West Coast Photo is the first major festival of photography and digital art in this part of the UK
, a stretch of 100 miles of industrial and coastal towns lining the edge of Cumbria – England’s second largest county.
Between the expanses of the Lake District and the bracing Irish Sea lie over 100 miles of stark coastline. It’s an eerily beautiful place, where vast military, energy and industrial infrastructures sprawl between small urban towns and quiet heritage villages. It’s this landscape that frames West Coast Photo Festival 2021: the first international photography & digital art festival in the region.
The first summer showcase launches Thursday 3rd June 2021 with exhibitions online and in public spaces, plus an open call competition. The second autumn chapter opens on Thursday 7th October 2021 with gallery exhibitions & public talks at Cooke’s Studios, Barrow-in-Furness.
The festival programme delves into the coastline’s industrial and post-industrial aesthetics, landscapes and cultures,
opening up the coastline to audiences around the world. Through exhibitions, talks, workshops and events, a place that has too often been forgotten will come into focus, a place that — much like the military sites it hosts — seems to be hidden in plain sight.
Like many events around the world, the COVID-19 outbreak shattered original plans to stage the festival in March 2020. In the period that followed, distance seemed to grow and shrink at the same time — the world appeared to move closer together online, but neighbouring towns and our local friends and family seemed further away. The new festival grew in this context with enhanced capacity for remote connections, alongside vital questions of what local community feels like and how it is exercised in a post-pandemic world.
The result is a festival that exists in galleries, outdoors, online, and in this free publication designed to allow anyone to set up an exhibition anywhere
. These various entry points allow West Coast Photo Festival 2021 to be shaped by those who take part in it. Artists from around the world present new projects alongside fresh work from local practitioners more familiar with the landscape. Together, they embark on a world-spanning social, political and aesthetic investigation through the prism of the region. Far from being a place left behind in the past, Cumbria’s West Coast, with its everyday reckoning with infrastructures of energy and post-industrial landscape could, in fact, be a blueprint of the future