Cumbria Crack

More than 3,000 from across the UK take part in Cumbrian festival


Milky way Pendragon Castle by Terry Abraham

More than 3,000 people from across the UK took part in a Cumbrian online festival.

The Dark Skies Cumbria Festival, which ran seventeen evenings from February 5 until February 21, entertained, educated and wowed participants with amazing night sky images and mind-blowing space facts.

Attendees enjoyed a diverse online programme of talks, including local filmmakers Terry Abraham and Jonny Randall, national authors Tiffany Francis-Baker, Matt Gaw and Tristan Gooley, local and regional astronomers, astro-photographers, urban design and lighting experts and Cumbrian based poet, writer and photographer duo, Harriet and Rob Fraser.

The award-winning presenters all shared their passion for protecting our night skies and exploring how darkness shouldn’t be feared but celebrated, cherished and embraced as an essential element of the natural daily and seasonal cycles upon which our health and well-being and that of nature ultimately depends.

Andrew Jenkin, Lancaster University’s L-Universe Planetarium Officer, hosted three shows attracting nearly 1,000 children and adults, coming in for some tough questioning from his younger audiences.

“The ability to study and observe the wonders of our universe through such a visual medium as a planetarium is great way of bringing science to those who wouldn’t normally be able to experience it,” he explained.

“Throughout lockdown we have had the joy of running online planetarium shows for school classes and the public. I am often blown away by the amazing questions children ask and the number. I received nearly 100 questions during just one of the festival children’s shows.

“Working with the Cumbria Dark Skies Festival team has enabled us to engage with more communities and further encourage access to science and science education for students, teachers and the public. It has been great to take part and I can’t wait for the next time.”

Jack Ellerby, Friends of the Lake District’s Dark Skies Project Officer, who coordinated the festival, said: “Gosh I am quite overwhelmed by people’s positive responses, and I give a huge thanks to all of our wonderful presenters, each a great ambassador for Dark Skies and tackling light pollution.

“My mind is still buzzing from such inspirational people, from the shared learning, great feedback and local artists, photographers, poets and so many others getting in touch.

“I have to give a special thanks to BBC Radio Cumbria whose live broadcast with each presenter throughout the festival boosted our numbers, and to Friends of the Lake District’s back-room team who worked tirelessly to make the festival such a success.”

 Many people who booked onto the events kindly added a donation to help fund light pollution reduction initiatives being run by Friends of the Lake District who will be delivering these in the coming months with the help of local communities, businesses and other organisations.

If you would like to contribute to this work, where you can donate to its ‘Saving Our Night Skies’ appeal.

The Festival was supported by Partners Cumbria Tourism, Forestry England and the Lake District National Park Authority.