“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.