A New Chapter Begins at Glasgow Film as Allison Gardner Becomes CEO

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Allison Gardner today takes over as CEO of Glasgow Film, following her recruitment to the position which was announced in December. 

The educational charity runs Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), Scotland’s original independent arthouse cinema; Glasgow Film Festival (GFF), one of the UK’s leading public celebrations of cinema; and Glasgow Youth Film Festival (GYFF), a fast-growing international three-day festival co-curated by teenage film-lovers in the city and is the lead organisation for Film Hub Scotland, a membership organisation that supports over 200 exhibitors across the country.

Ms Gardner’s predecessor as CEO, Jaki McDougall, announced she was standing down from the role last year. Her final day with the organisation will be 8 May. Ms McDougall made the decision to step down after 20 years at the helm during which she oversaw huge change in both the organisation and the sector.

Ms Gardner, previously GFT Programme Director and GFF Co-Director, was appointed after an extensive interview process and brings her decades of experience, both at Glasgow Film and the wider independent film sector, to the position.

She joined Glasgow Film in 1993 as Duty Manager of the cinemas. Ms Gardner will retain artistic direction of Glasgow Film. Most recently she, along with fellow GFF Co-Director Allan Hunter, oversaw the 16th edition of Glasgow Film Festival which had record admissions and secured its place as a key cultural event in the city and nationwide.

As the home of film in Glasgow and, based at GFT, Glasgow Film has grown under Ms McDougall’s leadership to be a leading voice in Scotland’s arts sector, and a pioneer in its ethos of providing ‘Cinema For All’.

The organisation has changed and evolved but the original sense of being at the cutting edge, providing a cosmopolitan programme, and introducing new audiences to independent films, has remained at the core of the organisation.

The first cinema in Scotland to host Autism Friendly screenings – winning the Autism Friendly Award in 2017 –and the first cinema to regularly screen film with Audio Description, GFT is a pioneering leader in accessible cinema, and continues today with regular Dementia Friendly, Autism Friendly and D/deaf and Hard of Hearing friendly events.

In 2016, GFT, supported by hundreds of cinema-goers, undertook a major renovation project to improve accessibility throughout the building. Inspired by the classic designs of the Cosmo but with a modern and fresh perspective, and paying homage to the original post Art Deco style of the Cosmo, the Completion Project won the Grand Prix at the 2018 Scottish Design Awards.

Scotland’s most diverse and best publicly attended independent cinema, GFT shows a wide variety of film - over 700 different titles a year from over 60 countries, covering every continent of the world. As was intended from the day the cinema opened its doors in 1939, GFT continues to showcase a broad programme of film – including many non-mainstream and classic titles not screened at any other cinema in Glasgow.

Championing new talent, GFT is also the home of exciting and forward-thinking film festivals: Glasgow Film Festival which brings premieres and international talent to the city, and Glasgow Youth Film Festival, one of the most innovative youth festivals in Europe.  

Glasgow Film also became the lead organisation for Film Hub Scotland in 2018. Film Hub Scotland is part of the BFI Film Audience Network and supports a range of exhibitors across the country through funding, programming advice, training and networking opportunities

The vision and drive to see these changes through from idea to completion with excellence has been a constant marker of Ms McDougall’s time in charge of the organisation.

Allison Gardner said: “I have worked alongside Jaki McDougall for over 20 years. In that period, I have helped her to grow our business, through our building development, starting Glasgow Film Festival and Glasgow Youth Film Festival, and ensuring that we are an organisation that is welcoming and built on inclusion and equality of access and opportunity. Jaki is the embodiment of ‘Cinema for All’.

She is a mentor, colleague, friend and co-creator, we have worked hard together and spent many hours arguing over films. Glasgow Film would not be the brilliant institution it is today if not for Jaki’s passion for the sector and drive to make us all do our very best.

Jaki McDougall said: The whole team at Glasgow Film - GFT and the Film Festival are delighted that Allison is taking over the reins. I’ve known Allison since we both started out as cinema managers in Edinburgh. We eventually got to work together at Glasgow Film where we’ve had some challenging times, but also joyous moments – highlights of my cinema career, that we shared.

Denise Mina, Chair of Glasgow Film’s Board of Trustees, said: “The Board are delighted that, after an open and extensive interview process, Allison Gardner has been appointed to the position of CEO of Glasgow Film. Jaki McDougall leaving after a long and successful run in the position is a loss but Allison’s energy, originality and encyclopaedic knowledge of film will bring us into a new era in the GFT.” 

Isabel Davis, Executive Director at Screen Scotland said: “There’s no doubt that Glasgow Film will continue to flourish under Allison’s capable, energetic and inspiring leadership. Many congratulations to Allison – we wish her and team Glasgow Film all the best for an exciting new chapter.

[image shows Jaki McDougall and Allison Gardner]

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