Independent Cinema Office: Access to cinema that nourishes the soul and changes lives

The Independent Cinema Office (ICO) is the UK’s national body that supports independent cinemas, film festivals and exhibitors of all forms. It strives to develop an open, challenging and thriving film sector.

Social Problem

The ICO believes the best viewing experience is a collective one, where films can spark conversation and change lives. Yet mainstream cinema can be quite narrow and the important, innovative filmmaking that happens in the margins all across the globe doesn’t have the chance to reach as many people.


The ICO aims to develop a diverse, inclusive and thriving film sector. It supports cinemas, film festivals and exhibitors of all forms to bring life-changing cinema to more people across the UK. It helps with training, programming and networking, supporting the sector as a whole and encouraging wider access to the industry.


After renting for 16 years, ICO decided to purchase a property for use as its head office in central London in order to gain security and invest in its future growth. With traditional lenders ICO were limited in the amount they could borrow and the type of property they could purchase due to their funds available for a deposit. Charity Bank recognised that the ICO could afford a larger loan than other lenders were willing to provide, loaning £875,000 directly and introducing Big Issue Invest who provided an additional loan to enable the purchase to go ahead.


Owning its property has given the ICO future security. No longer subject to ever-increasing rental rates, it instead has an asset in central London that should continue to appreciate in value. A bigger space than it previously operated in, the new property has also afforded the charity room to grow and a means of diversifying income streams through subletting possibilities.

“The benefits of buying far outweighed any risks for us. If we stayed where we were, the charity had no assets and our costs would always increase each year. Owning a space has given us flexibility to grow and adapt for the future. It helped that Charity Bank were so positive and proactive throughout, helping us find additional funding and achieve all of our goals.”

Catharine Des Forges, Founder & Director, ICO

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,000 loans totalling over £290m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.