AN EXCITING new community film festival gets underway this evening, the first of its kind in Swindon.

Over the next five weeks, a series of short films focusing on key community groups will be screened at public events.

Each film showcases the work of a different group, whilst also exploring a range of issues around equality and inclusion in our town.

The work has been produced by Viewpoint Community Media and is funded by the Wiltshire Community Foundation.

The festival is part of the Swindon200 project – a partnership between Voluntary Action Swindon and the Swindon Equality Coalition to support a fair and inclusive society. Many other local groups and individuals are avtively involved in and supporting the campaign.

Nick Stephenson, change lead for equality and diversity at Swindon Borough Council, said: “It’s great to see the project come to life in this way and to see the many people and organisations that are involved in promoting and working towards equality in Swindon.”

Each film will be screened at its own event and will be followed by a discussion with representatives of the community groups and attendees about how we can work together to improve the lives of those living locally.

The community groups that have been involved in the project, and whose films will be screened as part of the film festival, include TWIGS (Therapeutic Work in Gardening Swindon), Swindon Seniors’ Forum, Swindon Interfaith Group, Swindon Feminist Network and Swindon City of Sanctuary.

“Swindon 200 launched earlier this year along with a new Swindon Equality & Inclusion Charter at the Swindon Community Conference held at the National Trust,” explained Michelle Howard, chairman of Swindon Equality Coalition. “We hope that these films will spark crucial debate and ultimately action to help us reach a more fair and equal community in Swindon.”

Hannah Parry, development officer for VAS, added: “We’re really excited to be holding Swindon’s first ever community film festival, which we hope will become an annual event with more groups and independent filmmakers’ work being screened each year.

“Community media is such a great way to grow understanding and break down barriers between groups and people and help build a strong local community.

“The festival is also a fantastic way to show-off and celebrate the great work that goes on in the local community and voluntary sector, much of which often goes under the radar, but is what makes our town such a great place to be.”

The Community Film Festival will kick off tonight at the Central Community Centre in the Railway Village. The first film will explore the work of TWIGS - a mental health charity that uses gardening to aid the recovery of its service users. The screening will get underway at 6pm with the event expected to last an hour.

For information on upcoming screenings, search for Swindon Community Film Festival on Facebook.