The OKRE Summit: This was the day

On Wednesday, June 15th, OKRE held the much-anticipated OKRE Summit event at Meta HQ in Rathbone square. The OKRE Summit welcomes speakers from across film, social media, games, audio, television, academic research and charities for a full day of panel discussions, presentations, and deep dives.

Wide shot of conference hall with audience on right hand side and panelists on the stage. OKRE logo in pink on digital screen behind panelists.

From changing the world through continuing drama to the impact of entertainment hits; the culture of collaboration to empowering audiences, exploring what is next in mental health to connecting with Gen-Z in the gaming universe, the day was full of thought-provoking, insightful conversations between leaders in the entertainment industries and their counterparts in the charity sector.

The day begun with an introduction to the OKRE summit with Dr Yvonne Thompson, CBE (Chair of OKRE) Iain Dodgeon (Director of OKRE) and Aradhna Tayal (Director of the OKRE Summit) taking to the stage to welcome attendees and speakers.

Setting the tone for the day, Dr Thompson emphasised the need for ‘personal social responsibility’ — a thread that run through each session of the day as panellists explored the ways in which media, content creation and the charity sector can walk hand in hand to create tangible impact.

From writer and director Gurinder Chadha (in conversation with Mishal Husain), an acknowledgment of the power of film and storytelling to create conversation and tackle uncomfortable subjects, noting that her work, no matter its guise, has always been about such issues as racism and class disparity.

“My message has always been: challenge prejudice in all its forms.”

Gurinder Chadha

The first panel of the day: The Culture of Collaboration with speakers Simon Gunning (CEO of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)), Samir Patel (CEO of Comic Relief), and Sophie Neary (Group Vertigo Director at Meta) was moderated by journalist, broadcaster and author Ayesha Hazarika.

Reflecting on the panel and the importance of the Summit overall, Samir Patel said:

“[This was] a day of fresh insights, new perspectives and a mutual understanding of shared challenges across multiple organisations. I was privileged to be on the panel and very much hope the OKRE summit becomes an annual date in the calendar.”

The day continued with an introduction to the OKRE Big List, a new online hub that will provide a unique insight into the upcoming priorities for charities working on some of the most pressing issues in the world today.

Then Lucy Allan (Lime Pictures), Jeremy Howe (The Archers), Alejandro Villanueva Argüelles (Fundación Televisa), Martha Williams (Beat) and Ria Hebdon (journalist and TV Presenter) took to the stage to discuss long-term approaches to weaving social issues into continuing drama and the benefits this can have for charities and producers alike.

Another key conversation taking place at the summit was a panel titled Beyond Talking: What’s Next in Mental Health,moderated by Dan Bernardo (founder of Playtra Games), which brought together Stewart Kyasimire (BAFTA award-winning film director), Alex Bushill, (Head of Media and PR at Mind) and Kate Martin (Head of Lived Experience at the Wellcome Trust) to discuss different approaches to depicting mental health in entertainment.  

Acknowledging that depicting mental health in entertainment content can feel like a minefield, the panel stressed the need for creators to use up-to-date research and to be informed by lived experience. Asked what they would like to see change within depictions of mental health in the media, Alex Bushill had this to say: 

“I’m really tired of depictions of mental health settings as being ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ Victorian institutions, an asylum with really horrible stigmatising two dimensional pictures of people being in that particular setting.

There are countless examples of media to this day which have their heart in the right place, they’re trying to explore ideas around trauma and recovery, and they just return to that trope. And it’s really, really, irritating and stigmatising for anyone who has ever been sectioned or been detained. ”

Alex Bushill

We crossed international waters for a conversation between VIS Social Impact’s Georgia Arnold and MTV Shuga‘ writer and director Thishiwe Ziqubu to talk about the differences in the broadcasting landscape in Africa and why MTV Shuga has been such a success in driving behaviour change in the demand generation. A key takeaway from this conversation was the need to learn all the time as you create impact.

The follow up to this ‘in conversation’ had the attendees chuckling along as Jocelyn Stevenson (BAFTA special award winner), Ruby Kuraishe (BBC Entertainment’s commissioning editor), Jamie Bartlett (presenter of the podcast The Missing Cryptoqueen) and Dan Bernardo (Playtra founder) joined journalist Dhruti Shah to explore what lessons could be learned from mega hits.

With a wealth of experience and a wide range of expertise between them all, this ‘Fraggle Rock to Ru Paul’s Drag Race‘ panel urged content creators to commit to producing the best product they could — despite the influence of social media and the fear of cancel culture.

With a wealth of experience and a wide range of expertise between them all, this ‘Fraggle Rock to Ru Paul’s Drag Race‘ panel urged content creators to commit to producing the best product they could — despite the influence of social media and the fear of cancel culture.

“We are the people that are going to be referenced in the future, the ones taking the picture of our age.” ~ Dan Bernardo

Following on from this was a wide-ranging discussion on Empowering Audiences with speakers Naomi Sesay (Head of Creative Diversity at Channel 4 and creator of the station’s new commissioning guide); Priya Matadeen (Managing Director of Dazed Media) Nick Callaghan (Head of Industry, Entertainment UK, Meta) Hermione Kasirye (Save The Children’s Youth Advisory Board member) and moderator Anne Morrison (Nevision’s Creative Director, Factual Programmes). The panel opened up discussions on how to develop innovative, inspirational content that resonates with audiences.   

Speaking on the need to be innovative and unafraid to tackle deep issues that will resonate with an audience, Hermoine Kasirye stated:

“We were raised in a time where LGBTQ+ rights, same sex marriage, Black lives matter all became very vocal and huge during this generation. We’re a quite liberal, laid back and outspoken generation. In our generation, we’re trying to break the stereotypes.”

Hermoine Kasirye

A running thread throughout the day was the need for creators to be informed through lived experience and up-to-date research in order to engage with an already informed audience that deeply cares.  A message that was brought home by the fantastic performance of the closing act of the day, drag queen Ginger Johnson whose effortless storytelling and humour had the audience completely enthralled.