Historic Berwick holds key to contemporary film treasures


All the world’s a stage – so said Shakespeare.

This will certainly be the case in Berwick-upon-Tweed this September, as the border town’s Film & Media Arts Festival spills out into the streets, bringing an international exhibition of filmic artworks to some of Berwick’s most historic and unusual buildings and landmarks.

The Town Hall Prison Cells, The Black Hole at Berwick’s Main Guard and Coxon’s Tower will be among the diverse array of venues that will be used as platforms for screening, projecting and staging the moving image.

Together, the venues will form an Artist Trail around Berwick which can be followed each day between 11am and 5.30pm free of charge for the duration of the festival.

The 6th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival runs from 15-19 September and will explore the theme of Stagings, focusing on the role of the screen as a stage.

A number of artworks have been commissioned specifically for the festival, including Dancing Borders by Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich – to be staged at the 14th century Coxon’s Tower – which draws on Berwick’s rich history as a contested territory by translating symbolic battle movements into dance to encourage participants to revise histories of battle and territory into dialogues of openness and exchange.

Another festival commission is Helen Edling and Sarah Tulloch’s Nine Hundred and Sixty-Five Cubic Feet, which will take the 200 year old graffiti on the walls of the Town Hall Prison Cells as a starting point for the creation of several animations using a combination of drawing, collage and objects. The final products will be displayed alongside the debris of the artists’ activities and time-lapse footage of the artists at work.

Another unusual venue on the Artist Trail is The Black Hole, a cell that was used to hold the drunk and disorderly at The Main Guard, which housed officers and soldiers guarding the gates of Berwick’s walls. The Black Hole will stage the screening of the Kate Rowles film My Wonderland, in which a giant girl is curious about a tiny building and the people living inside.

The Magazine – a building which stored the gunpowder used by the garrison stationed at the town Barracks – will play host to Corpus, a series of films by the Croatian artist Goran Škofic.

Bankhill Ice House will be the venue for the screening of the short film The Other Side, a moving meditation on mortality and rebirth, which was one of Ian Breakwell’s final works before his death, while Corin Sworn’s A Viewing Subject, in which a single speaker weaves together a series of narratives, will be showing at Shoregate Ice House.

The gala opening at the Maltings Theatre on 15 September will feature a live performance which is yet another new commission, The Keystone Cut Ups, created specifically for the festival by artists People Like Us and Ergo Phizmiz (aka Vicki Bennett and Dominic Robertson). It will explore the relationship between early silent comedy and early avant-garde cinema through video collage and an original musical score.

Other venues on the Artist Trail include the Gymnasium Gallery – where Swedish sound and recording artist BJ Nilsen’s specially commissioned work will be housed, and the Guildhall which will feature a new commission by film maker Mat Fleming, artist Deborah Bower and performance artist Harriet Plewis.

Entry to the Artist Trail is free and there is no need to book.

Huw Davies Chair of the Festival Board and Artists’ Trail Curator said :

“I am really delighted with the diversity and range of the work that we have
managed to secure this year which includes pieces by major British artists
as well as that of a number of younger emergent European practitioners. I
think it is particularly significant that this year we have doubled the
number of works that have been commissioned specifically for the Festival,
demonstrating that we continue to show work which is challenging,
innovative, thought provoking and stimulating ­ and all set in one of the
most spectacular locations in the UK”.

Visit http://www.berwickfilm-artsfest.com/artisttrail to view the interactive Artist Trail and find out more about each venue and event.

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