Right of Way is a new feature-length programme that mixes stunning new artists’ commissions with historical archive films that give a bigger picture of questions of access and inclusion in the UK countryside. This programme is presented by the ICO and LUX and supported by the BFI Film Audience Network and Arts Council England. Bookings are available through to September 2023.
It’s inspired by the foundation of the National Trails. Set up to resist sweeping industrialisation, these protected landscapes were created with a vision to ‘connect people to the rural landscape’. But during the COVID-19 pandemic – as people realised anew the importance of nature and open spaces for our health and mental wellbeing – inequalities of access to rural land were being exposed, revealing the disconnect felt by millions of people towards the UK countryside. A 2019 government review found that many Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people view the countryside as an ‘irrelevant white, middle-class club’, concluding that this divide is only going to widen as society changes and ‘the countryside will end up being irrelevant to the country that actually exists’.
The new commissions interrupt and challenge the enduring perception of the rural idyll as an untouched and unchanging space where time stands still. What happens when Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse people enter these landscapes? How can our natural spaces be homes to protest, trespassing, activism and raves? Paired with archive films that show that the life of the countryside contains multitudes and disrupt simple narratives, this programme is a terrific platform for debate on historical and contemporary discussions about who has a right to the great outdoors and who is excluded from it.
The Commissioning Process
Following an award from Arts Council England in early 2022, the ICO and LUX launched an open call to commission three new artists’ moving image works by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists exploring and reflecting on historical relationships with, and contemporary equity of access to, the British countryside. We received over 50 submissions which were then assessed by our Commissioning Panel. You can read more about our Commissioning Panel members below.
Jonathan Ali is a film programmer, curator, and writer. He began his career at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (2006–2015), where, among other initiatives, he curated the first Caribbean retrospective of the work of John Akomfrah and Black Audio Film Collective. He became Director of Programming for Miami’s Third Horizon Film Festival in 2016, and in 2022 curated a retrospective of the work of French- Caribbean director Sarah Maldoror. Based in London, he is co-founder of The Twelve30 Collective, which screens Caribbean cinema in the UK. He is a programmer with Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, programme consultant for Open City Documentary Festival and Locarno Film Festival’s Open Doors programme, and was previously a programme consultant with Sheffield Doc/Fest. He is a peer reviewer for the BFI/Doc Society feature documentary fund, and a programmer for Getting Real, the International Documentary Association’s biennial industry conference.
Catharine Des Forges
Catharine is Director of the Independent Cinema Office. She founded it in 2003 and continues to lead on the overall strategy and development of the company. Prior to founding the ICO, she worked at the BBC, the BFI, Arts Council England, as a Senior Programmer at the National Film Theatre, programmed the Encounters Film Festival in Bristol and worked as a freelance film programmer both in the UK and internationally. She sits on the Steering Group for London’s Screen Archives and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Qila Gill is currently part of the London Short Film Festival (LSFF) team as International Programming Lead since 2021. She previously worked as Distribution Director at LUX, was on the selection committee at Sheffield Doc/Fest (2020 and 2021 editions), and has programmed for Experimenta London Film Festival (LFF) and Aesthetica Film Festival. She is a fellow at the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), a member of BGDM, POC2, and an alumnus of IFFR Sessions. Alongside programming, she independently produces artists’ moving image and creative non-fiction, and have previously produced work for artist Michelle Williams Gamaker, Onyeka Igwe, and Asmita Shrish. Her research interest lies within the frameworks of fragility, sensitivity, and inclusivity within ethnicity and ethical discourse and embodiment.
Onyeka Igwe is an artist and researcher working between cinema and installation, born and based in London, UK. Through her work, Onyeka is animated by the question — how do we live together? — with particular interest in the ways the sensorial, spatial and non-canonical ways of knowing can provide answers to this question. She uses embodiment, archives, narration and text to create structural ‘figure-of-eights’, a form that exposes a multiplicity of narratives. Her works have been shown in the UK and internationally at film festivals and galleries. She was awarded the New Cinema Award at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival 2019, 2020 Arts Foundation Fellowship Award for Experimental Film, 2021 Foundwork Artist Prize and has been nominated for the 2022 Jarman Award.
Sam is a Black and Mixed (Black Jamaican, Sri Lankan) writer, grower and organiser with Land In Our Names (LION). They are interested in liberation through healing and building resilient communities and how access to land and nature are key to this. They are also passionate about building resilient and transformative systems, centring care and reparative justice in their work.
The Story of England’s National Parks by The Countryside Charity
If you have any suggestions for further reading, please email [email protected]