FAMILY MATTERS: Showroom passes screen test for parents

Learning and Engagement Co Ordinator Rajnish Madaam.
Learning and Engagement Co Ordinator Rajnish Madaam.
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Fancy a trip to the movies but can’t get a babysitter? The Showroom may have the answer.

There are plenty of barriers - costs, childcare and clingy babies to name just a few. But would you fancy balancing baby on one knee, popcorn on the other and relaxing in front of new releases at Sheffield’s Showroom cinema?

Showroom babies.  Mums with their under 1 year old babies at the Showroom for a film show.  Caroline  Thompson with son Gene.

Showroom babies. Mums with their under 1 year old babies at the Showroom for a film show. Caroline Thompson with son Gene.

Now for people without young children the idea of trying to watch a film surrounded by lots of young babies will probably sound terrible. But if you are a parent looking for a chance to get out and enjoy some adult company without having to panic about childcare, it is genius. It isn’t about sitting on your own munching popcorn as quietly as possible, the organisers want parents to enjoy a social event at the cinema.

This is a scheme aimed at families with babies who are too young to be influenced by adult scenes so parents can escape from watching cartoons for a couple of hours.

Kino Bambino! takes place every Monday so parents can take their babies along, watch a new film with other mums and dads, and then chat about the film over a free tea or coffee.

Sound levels in the cinema are reduced to protect little ears and there is a secure storage area for pushchairs.

It may seem a little strange but it is actually the baby who becomes a member of the scheme. That’s because a birth certificate has to be shown and membership ends the day they turn one. Education and engagement coordinator Raj Madaan sees the latest initiative as part of a wider plan to get more families visiting the Showroom and accessing a wider range of films.

“We try to pick films that are a bit challenging but not too extreme,” he said.

“The whole point is that they want to come out and see films that they can’t watch with their children so we go for films that are certificate 15 or above to make it worthwhile.

“It is more of a social thing and often they just stay all day. The Showroom is a place where they can stay and chat all day if they want.”

The 11am screenings are timed to suit parents who have older children to drop off at school first, as well as allowing time for adults who make the journey into Sheffield from further afield.

When it comes to noise, the audience are obviously prepared for a few baby grumbles but the whole point is nobody really minds because everybody has a baby with them. Another new offering for families is Saturday Club - which includes a themed craft activity and packed lunch before a family film at 1pm. There are also plans to target teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 to get them more involved with what is going on before they head off to university. There are specialist screenings for families with autistic children and people with disabilities as well as lots of opportunities for teachers to get involved.

Once a month, every second Sunday, the weekly family film is repeated as part of the Showroom’s Kid’s Inclusive Cinema programme, KIC Start. These screenings are for autistic children who can sometimes struggle with a trip to the cinema because of the bright lights and noise.

KIC Start films are screened with the house lights slightly up and the sound reduced to ensure the big screen experience is not too overwhelming. InterActive, a new free membership scheme for 15 to 18s gives budding film buffs a chance to learn about the whole process from script writing to filming to acting to editing.

Raj said: “I think the perception of the Showroom is very arty and some people see it as ‘not for us’.

“What we have to do is break that down and give things that are extra to other cinemas. Cinema is supposed to be about collective experiences and it has turned out to this thing where we sit in silence, often people pick seats so they have empty spaces next to them, and it has turned into a very individual experience.

“The benefit of the Showroom is we have all this space and people can hang out and chat afterwards. We are very lucky with our location.”

To find out more about Kino Bambino! or Saturday Club visit www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/ or call the Showroom on 0114 2757727.