There are film festivals that just show films and then there’s the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival.
Films lie at the heart of it but the festival also embraces site-specific installations and live events. It is an invitation to us, the audience, to get out and explore the town rather than numb our bums before a big screen.
The programme for the 10th annual festival, announced today, includes surprises and the potential for indelible memories.
Since the festival (September 17-21) coincides with the September 18 referendum on Scottish independence, this year’s theme is Border Crossing.
Berwick, as a border town which has passed between Scotland and England 13 times, has a crucial interest in the debate although the festival takes the opportunity to reflect on borders around the world.
Festival director Melanie Iredale says more than 75 features, short films and artists’ videos will feature over the five days.
They will be shown in 13 different locations, including The Maltings Theatre & Cinema and no fewer than three ice houses. It was two last year. In this most extraordinary of North East towns, a third has come to light and been donated for festival use.
Melanie says last year’s audience of about 8,000 was divided equally between local, regional and national, with the railway station an important entry point given Berwick’s relatively remote location.
She is pleased the station is to be a venue this year, playing host to Martin Callanan’s dizzying installation, Departure for All, comprising a flight departure board which displays live information for every single departure from international airports.
The photos on this page relate to Orchestra of Samples, a new audio-visual commission from Addictive TV (Mark Vidler and Graham Daniels).
The pair make filmed recordings of musicians from around the world and mix and sample the footage in extraordinary live recordings.
Melanie says: “They don’t play very often in the UK and they haven’t done any recordings in this country, so we’ve been talking to them since the end of last year about bringing them to Berwick to do some recordings with folk musicians from the North East and the Scottish Borders. They did that a couple of weeks ago.”
Melanie and her team have been working on the project with Newcastle University which has a highly-regarded folk and traditional music degree course.
So it is that musicians including Alistair Anderson (concertina), Shona Mooney and Rachel Cross (fiddle), Callum Younger (percussion) and Matt Seattle (pipes) will be part of the Orchestra of Samples, featuring on film and also playing live at The Maltings on September 19.
Strands within the festival relate to Germany – 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall – and the Middle East.
Northumberland-born (but Belgium-based) film-maker Peter Snowdon gathered YouTube footage of the recent revolutions across the Middle East for his documentary, The Uprising.
The plan, apparently, is to return the completed film to the social medium whence it came but not before its Maltings regional premiere, also on September 19.
This year’s festival marks the climax of Bristol-based artist Katie Davies’ six months as artist-in-residence at Berwick Gymnasium. It is here that you will be able to see her 15-minute film, The Lawes of the Marches, the distillation of months spent interviewing participants in the Common Ridings, the ancient boundary-marking ceremonies that take place along the England/Scotland border.
For the full festival programme visit www.berwickfilm-artsfest.com