autistic adults and children respectively. During these screenings the volume is slightly reduced, the stair lights in the cinema stay on, house lights are dimmed, a chill out zone is provided, and trained autism facilitators are available to answers questions at the end of the film.
Glasgow Film Theatre and Scottish Autism launched Access Film Club in 2014, and The National Autistic Society Scotland has recently joined the partnership.
Jennifer Armitage, Screen Officer at Creative Scotland said: "Huge congratulations to Glasgow Film on becoming the first UK cinema to receive the National Autistic Society Autism Friendly Award. Glasgow Film have long been committed to providing an open and accessible environment for everyone and developing programmes in partnership with its audiences. This award is a fantastic recognition of their hard work in creating an inclusive and welcome experience for all by embedding access into its programme, events, and audience development activities.”
As part of this month’s Access Film Club, Lara Stolman, director of Swim Team, attended the screening at Glasgow Film Festival and took part in a Q&A with the audience. She said: “Glasgow Film Theatre's Access Film Club shines a light on underrepresented characters and stories and makes cinema more accessible to everyone. This mission is one we share and I can’t think of a more welcoming venue for the UK premiere of my film, Swim Team, about the rise of a competitive swim team of diverse teens on the autism spectrum.”
Charlene Tait, Director of Autism Practice and Research at Scottish Autism said,
“We are delighted that Glasgow Film Theatre has received this recognition. The prospect of going to the cinema can be daunting for many people on the autism spectrum but Access Film Club gives individuals with autism the opportunity to access the cinema in a welcoming and friendly environment.
Aberdeen Football Club, Union Square shopping centre, the Beach Leisure Centre, Peterhead Football Club and Scotrail’s Inverurie Train Station have all committed to achieving the Autism Friendly Award this year as part of the The National Autistic Society Scotland’s Autism Friendly Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire project.