Years ago, in 2009, Ian Morrish was watching television with his wife. It was a program called “The Secret Millionaire” and it featured Donna’s Dream House, a holiday home for terminally ill children in Blackpool, UK. The program struck a chord in his heart because his wife was pregnant, and they would soon have their own child.
He considered donating, but then thought he could gather a group of connections in the AV industry to make a real difference onsite. A little more than a year later, the first Together for Cinema room was completed at Donna’s Dream House.
He recalls one moment that was particularly meaningful when the theatre was complete: “I was getting to watch two little girls watching SpongeBob SquarePants on this new £25,000 cinema system. One little girl, called Bethany, was not in great health and passed away not long after. It was at this point I had to walk away and have a moment to myself, as the impact on me was so huge. If we, as an industry united and can make this much difference, we really should try to create another cinema room…and then maybe another.”
Morrish has been in the smart home technology industry for more than 30 years. He started with a job putting brochures together for hi-fi retailers and even worked on an 8-year contract with CEDIA from 1999 to 2007. From CEDIA, Morrish accepted an international sales manager role at Integrated Systems Europe (ISE), which hosts the largest global AV integration gathering each year.
Throughout this time, Morrish was working on the business “on planes, trying to beg projectors and combining my work for ISE with a little bit of Together for Cinema.” He managed this way for 11 years.
He left ISE in 2020 when his new contract was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. He had four good job offers, but none were what he really wanted to do. It was at this time that people in the industry were asking what was going to happen to Together for Cinema. He often heard, “Everyone loves what you do. It’s just got to continue.”
Having achieved 25 cinemas by that time, the industry rallied to support the organization. “They said, ‘Look, we'll put some money on the path. We'll sponsor you.’ Since then, I have almost 60 sponsors from the industry that all contribute varying amounts of money. Sponsors make it possible for Together for Cinema to be, and we now have a properly good model,” explains Morrish.
In March 2021, he committed to Together for Cinema full time and has since established it as a Community Interest Company (CIC). Qualifying as a CIC means that Together for Cinema benefits the surrounding community instead of private investors or other stakeholders. As Morrish says, becoming official means that the company is not for profit and “obligated to deliver.” A large part of the work he does now relates to branding, reporting, and communication.
Together for Cinema, Demelza Project
Creating Dreams through Cinema
Although he started Together for Cinema, Morrish is quick to say that it’s an industry-wide effort. He’s thankful for his previous experiences because it made this organization possible: “This would never have happened without people knowing and trusting me as an individual.”
As new sponsors came on board, they could also rely on Together for Cinema’s track record. In the 13 years before it became a CIC, they successfully installed 37 cinemas in children’s hospitals – all of which had been openly donated.
That’s not all, either.
The company is “a pure and unquestionable good.” Morrish emphasizes, “The industry is hugely supportive. We have someone who does web design free of charge. We have a marketing PR agency that helps us free of charge. The insurance company makes sure we're insured free of charge, and we have an AV distributor who gives us storage space for donated products. Everyone seems to have an immense respect for what we do and wants to see it continue on.”
Because of the industry’s willingness to help, Together for Cinema is now a long-term entity that everyone can be proud of delivering. The “purity of delivery” and transparency of the organization creates what Morrish calls a “properly good delivery” for children’s hospices ad other deserving venues all over England. The industry has really taken it to heart with sponsors from the UK and United States.
Simply put, people love what Together for Cinema is doing and enjoy being a part of it. “The small details like pin badges and plaques we give to sponsors are becoming quite well-known,” Morrish notes.
The cinemas aren’t all about hardware, either, although that plays a significant role. Together for Cinema is also working to provide access to premier content. They have meetings set with Disney, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Studio Canal, and more. Morrish says, “All of these, the seven or eight studios I'm talking to, have said ‘Where there's a will there's a way’ to try to provide content to these kids.”
Together for Cinema, St. Oswald Project
As the founder of Together for Cinema, Morrish is responsible for much of the communication and reporting. Since the organization became a CIC, he feels it should be completing six to eight installations per year. In 2022, Together for Cinema delivered eight installations, and in 2023, they’re expecting another seven.
A new milestone will occur in 2023 as well: Together for Cinema will achieve the £1M mark of installed cinema rooms, had they been paid for rather than donated.
“We make a real difference,” he says. “Together for Cinema is just a very small part of trying to create good times and memories for the children and their families.”
As for what’s next, Together for Cinema is working on creating a recycling program. The idea is that the organization will take secondhand and discontinued stock from installers, manufacturers, and distributors to give to good causes. The people or businesses on the receiving end will be those who “don’t have the budget to buy new equipment, but the recycled equipment can enhance their AV experiences.”
People from all around England, where Together for Cinema operates, will benefit from this recycling program when it launches, likely in 2025.
As Morrish notes, “There are loads of times where you’ll sit and go, ‘Oh, I should do that’ but you never do. In 2009 I happened to get up and make something happen. I'm not glorifying myself in any way, shape, or form. I just happened to do it and get on a roll with it.”
All these years later, Together for Cinema is still on a roll. In the year and a half since Morrish has been working there full time, he says, “We've come a hell of a long way. There are magazines issuing supplements about us. There are people giving me services to make it happen. It’s amazing what the industry has been able to do to help provide for these kids.”
To get involved in this great cause, you can contact Ian Morrish via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Together for Cinema website. He’s always looking for sponsors to support ongoing installations and projects.