PHOTOGRAPHY AND DIGITAL ART FESTIVAL CELEBRATING CUMBRIA’S WEST COAST LAUNCHES FIRST ONLINE CHAPTER
West Coast Photo Festival Chapter One: 3rd June – 30th June
West Coast Photo Festival Chapter Two: 7th October
Leading international and regional artists have been commissioned by Barrow-in-Furness based Signal Film and Media to create and exhibit new work as part of West Coast Photo Festival, the first major festival of photography and digital art in this part of the UK.
This exciting new festival reveals and celebrates the unique identity of this coastline, which is often overshadowed by the fame of the neighboring Lake District, and explores the character of its people, using photography and digital art to articulate local, national and international identities.
The Festival was due to open in March 2020 but like many other in person events sadly had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. It can now safely relaunch and is split into two chapters, with the artworks reflecting on the past year. Chapter One of the festival launches as an online summer showcase, together with outdoor photography installations in Whitehaven and Barrow-in-Furness. Chapter Two launches with physical exhibitions in October.
West Coast Festival Chapter One opens online on Thursday 3rd June with a 6pm zoom event, with speakers including 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. All are invited to attend via the eventbrite link.
Featured in the first completely online chapter of the festival is the award-winning Mishka Henner, who collaborates with Vaseem Bhatti for the first time. 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. Henner and Bhatti’s work 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 on 3rd June.
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-in-furness. Since January 2020, Robert Parkinson has worked with two different 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 & image-making.
“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 newspaper 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.”
-Charlie Booth, Programme Director (Adults), West Coast Photo Festival.
West Coast Photo Festival Chapter One will feature Signal Film and Media’s young Get Digital participants, who have worked with artist and DJ Ashley Holmes on a 3 month course to create The Fells with Iron Ribbons, an experimental sound-based work exploring how the young 16-19 year old Cumbrian artists identify with Barrow.
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 – more details can be found on the festival website www.signalfilmandmedia/westcoastphoto. The top 5 submissions will be exhibited in print and displayed as part of West Coast Festival: Chapter Two in October 2021.
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 help inform and build up to an exhibition in Barrow Market in October for Chapter Two of the West Coast Photo Festival.
Communicating a Crisis, an online panel discussion on Thursday 10th June will include a conversation about how to use the power of photography and visual culture to communicate the immediacy of the continued climate crisis. The event will be chaired by Mariama Attah, Curator from Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool and will include commissioned artists Mishka Henner and Vaseem Bhatti, together with founder of Climate in Colour Jocelyn Longdon.
Chapter Two of the Festival will see British social documentary photographers Vanessa Winship and Phoebe Kiely exhibiting together for the first time, in an exhibition of commissioned photography inspired by their time exploring the West Coast of Cumbria. Online previews can be viewed in June before the physical exhibitions open in Cooke’s Studios in Barrow in Furness in October 2021. This second chapter of the festival will also feature The Caravan Gallery and Cumbrian Focus, which will include work by photographers John Darwell, Katrin Joost, Henry Iddon, Philip Green, Marie Smith and Mario Popham.