“Why do you visit the Lake District?” When asked that question, there are a variety of responses, the most common being to walk, enjoy the scenery, eat good food, stay in a lovely hotel, have a break from work, escape the city, climb, swim, get a decent pint. What you’ll seldom hear, is “go to a museum, see a play, visit an art gallery”, yet the Lake District is a cultural treasure trove. From contemporary art galleries, via stunning outdoor sculptures, vibrant theatre, superb live entertainment, architecturally fascinating buildings and stunning photographic exhibitions there is something to satisfy even the most demanding of culture vultures.
In a recent article in the Westmorland Gazette, I described seeing film and TV star Stephen Mangan at the Brewery Arts Centre and then wrote, “That’s the great thing about living up here. Sooner or later, the world comes to our door … In the past few years I’ve heard Melvin Bragg talk on Cumbrian history at Theatre by the Lake, laughed at Ed Byrne’s caustic wit, tried to love priceless Lucian Freud paintings and revelled in Barbara Hepworth sculpture at Abbot Hall Gallery, interviewed Sir Chris Bonington in his Cumbria home about his mountain adventures, admired Charles Rennie Mackintosh designs at Blackwell, cried as the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra played Brahms, danced to Chuck Berry at Maryport Blues Festival and had a myriad of world-class experiences, as well as enjoying our local attractions.”
However, many visitors to the Lake District are unaware of what exciting and varied cultural adventures there are to be had in Cumbria, especially if climbing to the top of a mountain is not your thing. Fortunately, that is about to change. Thanks to £324,000 Cultural Destinations funding from the Arts Council and Visit England, a new project, Lakes Culture, will showcase the rich creative life that exists in this inspiring landscape.
Richard Foster, Chief Executive of the Brewery Arts Centre, one of the leading organisations in this project, was quoted in the Westmorland Gazette, “Our ambition is to establish the Lake District as the UK’s leading rural cultural destination.”
I recently spoke to Usha Mistry, Lakes Culture project manager. “We want people to see the Lake District from a different perspective. The project, which has just launched its first events with Autumn Arts, aims to bring together the area’s tourism and cultural sectors to better promote the wealth of cultural activities on offer, from exhibitions to performances to experiences, to our local, domestic and international visitors.”
Chart-topping local band British Sea Power kicked off the festivities with a sell-out performance at new venue ‘The Factory’, in Kendal. In Grizedale the Forestry Commission is showcasing an award-wining photography exhibition ‘Guardians of the Areng Valley’ from November 15th. Visitors can walk among the trees to see stunning images of the Cardamon Forest in Cambodia taken by British photographer Luke Duggleby. Lakes Culture has also sponsored a live theatre, film and audio event to take place on November 21st at the award winning Kendal Mountain Festival.
Richard Greenwood of Cumbria Tourism says, “The Lakes Culture Autumn Arts programme will be a wonderful showcase of what is going on in the Lake District arts and cultural scene, and it complements the already existing rich cultural calendar that we have through the year.”
Grizedale Arts is collaborating with Abbot Hall in Kendal with a major exhibition, The Nuisance of Landscape: Grizedale – The Sequel, looking back on Grizedale’s at times controversial yet always thought-provoking artistic history. Abbot Hall is also temporary home to Marcus Coates quirky Anchorhold – part sculpture, part architecture. I talked to a number of locals connected with culture in various ways, including some actually INSIDE Anchorhold. I’ll let you know what they have to say very soon.
As you know, I am passionate about culture and the arts so it’s extremely encouraging to see a significant amount of money being invested in this area. Let’s hope ‘Lakes Culture’ achieves its objective and really puts the Lake District on the international cultural tourism map.
For more details visit Go Lakes Arts and Culture. Follow @Lakesculture on Twitter and #lakesculture for latest info.
If you’ve not visited the Lake District because you think it’s only for outdoorsy types and nature geeks, hopefully this will persuade you to come and see for youself how much else is on offer.
A fascinating post that highlights a very different aspect of the Lake District. I had no idea there was so much going on and proves that London is not the only cultural hot-spot. Look forward to visiting soon!
Thanks Linzi. Delighted to share the cultural cornucopia we have up here. Hope you get to visit someday soon.
Great article Zoe, thanks. Hopefully, people will now regularly check the GoLakes.co.uk event listing and book their short breaks ‘away from the grindstone.’ My spare room has already been nabbed for next year’s Comic Art Festival!
Glad you enjoyed it Usha and really looking forward to seeing what comes next in the Lakes Culture adventure 🙂
I’d like to get a look inside the Anchorhold and see how it’s made! Looks like a very interesting piece of woodwork.
Unfortunately Anchorhold had to be closed for a while as it is not fully waterproof! I’m hoping to get inside this week and I’ll include an interior photo for you in the blog post about it:-) But if you get time go along and see it for yourself – it’s there for a while.
Fantastic guide to what’s going on in the Lake District! There’s more than just beautiful scenery.
Finally had sessions in Anchorhold and it was a unique experience. Appropriately I spoke to vicar of nearby Kendal Parish Church who said the sculpture is placed very close to the path to an old Anchorite retreat. Conversation inside is by the nature of the design feels more intimate and in a curious way, revealing.
Yes Sophie, it’s great to be able to showcase this area’s cultural offering as there is a preconception in some quarters that the Lake District is ONLY about the great outdoors, Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter!
Zoe, work is in progress for our new spring arts event – Lakes Ignite. We’ve just closed the submission deadline and are now looking over some amazing artistic ideas to work up for Lakes Ignite. More details to follow, stay tuned…[email protected]
Sounds very exciting Usha. So good that the Lake District is celebrating the vibrant diversity of its culture, both historic and contemporary. Look forward to hearing more about Lakes Ignite 🙂
Lake District and Cumbria is one of the UK's top tourism destinations, famous for our landscape and outdoor activities.both place is fast becoming a food lover's paradise.