Q&A with Gary Thomas, of the Kids Kino Project

The Kids Kino Project is a mobile, social cinema for children affected by humanitarian crises.  Made up of volunteers from the Cube Microplex Bristol, it is a micro-humanitarian, goodwill project providing an opportunity for escape, community and social occasion through cinema.

Having previously visited Haiti and Nepal, KKP is now turning its focus to Europe, aiming to work with children and young people who have become displaced and are now living in refugee camps. Throughout 2016 we hope to be screening films and hosting workshops, offering entertainment, warmth and solidarity through the means of social cinema.

Patrick McCormick, emergencies communication officer for the UN, says: “The worst thing for children in natural disasters isn’t just the damage that they see around them, but also when they sit around with nothing to do. It ramps up anxiety and despair, and that’s what does even more damage.”

Shambala festival helped support KKP’s recent trip to Nepal where they screened films to children affected by the 2015 earthquakes. They spent a month screening films in camps and villages that were close to the epicentre, and helped children to make films about their lives.

Gary Thomas of the Kids Kino Project also happens to be the man behind Shambala’s very own Kids Area. We caught up with him to ask him a few questions about the project and why initiatives such as this are so important.

 

HOW DID THE KIDS KINO PROJECT GET STARTED?

Well, the cube cinema in Bristol is an amazing microplex cinema and arts venue that’s completely run by volunteers.  After the earthquake in Haiti back in 2011 a volunteer suggested we try and send a mobile cinema for children out there.  Within 6 weeks the funds had been raised and two volunteers were out there, screening films.  It was just every day people believing in an idea and committing to making it happen.  Funds were raised by holding arts markets, with donated work from generous artists,  gigs were put on, people were generous and helped make it happen.  We’ve since been out to Haiti twice more.  It has been a real experience and felt so worth while.  It was shocking to see how peoples were having to live, but rewarding to see the reactions and smiles from the film making workshops and screenings.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 13.35.21

 

HOW DO YOU FIND THE DRIVE TO KEEP THE PROJECT GOING?

We’ve got a great, small but motivated team of people, some who’ve been involved since the beginning, and some fresh new people too.  The combination of new blood, and people who really get the project and believe in the power of cinema keep it alive.  Lots of us are involved in film making, running arts events and social projects as jobs so it goes hand in hand with that too I guess.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GIVE SOME OF YOUR TIME TO BENEFIT OTHERS?

Pretty important I’d say.  You can feel so powerless when you see disasters in the media but you can get involved and make small differences.  The project has been built on lots of people being generous with their time, and coming together and focusing on the same goals.  It’s a real team effort and very rewarding seeing it all come together.

 

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS FOR YOU?Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 13.41.08

Oh wow….  Lots.  I’ve never seen an audience react to a film in the way some of the crowds of kids in
Haiti did.  We showed a French film from the 1950s called the Red Balloon.  There’s a scene where the main character a young boy is lifted into the sky by a load of balloons.  Every time the kids would go crazy, cheering, jumping to their feet, just so excited by it.  Also we went back to one camp the next day in Haiti where we’d been doing film making workshops.  A group of the kids had all made pretend cameras out of plastic bottles and were pretending to film each other.

 

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PROJECT?

We planning some trips out to the refugee camps in France very soon.  I’ve been amazed how many people are volunteering out there and making things happen.  Our skills are in screening and making films, so we can make that happen.  There are so many stories to be told out there, we’d love to be able to help the kids tell some of those stories.  And when the weather is a bit better we’ll show some films on a big screen out there.

We’ve got a fundraiser coming up on 20th March in Bristol and have got the amazing Gwyneth Herbert headlining along with some great local acts.

 

ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WANTING TO SET UP THEIR OWN PROJECTS?

Just start doing it now, don’t wait.  Find a few people to work with as you’ll keep each other motivated.  Check if anyone else is doing something similar, you can join in with, or get advice from them. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help, there are a lot of wonderful souls out there who will  want to help in some way.  Make sure it’s enjoyable for people, and they’ll want to get involved and stay involved too.  Don’t stress to much over it, things won’t happen immediately.  Just keep going.

 

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Upcoming Kids Kino Project fundraiser:

SUNDAY 20TH MARCH | THE OLD MARKET ASSEMBLY | £7.50 Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 13.48.18

 

On March 20th the Old Market Assembly plays host to the strikingly original and talented GWYNETH HERBERT (“A remarkably gifted talent” – The Guardian) performing alongside the heartfelt voice of SENEN TIMCKE, the gypsy hearted MISS CECILY and the captivating SASKIA MAXWELL.  Together they will lead a wonderful adventure through music ranging from jazz to folk and everywhere in between, raising funds for the Kids Kino Project . Tickets are on sale from Bristol Ticket Shop priced at £7.50plus booking fee.  Doors will open at 7 pm.