In ‘The Old Ways’, Robert MacFarlane writes ‘landscape scapes, it is dynamic and commotion causing, it sculpts and shapes us not only over the courses of our lives but also instant by instant’. This way of describing landscape emphasizes that it is not something to be considered at a distance. Landscape becomes a series of transitory phenomena and atmospheres: engaging with it involves an active dialogue.
The introduction for the first Mountain Arts Festival began with this statement in an attempt to convey how the landscape can be considered in a creative practice. Doug Scott, Founder of Community Action Nepal was keen to bring together a range of artists, writers and thinkers to celebrate the Art of Mountains, beyond the high adrenaline adventure films we all enjoy. We sought to provide a more contemplative, less immediate appreciation of the wilderness from those most closely engaged in it.
The Festival, at The Rheged Centre in Penrith was conceived prior to the devastating Earthquakes in Nepal in the Spring. Much of the time of the organisers was therefore split between coordinating the relief effort and putting together a programme of events, speakers and exhibitors. With such an illustrious line up of participants this was a daunting task but with so many offers of help and an incredible team at Rheged itself it all came together at the right time.
The Art exhibition included a broad spectrum of work from walking artists such as Hamish Fulton, Brian Thompson and Ali Pretty; painters, including Julian Cooper, Jim Curran and a wonderful collection of Howard Somervell’s work as part of the early Everest expeditions. Sculptors included Simon Hitchens and Paul Vanstone; photographers, Rob Fraser and Henry Iddon - a total of eighteen artists in all. The work was very well received by visitors to the show and artists alike, many of whom made it along to the show.
To complement the Art exhibition, there were a series of talks and performances in the Lecture theatre from eminent writers and poets including Phil Bartlett, Cherry Smythe, Harriet Fraser and Dr Simon Pierse as well as a performance of Ice Picks and Violets by Dean Johnson and his fellow musicians and singers, narrated by Doug Scott.
With a series of thought-provoking films, live performances by Mongolian Artistes and wrestlers, a Nepali Bazaar and a raucous Ceilidh led by the excellent ‘Striding Edge’, Rheged proved to be the perfect destination to escape the first of the winter storms and to enjoy the best of the mountains without actually being on one!
Plans are already afoot for next year, which we hope will be even bigger and better and we would just like to thank those who helped make it such an enjoyable weekend and everyone who came along in support.
The 2015 Festival Team were:
Doug Scott CBE, Denise Prior, Luke M. Walker, John Innerdale, Lucy Devenish, Stephen Goodwin, Rebecca Skelton, Claire Logan-Stephens, John Stokes, Donna Stokes