Keswick Film Festival

Festival History

Whether you're new to the event or want to revel in remembrance of films past, former Keswick Film Club Chairman Rod Evans takes you on a journey through the past.

KFF7 February 2006

Significant changes in the admirable line-up of volunteers running the Festival inevitably influenced its development and tone: KFF7 saw Katherine Anderson returning to her north-eastern homeland – a considerable loss – but the arrival of Nick Graham and Darren Horne brought both an extensive knowledge of the Cumbrian business community and, in Darren's case, a younger slant on academic film study and programming. Alex Greenwood continued to operate as Director, whilst David Miller, Alan Smith, Rod were also busy in the build-up, and it was good to have Vian Curtis and Deborah Cowin on board.

2005 and early 2006 were full of discussions about how the Festival could be grown into an event of national importance. However it became clear a few months before KFF7 opened that our consultant was not going to be able carry through his plans and ideas – nor even his final report! – and sponsorship on a significant scale was elusive. We had to acknowledge that employing a professional was looking problematical. So, "still amateur, but not amateurish" was the order of the day, and much thought was given to the best ways to encourage young filmmakers, to liaise with north-western film organisations and academic bodies, and to ways in which we could persuade the great and the good of Cumbria that our enterprise was worthy of their backing.

It was decided that a big opening-night launch without having competing screenings was the way forward, so the plan was to hold the opening night on a Thursday. This would make the Festival four days long but it looked like a sensible improvement. Given that this year the intention was to push the educational context of the Festival, we decided that it should take place in term time instead of the by-then-traditional spring half-term. Primetime slots were to be programmed as in 2005: i.e. no theme, just excellent world cinema. Scouts were to be sent to the Edinburgh International Film Festival to find really suitable fare.

Taking the honours for the opening film was Reza Bagher's Popular Music, an amiable movie from the Finnish-Swedish border area. It can be enlightening to witness the enthusiasm engendered in a benevolent (well-fed and watered) audience by the appearance of an entertaining director!

And KFF7 saw one of the most popular screenings ever – queues down St John's Street and Derwent Street for March of the Penguins. But this wasn't typical of the programme: there was considerably more emphasis on cutting-edge, challenging films - Dumplings and Wolf Creek for horror, The Aristocrats, Bata-ville, and Murderball in the documentary sector, and titles such as 3 Iron and A History of Violence to test the audiences' tolerance. Road movies were also featured such as Everything is Illuminated, Exiles and Le Grand Voyage. One film generated what must be our lowest score ever – Radiant managed less than 20% - but, as usual, there were some excellent films from all over the world, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Beat that My Heart Skipped, Seducing Dr Lewis and Whisky, to add to those already mentioned.

And the upshot? Well the feedback about the programme was excellent, most people seemed to have really enjoyed themselves, income and admissions were about 40% up on KFF6, Anthony Minghella blessed us with the Film Society of the Year Award in March 2006, and everything looked set fair for a seamless transition to an ever-improving festival in 2007...

How things can change!

Soon after KFF7 was over, Alex announced that, due to pressure of work, she was unable to continue with the Festival, a decision which also removed some keen supporters, so we muddled on until a crisis committee meeting was called on 17th September 2007 (by which time an enthusiastic lady called Ann Martin had come to town and offered help) and for one reason or another most of the members of the committee had either been unable to attend that evening or they slipped away early. So with only three people still in attendance, David Miller wishing to keep the Festival running, Secretary Irena counselling caution and allowing it to expire so that new resources could be called upon in 2008 or later, the Chairman was faced with a decision! Knowing that Tom Rennie, then Alhambra Manager and KFC Treasurer, was in favour of doing at least something in the festival slot (and it is high time in this chronicle that Tom's enthusiastic, encouraging and practical input was recognised as an important feature of the event) and that one or two others could probably be persuaded to be on board, the casting vote went to the survival of the Festival.

Shortly afterwards Ann accepted the post of Festival Co-ordinator, threw her limitless energies, persuasive powers and enthusiasm into the project, and... the rest is history!

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