HOW DID OPEN CINEMA BEGIN?
Open Cinema commenced operations in 2005, when filmmaker Christoph Warrack was coordinating Open House, a weekly support service offering food and fellowship for street homeless people in central London. A request came from guests asking for some kind of entertainment.
Having since 1998 simultaneously worked in film production, and volunteered on support projects for priosners, homeless people and people in care, Christoph couldn't help noticing the coincidence of London’s West End being a centre of the film industry as well as homelessness in the capital. He used his contacts to bring the best classic and contemporary films, together with their makers, into a support environment. The film screenings were immediately popular with the guests, as well as with volunteers, visiting filmmakers, and the host charity, St Patrick's Church in Soho Square.
Word on the street spreads fast about this kind of service. Interest was soon being expressed by other support services, and charities in a range of sectors. In December 2008, Christoph was offered support by Homeless Link, the national umbrella organisation for homelessness services, to replicate the model nationally, and was introduced to member agencies across the country.
In 2009, Open Cinema commenced a year-long national pilot, funded by grants from charities, friends and family. This pilot was concluded, and has now been evaluated - see the Evaluation Report page - in consultation with UnLtd, New Philanthropy Capital, and peer organisations in the sector, notably including Streetwise Opera.
From 2009 to 2010, the company was incubated by the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation, in their offices in Bethnal Green and Soho. This exposed us to techniques of rapid organisational development, to high-level networks, including the Skoll Foundation, and to the front line in impact filmmaking.
The company now works out of offices in London, Manchester and Co Kerry. The work of building and sustaining participatory cultural platforms, in the context of rigorous and transformative support for vulnerable individuals and communities, continues.