Independence and charitable status 

Together with Sheffield Media & Exhibition Centre (SMEC) we are delighted to announce that following a successful application to the Charity Commission, Sheffield Doc/Fest is now an independent registered charity. Doc/Fest will continue its mission to offer filmmakers and artists a place for inspiration, debate, growth and challenge, providing an international platform to launch works as part of a carefully curated programme that challenges trends, brings diversity and enriches engagement.

For 26 years, Doc/Fest has been a subsidiary of SMEC, the charity which runs the Showroom Workstation, and as of 1 October 2019 is an independent organisation and a charity in its own right. The Showroom remains at the heart of Doc/Fest’s city-wide festival, and the two organisations continue to be committed to working closely in partnership.

Sheffield Doc/Fest was established by The Showroom Cinema and Sheffield Council in 1993 in response to British documentary filmmakers needing  a forum to come together to discuss their craft. The first festival ran over eight days in March 1994, organised by Festival Director, Midge Mackenzie. The festival had a film programme, masterclasses and an industry conference attracting around 100 delegates from across the UK.  Guests at the first festival included renowned filmmakers DA Pennebaker, Richard Leacock and Robert Drew. The Showroom Cinema, as well as being the organisation’s parent company from the start, also served as the festival’s hub. Now in its 27th year, the event has grown to become one of the world’s major documentary film festivals and marketplaces, with a film programme of 200 titles, and a significant talks, exhibition, marketplace and parties programme, attracting up to 3,500 delegates and 30,000 public admissions from 60 countries around the world over six days each June. Though the festival now takes place over 20 locations across the city, the Showroom Cinema remains the festival’s delegate centre and one of its best-loved venues.

We are recruiting for a new Chair 

With charitable status secure and Cíntia Gil having taken up the reins as new Festival Director, Alex Graham, Doc/Fest’s Chair since 2008, has decided to step aside. Having come to the end of his term last year, Alex has been fundamental in guiding the festival towards charity status and remained in order to ensure a smooth transition. Graham, a television producer and journalist, who was the founding CEO of Wall to Wall production company and remains Chair of the Scott Trust (Guardian), has governed the festival over a period of significant growth. His tenure as Chair has overseen a substantial increase in the festival’s public audiences and international profile, as well as increased financial security and sustainability and led the appointment of new Festival Director Cíntia Gil, who has relocated from Portugal (where she directed Doclisboa since 2012) to Sheffield.  

Says Alex Graham, “I am very sad to be leaving Sheffield.  Chairing this great Festival has truly been one of the highlights of my career.  But organisations need a regular injection of fresh ideas and thinking at Board level and after more than nine years, it is time for me to move on.  I would like to thank all of our stakeholders, but in particular SMEC and Sheffield City Council for their unstinting support of the Festival over the past 26 years and particularly during this time of transition. I am confident that I leave Doc/Fest financially and organisationally stronger than when I took over and I wish Cíntia and her fantastically talented team all the best in taking it to the next level.”

Says Peter Brooks, Chair at SMEC, “I doubt whether anyone involved at the time, back in 1994, would have predicted the global reach and success that Doc/Fest has achieved. It is right that a festival of this scale and prominence take full control of its own future and so I am delighted that Doc/Fest has been able to gain charitable status in its own right. The Showroom is without doubt the home of independent cinema in Sheffield and we look forward to working with new Festival Director Cintia Gil and the team.”

Says Cíntia Gil, Festival Director, “To become a charity is an opportunity that will provide us with the space for public service, both in the interest of filmmakers, artists and the public. Sheffield Doc/Fest is a festival committed to the values of freedom, social engagement and collective development of the arts, therefore the purpose of our work becomes even clearer with this new status.I want to thank Alex Graham on behalf of the team, and also the wider board of Trustees, for their trust, their support and wise presence over the years. On a personal note, I would like to thank Alex Graham for welcoming and introducing me to this beautiful organisation. I am looking forward to working with a new Chair, as we enter an exciting period of Doc/Fest as a charity. I am sure the ethics and commitment of such a status will help guide our mission to advance the art of film, education and training in the art of documentary filmmaking for years to come.”

Says Ian Wild, CEO of SMEC, “After supporting the festival and over many years, I am delighted to have seen it grow to become one of the most significant documentary festivals in the world.  It is the right time for Doc/Fest to become independent of SMEC and I am delighted that that the festival is now a charity in its own right. I look forward to the next phase in Doc/Fest’s development and to continuing to work with the festival and the new team.”

The search for a new Chair of the Board for Sheffield Doc/Fest has begun today with an open call for applications. The appointed candidate will lead the Trustees in responsibilities for maintaining fiscal probity, overseeing governance and working alongside the executive team to manage stakeholders and act as advocates for the festival nationally and internationally. The Chair in particular will lead the board to help deliver a new strategic vision for the festival for 2020 and beyond.

More information about recruitment available here.