Luckily for the Keswick film festival, the recent ‘Beast From The East’ held off from crashing into Cumbria until the week after the nineteenth Keswick Film Festival had taken place. There was a sense of anticipation about Keswick early on Saturday morning. As the market stall holders laid out their items (we may or may not have bought fudge, toffee, and Kendal mint cake) people began to wander up the gentle hill to the Alhambra Theatre.
The festival had begun two nights before, with a screening of Simon Hunter’s Sheila, and Friday had been signed off with a extremely rare screening of Clouds Of Glory, a Ken Russell film that had been originally made for TV, and was thought to be lost, that follows the lives of Coleridge and Wordsworth and had been shot almost exclusively in Cumbria some 40 years ago.
Other locally inspired events included the Osprey Awards. Any film that is filmed in, or made by people from, Cumbria and The Lakes is considered for entry. Lisi Tribble, Ken Russell’s widow, gave out prizes to film makers of all ages and pieces from a multitude of genres. And earlier in the day Lewis MacDougall had introduced a screening of A Monster Calls, the stunning J.A. Bayona film set in a small town outside Manchester. The film had been chosen by pupils from Keswick School and resulted in a full theatre at 10am on Saturday. We were there bright and early, but aided by the sheer force of opportunity to buy more mint cake in the lobby.
The festival literally takes over the town. The ‘Theatre By The Lake’, which sits on the bank of Derwent Water, hosted screenings and a poster exhibition. As did the Rheged Centre in nearby Penrith, which also hosted a showing of Chinese artists Ai Weiwei’s film Human Flow, which looks at the plight of migrants across the world.
There are much, much worse ways to spend your weekend. Keswick and the surrounding Cumbrian hills is a stunning part of the country , and the determination and dedication from the festival and its volunteers is extraordinary. Screenings of local short films were as well attended as the closing gala of films; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and the stunning Dark River. And that’s a testament to the strength of the festivals programming and the welcoming nature of Keswick itself. So, if you’re going to check in on the state of the arts outside of our cities, then you should definitely head further north!