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Picnic Cinema returns to offer a unique outdoor film experience

The ‘coolest cinema in the UK’ brings films to the great outdoors and is en route to the North East with an eclectic programme

Last year's screening of Dracula at Lowther Castle
Last year's screening of Dracula at Lowther Castle

If the uniform nature of your average multiplex is giving you the yawns, then you’ll be delighted to hear that Picnic Cinema is returning to the North East this summer.

Hamsterley Forest, The Bowes Museum and a quartet of cinematic Cumbrian locations will all offer a suitable dramatic backdrop for a series of silverscreen screenings throughout July and August, courtesy of Penrith-based arts organisation and charity, Eden Arts which runs innovative initiative.

Classic films Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Grease and The Shining make up the diverse programme of screenings coming to the region, alongside the more recent The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe and the first instalment of the The Hunger Games trilogy.

For the uninitiated, Picnic Cinema - also self-proclaimed as the ‘coolest cinema in the UK’ - offers outdoor film experiences like no other, where the cinematic backdrops of forests, castles and courtyards across England become cinema locations too.

Part adventure, part fancy dress party plus the regular possibility of camping overnight (often in places where you would not be allowed to camp) it’s easy to see how these screenings quickly become much more than a trip to the flicks.

Picnic Cinema brings the magic of the big screen to the great outdoors
Picnic Cinema brings the magic of the big screen to the great outdoors

Staged in partnership with the Forestry Commission - and with support from Arts Council England and the Big Lottery Fund - the summer-long schedule, which continues with The Life of Brian at Hamsterley Forest on Friday, is sure to capture the imagination of anyone who would list ‘films’ and ‘the great outdoors’ on their list of likes.

Meanwhile, movie lovers can rest soundly in their sleeping bags, safe in the knowledge that their attendance has contributed to a good cause - all profits from Picnic Cinema support Eden Art’s rural touring cinema programme, Remote, which brings cinema equipment free to rural villages.

Adrian Lochhead, director of Eden Arts and Picnic Cinema, says: “I think the best part is that it’s not just about watching a film in a forest; we have way more fun than that.

“The feedback we get is fantastic, people tweeting us that they had the best night of their year which tells us that we’ve stumbled upon the right recipe.

“The whole project is simply designed to give people a good time. I think everyone realises that it’s something special, an opportunity to do something that is really out of the ordinary.”

:: Picnic Cinema screenings will be taking place at the following locations in the North East and Cumbria over the summer: Hamsterley Forest, County Durham (Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, July 11 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind on July 12); Lowther Castle, Cumbria (non-camping event) (The Woman in Black, July 15); Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, Cumbria (The Shining, July 18 and Grease, July 19); Grizedale Forest, Cumbria (Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, August 15 and The Hunger Games, August 16); and The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle (The Woman in Black, August 19). For full details and bookings, call 01768 899444 or visit www.picniccinema.co.uk.


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