Together for Cinema

Amy Wallington talks to founder of Together for Cinema, Ian Morrish, about the heart-warming initiative that brings home cinemas to hospices for poorly children.

AW: What is Together for Cinema?

IM: It’s an AV industry, good cause enterprise that I’ve been running since 2009. We design and install cinemas into kids hospices and other deserving locations across the UK. It really changes the lives of not just the children, but their families, care workers, and staff; it really has a massive impact on everyone. The visual and audio and the ‘bum jiggler’ subwoofer – when the children feel, see and hear all of this, it’s a matter of stimulation to them. It’s a bit like an extension of their sensory rooms and sensory stimulation. It’s not just for sitting and having popcorn watching a film, it really does make a difference.

AW: What made you start this venture?

IM: It all started when my wife and I were watching a programme called ‘The Secret Millionaire’ and a scrap metal merchant went up to Blackpool and visited a holiday home for terminally ill children and we just sat there with tears in our eyes. My wife was pregnant at the time with our first child, so it was an emotional time. I phoned them up and said I would like to donate. We spoke about what else we could do, and I told them about the AV industry, and 14 months later we had installed a £20k cinema room into one of their log cabins. All product was donated, and installation and services were free of charge.

The defining moment for me was when I was watching two little girls, both sisters, who were watching SpongeBob SquarePants on the big screen and cuddling up giggling away. And that just broke me as one of the little girls, Bethany, was dying and is sadly no longer with us. But it made me think, if I can do one, I can do more. So, we did.

Another story I can tell you is from our 25th installation at The White Lodge Centre in Chertsey. It’s not a children’s hospice, it’s more of a residential, respite care for disabled children and young adults. A 21-year-old boy was wheeled in in his chair, he was virtually fully limb supported, and his head was down. The staff said that he hadn’t lifted his head for two or three months, he never lifted his head. He went to the cinema room, the projector came down, the lights went down, the LEDs came up, the music started, and he lifted his head and smiled. If I could bottle that up… that’s why I do it.

The first installation took place in 2010 at Donna’s Dream House in Blackpool

AW: Who else is involved with making this happen?

IM: Up until last year, it was just me running this venture on a part time basis. I was working full time at ISE and was managing Together for Cinema as and when I could. My role at ISE enabled me to touch base and build relationships with many companies that have been able to support the cause. So many companies have donated time and services to ‘making it happen’ and we are hugely appreciative of this support.

Just as we were about to get more support from big organisations in the industry, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and changed everything. Face to face industry engagement was stopped in its tracks and Together for Cinema became really challenging to manage, hence a new way forward was needed. Based on the encouragement and persuasion of many industry colleagues I decided to look at a much greater commitment to the cause and make it my prime working role. With the assurance of industry support, both emotional and financial, Together for Cinema is now on a much more secure footing. We have set up a Steering Committee to help it go forward, and this is made up of five industry stalwarts namely myself, Wendy Griffiths, Melanie Malcolm, Jeff Hayward and Shereen Russell.

We also have a host of operational partners, one of which is AWE Europe. They look after all our stock and products, and all items are logged in and out. Nothing goes via Together for Cinema, all items go direct to AWE and then to the installer or more often the items will go direct to the installer. Our other operational partners include CEDIA, Flint Insurance, Presto Web Design, the Together For Short Lives charity, Wildwood PR, and Wilson Write Accountants.

Over the last few weeks, we have started looking for sponsors and I’m delighted that we already have 11 confirmed. This number is growing and there are several that I still need to confirm. The great news is that we are well on the way to securing a more committed future for Together for Cinema, and therefore being able to continue delivering good to the community. We still need more support and sponsorship and I am optimistic that this will be secured very soon.

Cinema opening day at Derian House Children’s Hospice, Chorley

AW: What have you achieved so far since 2009?

IM: To date, we have installed 25 cinema rooms with an overall value of over half a million pounds. As well as building a robust support structure which includes the Steering Committee, several operational partners and sponsors, we have also got a great network of manufacturers, distributors and installers who support us with their time and products.

CEDIA were also kind enough to recognise our work in 2017 with the Special Recognition Award at the CEDIA Awards 2017 at the Harry Potter Studios.

AW: What is Together for Cinema’s next move?

IM: We want to make it robust, transparent and credible, as well as gathering more support. We have delivered 25 cinemas in the last 12 years, and now our aim is to deliver our 50th cinema room by the end of 2026, which will hold a value of over £1m.

We are going to continue building our network of supporters and finding more opportunities to do good things for children with life limiting conditions.

The long-term goal is to build Together for Cinema up into a robust and structured operation that will ensure its long-term security and ultimately continue to deliver the cinema experience to those who struggle to otherwise access these opportunities.

In the future, we could look at supplying even more than cinemas, such as assisted living technology, video conferencing, etc. There are lots of different things we can do to make a difference.

Main image: Together for Cinema celebrated its 25th installation in 2020 at The White Lodge Centre, Chertsey