WHEN the school holidays are over, it also signals the end of the Cumbria festival season.
Cumbria’s summer events line-up has been undoubtedly the busiest in history with so much happening in all corners of the county.
And while the dates in the diary don’t come as thick and fast for the rest of the year, there are still some major events to tide us over in September – in fact, some of our biggest occasions arrive over the next four weeks.
C-Art is the obvious highlight: a 10-day, county-wide art festival, said to be the widest-ranging in England. More than 100 artists will once again be involved, as the annual contemporary arts programme gets under way on Friday 8.
The Open Studios trail sees the artists inviting the public to come and see where they work, sometimes even hosting demonstrations as they go. From Barrow to Brampton, there is an Art In Extraordinary Places category, with around a dozen special projects coming to Cumbria, including Man Bends Tree – pretty much as it sounds – a redux bootleg version of Withnail and I, a rail-side gallery at the La’al Ratty, and the discovery of a new ‘lake’.
The festival HQ at Rheged, near Penrith, hosts a lot of the events, which include the Cumbria Artist of the Year exhibition, as well as an art fair.
Staying with the art theme, Lakes Alive is back from Friday 8 to Sunday 10. The primarily Kendal-based festival has a new committee for 2017, with new ideas. What appears to remain the same is the world class standard of the commissions and exhibiting artists. Steve Messam, who has previously brought his memorable PaperBridge to the festival, is back this year with Keep – some kind of big red version of the old Castle Howe, which will sit on the hill overlooking the Brewery Arts Centre.
Kendal Castle will be the location for a major art and light installation, Shipping Forecast, as well as Richard Shilling’s Seek, a fantastic large-scale, land art piece.
The other festivals over this big weekend in Cumbria include the ever-popular Silloth Music and Beer Festival, which takes over the port town’s green from Thursday 7 to Sunday 10 – entertainment-wise, it’s probably the best it’s been, with the biggest tribute acts, such as The Boss UK, Absolute Bowie, The Clone Roses and Bon Giovi, as well as the much-loved Lancashire Hotpots and some top original acts such as Prowles and Delta Sunrise.
Workington hosts the county’s biggest vintage festival, taking over the town centre on Saturday 9 with retro live acts, vintage clothing and craft stalls, as well as classic buses taking passengers down to the port and back.
At the other end of the Cumbria, Holker Hall will be staging its latest Chilli Festival, on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10, where you can sample and buy some of the hottest chillis in existence. This one comes with a health warning though!
Grasmere isn’t exactly a hotbed of live entertainment, but after the recent Grasmere Guzzler festival, it becomes a hive of activity once more as the pop-up Roundabout Theatre arrives on Thursday 14 for four days. Comedian Alun Cochrane, presenter Stuart Maconie and TV writer Henry Normal all feature on the bill, as well as cutting-edge theatre shows Black Mountain, How to be a Kid, and Out of Love.
Also in the Lake District, Griff Rhys Jones is back at The Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness – where he is a patron – on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 to preview his new one-man show, telling stories and anecdotes from his travels.
Two of the longest-running events in Cumbria take place in the same week: the Westmorland County Show is one of the biggest agricultural events in the North West, with thousands of people heading to the showground just off the M6’s Junction 36 on Thursday 14 – all the usual farm show entertainment, plus exhibitors and producers from all over the North; and who can forget Egremont Crab Fair? It celebrates its remarkable 750th anniversary on Saturday 16!
Nothing to do with crabs (it’s named after crab apples), it has taken on many forms over the years, though the world famous gurning championships will once again feature. For the first time ever, there is a pop festival on the Friday night in the centre of town starring Union J and one-time Eurovision entrant Sonia, and then on Saturday, Crab Fest makes its debut on the festival field – a music festival starring a dozen or so acts, such as Late Night Legacy, Reptilians, The Chadelics and The Black Guards.
A major outdoor festival also takes place: in its second year, Ambleside’s Festival of the Fells features guest speakers and bands, as well as guided swims and a massive programme of guided walks – including The Great Ambleside Dog Walk, with two of the Lake District’s biggest celebrities, Max and Paddy. This all takes place between Thursday 21 and Sunday 24.
We’ve mentioned the Taste Cumbria festivals quite a lot in 2017 – the number of these speciality food festivals has doubled this year, but the original, biggest and best is back in Cockermouth from Friday 22 to Sunday 24. Expect top class chef demonstrations and all the finest producers, as per usual, and the county’s biggest beer festival too. Michelin-starred chef Kevin Tickle of The Forest Side in Grasmere will cook for just 32 guests in Wordsworth House & Garden, and also happening for the first time is The Secret Gin Garden, in the lovely Castlegate House Gallery, where Shed 1 Gin of Ulverston will be mixing up some fabulous cocktails, with canapés from Shill’s of Cockermouth.
As September draws to a close, we can’t not round-up some of the biggest musical acts heading our way before the month is out: opera superstar Russell Watson performs in South Cumbria for the first time, with an intimate show at the Coronation Hall, in Ulverston, on Friday 22;
former Westlife man Shane Filan brings his latest tour to the Sands Centre, in Carlisle, on Sunday 24; 80s pop icons Go West head to The Forum, in Barrow, on Friday 29;
and Carlisle Blues Rock Festival takes over the city on Friday 29 and Saturday 30, with acts such as Whitesnake’s Bernie Marsden, Thorbjorn Risager, and a supergroup of British blues stars, The Boom Band, among the names to look out for.
By Karl Steele, CumbriaLive.co.uk