West Coast Photo was 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 framed West Coast Photo Festival 2021.
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 was a festival that existed in galleries, outdoors, online, and in a free publication designed to allow anyone to set up an exhibition anywhere. The programme delved 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 was brought into focus.
Artists from around the world presented new projects alongside fresh work from local practitioners more familiar with the landscape. Together, they embarked on a world-spanning social, political and aesthetic investigation through the prism of the region.
An extensive engagement programme featured talks, workshops & an artist development programme, working with people of all ages and levels of experience to develop new conversations and skills in digital art and photography. These various entry points allowed West Coast Photo Festival 2021 to be shaped by those who take part in it.
West Coast Photo Festival was curated and produced by Signal Film & Media. We are an award-winning charity providing creative film and digital media activities from our venue, Cooke’s Studios, based in Barrow-in-Furness.
Our artist led company, has delivered innovative film and digital media projects since 2001. We provide a unique resource for 1000’s of people of all ages and backgrounds to access opportunities in film and creative digital media, and create award-winning works for exhibition & support the development of a vibrant film and arts culture in the area.
West Coast Photo was made possible by the kind support of our funders including Arts Council, Copeland Community Fund, Granada Foundation, Sir John Fisher Foundation, Alex Scott and Family, The Tudor Trust, Cadent Foundation and Cumbria Community Foundation, and the many great partners in our community.