Film-maker and Yellow Wednesdays curator Paul Stringer outlines some of the highs and lows of his journey producing our monthly film night since 2015, celebrating all we’ve achieved together thus far to set the scene for the next chapter of film programming at the hub.
For the last 3 years, Yellow Wednesdays has been a monthly staple of the Impact Hub Birmingham calendar. We’ve shown everything from hard hitting British films like I, Daniel Blake and Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle, to critically acclaimed masterpieces like Moonlight and My Pure Land and more obscure, off the cuff films like Crumbs! – an Ethiopian / Spanish post-apocalyptic love film featuring a humble hero travelling to board a hovering spaceship. We’ve hosted screenings accompanied by spoken word poetry, panel discussions, an exhibition by fashion designers and even a purpose-made zine. This year we were part of Flatpack Film Festival, showing archive footage of Birmingham during protests in the late 60s, and a couple of weeks ago we produced a festival of our own with the first ever Weekend of Wednesdays: a festival of cinematic activism. Made up of 6 events with over 25 films shown, 10 speakers and 110 total admissions, for me it felt like the perfect way to celebrate a phenomenal 3 years of programming, bringing our number of films shown to date to somewhere in the region of 60 and our total number of speakers to easily 100+.
The journey so far has been incredible, with Yellow Wednesdays evolving over time. Starting as a space for filmmakers of the city to share their films, we curated the first events to showcase shorts from local filmmakers, many of whom have gone on to do wonderful things. The first longer feature we screened was a brilliant documentary about one of Europe’s remotest trails, Distant North – Hiking the Kungsleden, shot and produced by local filmmaker Theo Gove-Humphries. After the longer format was so well received, we began to focus in on programming full length features around the issues and themes relevant to and reflective of the interests of the Impact Hub Birmingham community, as well as developing the role of discussion alongside these screenings. Sometimes lasting longer than the film, these conversations gave everyone the chance to say something, ask a question, share a story or just sit in silence and soak up the fascinating perspectives and ideas. Occasionally it’d get heated, every now and then we’d cry, often we’d laugh, but we would always leave feeling a little bit more than we did when we walked into the space.
One of the most powerful discussions came after the screening of I Am Not Your Negro, in which writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America. The room was full, with 80 people packing out the town hall space of Impact Hub Birmingham, all ready for the powerful conversations that followed. It was an evening that we could have kept going much later into the already extended night.
“Our Yellow Wednesdays film nights visually platform narratives that are often missing from other spaces. The screening of Amir Amirani’s We Are Many included a panel with political activist Salma Yaqoob, Natalie Jeffers of Black Lives Matters UK and social activist Saffiyah Khan. My Pure Land was a beautiful film which depicted women in Pakistan in a different light to the way they are in mainstream media. We always strive to create a safe place for lots of different political, cultural and social ideas to be explored and discussed collectively, with #YellowWednesdays being just one example of this in action.” – Nikki Bi, Head of Hosting & Programming
As a first-time film programmer 3 years ago, it’s been an amazing experience for me. It’s opened up new opportunities, brought me incredible happiness and fulfilment, as well as sometimes very stressful evenings. Today, I conclude this chapter of journey as Yellow Wednesdays’ curator, in part, as nothing ever really concludes, especially not when spaces for the conversation around social issues are rare. I hang up my Yellow Wednesdays hat with a new appreciation and love for film programming, something I hope to take with me in the future, as well as inspiring me in my day to day career, as a filmmaker. It remains my firm belief that film plays an important role in engaging people in conversations that they might not have even thought they were a part of. The power of film lies in it’s way to captivate you for a few hours and deliver a story through beautiful visuals, soundscapes and interactions. The twists and turns, the ups and downs, the excitement and the sorrow; film has it all, and it’s all there for you. You need to do nothing else other than take it all in.
On our travels through the cinemasphere, there has been countless supporters, champions and partners that we could not have done without. Firstly, Impact Hub Birmingham, for giving the space to try an idea and support it throughout. It will be always known as the birthplace of Yellow Wednesdays. Next up, Amy and the team at Flatpack; Yellow Wednesdays would not be the same without the opportunities presented to us from Flatpack, the support for film licenses (and pizza!) the digitizing of the films (sometimes in a pinch, because I’d forgot or not received the DVD!) – you’re amazing and Birmingham is better for you guys being here. Cinema For All, for your early support, Film Hub for supporting our first ever festival, and the countless organisations that spoke, shared, tweeted about, collaborated with and was there when it was needed.
It would be impossible to do thank yous without mentioning the Impact Hub Birmingham team personally, for the support, sharing and tweeting about us, and the brilliant Nikki Bi, holding it down and pulling out all the stops to make the events happen month in month out (even if that meant giving me a little nudge every now and again!) along with Ahlaam and Eban who volunteered time to help programme, market and be a part of Yellow Wednesdays; all of the wonderful speakers and guests who brought the programming alive with their viewpoints and wisdom; the filmmakers who shared their work; the distributors that we’ve built relationships with, and all of the other hidden supporters that aren’t always visible but furiously support us in their words and actions.
Finally, the biggest thank you has to be to you, the audience. The world needs more you. Committing your evenings, time and money to take a punt on a film is a huge ask, but the events are always better for each and every one of you being there. Some of your shared deeply personal stories after the discussions, holding the space safely and with care. You looked after one another, gave each other the space needed and for that, there isn’t a thank you big enough. You made it what it is, and
There are lots of film events happening across the city and you should go to them all, as well as returning to Impact Hub Birmingham for their future film programming, but most importantly, keep the fire in your bellies, keep talking, keep watching and keep the passion for discussions going. It’s needed now more than ever.
It’s been a pleasure.
A huge thank you to Paul for bringing his passion for film to the hub since we opened, and curating film events with energy, love and humour as Yellow Wednesdays curator 2015 – 2018. Whilst Yellow Wednesdays as a monthly offering will be taking a break, this absolutely isn’t the end for film programming at the hub and we look forward to bringing you a range of ad hoc film screenings to continue the work and learnings of Paul and our team, alongside our other programmed events such as Hub Talks, Trade School Digbeth, Food For Thought and more that you can find out about here.
Got ideas for Yellow Wednesdays screenings that you’d love to see? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.