A major festival of photography and digital art celebrating the west coast will begin in Cumbria next month.
The West Coast Photo Festival aims to reveal and celebrate the unique identity of the coastline, often overshadowed by the fame of the neighbouring Lake District.
Organiser Signal Film and Media said it will explore the character of the area’s people, using photography and digital art to articulate local, national and international identities.
The festival was due to open in March 2020 but was cancelled due to coronavirus.
It will now be relaunched as an online summer showcase and outdoor photography installations in Whitehaven and Barrow-in-Furness from June 3 with an event on Zoom.
It begins at 6pm and speakers include Mishka Henner, Vaseem Bhatti, The Caravan Gallery, Ashley Holmes and the young people from Signal’s Get Digital Arts Project plus artists from Labouring the Landscape.
Mishka and Vaseem have collaborated for the first time and their digital art piece explores the West Coast’s role as a critical part of Britain’s energy infrastructure, and how this manifests itself culturally in the region and beyond.
It looks at the area’s military, nuclear, and energy infrastructures, and reflects on the myths surrounding it. Their work will be revealed at the online festival launch.
The online exhibition West Coast on Film will showcase work by artists from across the west coast of Cumbria, including films, sound art and photography by Julia Parks, RL Wilson and Rachel Capovila.
Also on display will be new work by emerging Cumbrian artists and filmmakers who have been mentored by Signal Film and Media over the past year including Rhiannon Hunter, Danielle Chappell-Aspinwall and Zoe Forster.
In response to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival can now be experienced in a variety of ways, including an outdoor photography installation on the side of Cooke’s Studios in Barrow.
Boy With Pigeon taken in Askam-in-Furness by the late, renowned photographer Chris Killip, will be hung side-by-side with a remake of the famous image Man With Pigeon by Barrow photographer Philip Green.
And for the first time, the festival can be experienced in people’s homes, with the production of a free Festival-at-Home publication.
Also featured will be a showcase of work from the Labouring the Landscape project in the Lightboxes in the windows of Cooke’s Studios in Barrow.
Since January 2020, Robert Parkinson has worked with two groups of local people from across the west coast of Cumbria, encouraging them to explore what the west coast means to them whilst exploring new skills in photography and image-making.
Charlie Booth, programme director, said: “With uncertainty around live events and after the festival was so sadly postponed last year, we were keen that whether online, in the street, or at home, people from all over Cumbria and beyond have a chance to experience the festival with our beautiful free publication, which profiles the stunning imagery of the west coast of Cumbira, and can be rearranged and recreated into new art for people to create for themselves in their homes.”
It will also feature Signal Film and Media’s young Get Digital participants, who have worked with artist and DJ Ashley Holmes on a three-month course to create The Fells with Iron Ribbons, an experimental sound-based work exploring how the young 16 to 19-year-old Cumbrian artists identify with Barrow.
The second part of the festival launches with physical exhibitions in October.
The West Coast Festival Open Call will relaunch with Elements as the 2021 theme, delivered in partnership with Florence Arts Centre.
Keen photographers of all levels are invited to submit their own responses to the west coast. For more information, visit www.signalfilmandmedia/westcoastphoto
The top five submissions will be exhibited in print and displayed in October.
Free online workshops and public talks will be available for the public to join, including making cyanotype photographic prints inspired by nature streamed live from Florence Arts Centre, and an online workshop exploring the possibilities of digital art with commissioned artist Mishka Henner.
The Caravan Gallery will begin their residency across the west coast with online public workshops which will build up to an exhibition in Barrow Market in October for the second part of the West Coast Photo Festival.