Cine Sisters SW, in collaboration with Katy Richardson, are undertaking a research project around the accessibility of cultural activity in Plymouth to newly arrived and displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers.

Cine Sisters SW was founded in 2020, with the aim of developing a network to inspire and support womxn filmmakers and moving image artists in the region.

Wanting to understand how their organisation could be more inclusive, the current directors of the CIC – Laura Denning, Kate Paxman and Lauren Tenn – saw the Cultural Investment Fund’s theme of Togetherness as an excellent opportunity to learn more about the cultural engagement and activity of those newly arrived in the city, and consider Cine Sisters SW’s role in responding to it.  Katy Richardson has recently been engaged with Plymouth’s refugee and asylum seeker communities through her work with North Star Study Group’s project North Star Stories (which recently created the Welcome Walk Plymouth web-app).

Coming together to think about the particular barriers to cultural engagement for refugee and asylum seeker womxn in Plymouth, the project began with a plan for three key stages. The first was a period of fact finding around several key initial questions:

  • What happens to refugees and asylum seekers when they first arrive in Plymouth,
    and how long might they expect to be here?
  • What are Plymouth cultural organisations, institutions and communities doing to engage these people, and how might they more effectively do that?
  • What projects exist elsewhere in the UK and further afield that could provide models for increasing and improving refugee and asylum seekers’ engagement with cultural activity here in Plymouth?

Learning from these initial investigations has now been translated into a series of questions and conversations with various cultural providers in the city and beyond, to establish the current situation in Plymouth and identify where the barriers to engagement currently exist.

We are still very much in this stage, but current findings suggest that some of the main barriers might stem from:

  • A lack of targeted national funding available to focus on newly arrived and displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Refugee and asylum seeker language barriers and relative low confidence in a new city
  • Problems with accessibility of information (such as an overreliance on websites and
    social media for marketing and audience development)

Cultural activity being a relatively low priority for people whose lives are subject to an unpredictable immigration system which can require them to move to a different area of the country at very short notice.

In the final stage, we will collate our findings into a document that can be shared with cultural providers. We will also be holding an information sharing event in early 2023 to disseminate this information.