Tag Archives: film festivals

This Way Up! Kendal Mountain Festival 2017

As far as I’m concerned, the best excuse to visit any place for the first time is attending a great festival. So I hopped on the train to Kendal – the gateway to the Lake District – for a weekend of mountain films and culture, readings by nature writers and a visit to the famous Lakes, of course.

Gemita Samarra KMF.jpg

Kendal Mountain Festival (16-19 November 2017) is the largest festival of its kind in the world and brings together enthusiasts from various mountain sports, such as climbing, trail running, caving, snow sports and other outdoor pursuits. This year, they also had a literature festival, which was a welcome addition.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon in time for the opening ceremony, a procession in the dark from a little park outside a pub in Kendal to the Brewery Arts Centre led by a local traditional band. Once we got there, there was an introduction by the festival organisers and we got to see a few of the shorter festival entries and the pretty awesome festival trailer ‘A Spark in the Dark’ with a poem written by festival artistic director Claire Carter.

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The next day I explored the festival and the town properly. With Kendal being not such a big place, it was easy to walk between various festival venues, a church, the Town Hall, a film truck (very warm and cosy), community centres and a number of screens right at the Brewery. There were also sessions for local schools, ‘secret sessions’ (which were alas sold out by the time I figured out they existed) as well as baby and dementia friendly shows. Most films were packaged up into two-hour long sessions, so you picked a collection of films (called ‘Strive’, ‘Reach’, ‘Seek’ etc.) and each of them had a variety of shorter and longer material. I liked pretty much everything I saw.

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There was also a basecamp in the courtyard of the Brewery Arts Centre, where all the sponsors, such as Columbia and Mammut, as well as some outdoor charities, had stalls to explore. Inside the tent, which was decorated with colourful prayer flags, were also two bars, and the Marmot Café with lots of seats for people to hang out, have their lunch and listen to inspiring speakers, such as Chris Bonnington, Gemmita Samarra, Dan Milner and Steve McClure. The tiny Shackleton Tent, i.e. yurt, just outside offered free films and talks all day. Four-legged festival goers were not allowed inside the tents, but there were lots of dog-friendly cafes and pubs around town and in many other places in the Lake District.

In addition, there was a half-day film summit in the Town Hall for industry professionals with inspiring presentations by filmmakers and producers and a 10K trail run for those actually wanting to go out there and get some exercise done.

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While outdoor sports tend to be dominated by men, as most other types of sport, too, it was the female adventurers that I enjoyed listening to most. My favourite event all weekend was probably the Findra Women in Adventure session on Saturday morning. Four exceptional young women, Jenny Tough (e.g. ran solo across Kyrgyzstan and the Atlas Mountains), Emily Chapell (e.g. cycled alone through Iceland in winter), Megan Hine (TV scout for adventure shows and leads private expeditions) and Rickie Cott (who with Lee Craigie cycled from Canada to Mexico by bike). Each of them had amazing stories to tell of how they overcame obstacles, including people doubting their abilities, and how they pulled through by believing in themselves and becoming more and more resilient with every trip. Way to go!

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I also made it to a couple of author events. One was with Karen Lloyd talking about her book ‘The Blackbird Diaries’ charting encounters with birds and wildlife over a calendar year. The other was with Scottish nature writer Jim Crumley on his latest book ‘The Nature of Winter’. Both told of unforgettable wildlife experiences and discussed the future of national parks, the reintroduction of predatory species to UK forests, the impact of climate change, among some of them.

There were so many great films last weekend, here are a few I especially enjoyed:

My Irnik (family life in the Canadian Arctic), Weightless (fab humorous short paragliding film, won best adventure sport film), The Last Honey Hunter (following Nepali honey harvesters on their dangerous job, won best visual), My Big White Thighs and Me (moving film about womanhood and braving the elements), Skye’s the Limit (a woman circumnagivates the Isle of Skye on a paddle board), Stumped (brilliantly funny climbing film, won best climbing film), Ditch the Van (musician ditches the tour bus and bikes from gig to gig) and Becoming Who I Was (simply stunningly filmed and very moving story of a Tibetan boy searching for his destiny, won best culture).

These are the official winners of altogether 12 categories at this year’s festival.

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As it looked like it was going to be a beautiful, if crisp, day on Sunday, I decided to escape for a day trip around the Lake District. I went on a mini bus tour with Mountain Goat, which was absolutely brilliant. In around 7 hours we got taken to 10 lakes in the area, a slate mine, a viewing point high above one of the lakes, the Castleriggs stone circle, a waterfall (reminded me so much of my recent Iceland trip), stopped in the lively town of Keswick (which has an intriguing pencil museum, as it is the place where pencils were first invented, apparently) and also in Grasmere (where the grave of William Wordsworth can be visited for those with a literary interest and the special Grasmere gingerbread, only made in this village, can be purchased for those with a sweet tooth). Along the way we saw lots and lots of Herdwick sheep, a beautiful local breed, and passed through many lovely villages. While we did run into a bit of traffic towards the end of our tour, the quieter winter months are a great time to explore this beautiful part of the UK, the landscapes were impressive and we had them almost to ourselves.

Castleriggs stone circle KMF.jpg

Disclaimer: Life is a Festival was provided with tickets to select festival events by Kendal Mountain Festival. Opinions expressed are those of the author. All photography used in this blog post was taken by Life is a Festival.

Small Town, Big Screen: The Asheville Cinema Festival 2011

Last November I had a wonderful time travelling around some of the US states and as I’d heard good things about Asheville, North Carolina, it came in handy that there was a film festival on during my visit. It was the first time the Asheville Cinema Festival (3-6 November 2011) was being held after the Asheville Film Festival ceased to exist two years earlier. It is never a small feat to revive or start a new festival from scratch. It was all the more impressive what the organisers managed to pull off.
ImageMy weekend in Asheville couldn’t have been more fun and interesting. I stayed with a lovely local couchsurfer and spent my days taking tickets at screenings, counting audience award ballots, handing out flyers and attending various events. One of my festival favourites was the inspiring filmmaking workshops that were on offer. From screenwriting to editing we learned a whole lot from industry experts, such as Blair Daily and Joseph C. Stinson. Another one was the inaugural awards ceremony where everyone got together for a few drinks to celebrate the best of the fest.

If you’re looking at spending a weekend in Asheville and love films I can highly recommend volunteering with the ACF, you’ll be guranteed a warm welcome, fantastic movies and a great atmosphere. Hope to be back myself sometime soon!

Sleepless in … You Know Where: The Seattle International Film Festival 2011

It felt so good to be on the road again, even if it was just for a long weekend, and the Seattle International Film Festival which runs from 19 May until 12 June 2011, was the perfect excuse for it. My long weekend was actually a lot like a good road movie. There was a road map (of sorts) to start with, tricky challenges to overcome (like using Seattle public transport and finding movie theatres), a lot of random intriguing encounters and, ultimately, it was a hell of a fun ride!

Both of my volunteer shifts were at the SIFF cinema in the Seattle Center district. I’m always curious about how each festival runs their logistics and SIFF is definitely on the more organised side. There were quite a few sold out shows and we had pass holder, ticket holder and rush lines outside as well as a will call/box office desk inside. Line managing the rush line on a sold out show can be quite a challenge as no one wants to be disappointed, of course. I was in luck though. When I was on duty each person impatiently waiting in line ended up getting into the screening. Phew!

After I was done with my shifts I checked out a few of the other cinemas and watched Cairo 678 in Pacific Place (turned out to be an excellent choice, there was even clapping during a particular scene), Perfect Sense with Ewan McGregor at the Egyptian (thought it was so so, unless you’re a fan I guess) and Without from local filmmaker Mark Jackson (quite haunting) at the Harvard Exit cinema.

In between all the movie action I managed to squeeze in various other fun things like a visit to the Green Festival, lunch at Elliott Bay Books Cafe and latte at both Bauhaus Coffee and Roy St Coffee & Tea. I also ran into a lot of interesting people everywhere I went, on the bus, over breakfast at the hostel, in the line-up for films: couchsurfers, filmmakers, music bloggers and various other interesting randomers. All in all it was the kind of weekend that turned out even better than expected. Especially, of course, as the predicted apocalpyse didn’t happen after all. Well, not outside movie theatres anyway.