PRESS RELEASE

19 / 04 / 21

With our first ever festival having to be postponed in March 2020, just days before the first Coronavirus lockdown, we are proud to now announce a two-part relaunch, with even more world-class commissions, artists, events & exhibitions.

The first summer showcase will launch on 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.

We’re delighted to be able to relaunch 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. Its wealthier and more ‘picturesque’ neighbour might be The Lake District, however the West Coast boasts starkly beautiful natural and striking man-made landscapes surrounding industrial coastal towns. Remnants of coal mines and the alien tombs of Sellafield Nuclear Power Plant contrast with Scafell Pike, only miles away. 

This exciting new festival reveals and celebrates the unique identity of this ‘hidden’ area and the character of its people through the work of leading international and regional artists using photography and digital art to articulate local, national and international identities. 

West Coast Photo provides opportunities to see world class exhibitions and exciting new commissions in this part of the region at a time when the pandemic has fuelled further isolation of this often-overlooked area of Cumbria.

© Tim Pugh. Image courtesy of the artist

Much has changed over the last year. We were due to launch just before the UK was plunged into a national lockdown and Barrow hit the headlines for its high coronavirus rates.

As we relaunch, we’re reflecting on the ways we now engage with contemporary photography and how we can use digital art to connect to each other. As a result, half of the Festival is moving completely online in June and many of the original artists have changed work to reflect their experiences during this past tumultuous year. We’ve also included new artists who are responding to issues such as the ongoing mental health pandemic worsened by continual lockdowns and isolation, and the climate crisis and how it affects the Cumbrian landscape. 

We’re excited to be showcasing a new portrait of this area as it changes, continuing to develop new talent and work with diverse audiences and communities. 

Here’s a bit more information about the different projects showcased. Full information on our workshops & events programme will be released in May, when we launch our new festival website.

EXHIBITIONS OPENING
IN CHAPTER 1

© Mishka Henner & Vaseem Bhatti. Image courtesy of the artists

MISHKA HENNER & VASEEM BHATTI

June sees the launch of a new commissioned work by award-winning digital artist Mishka Henner in collaboration with Vaseem Bhatti. Against the looming backdrop of natural disaster, the piece explores the explosive origins of the Cumbrian landscape and the occult myths generated by its military and energy infrastructures.

© Julia Parks. Image courtesy of the artist.

WEST COAST ON FILM

West Coast on Film brings together the work of three artists living and working on the Cumbrian West Coast whose practices span filmmaking, sound art and photography. Exhibiting artists include RL Wilson, Julia Parks and Rachel Capovila.

© Jacqueline Trodden. Image courtesy of the artist.

LABOURING THE LANDSCAPE

Labouring the Landscape is a participatory photography project led by Robert Parkinson. Since January 2020 he has worked with two different groups of local people from across the West Coast of Cumbria, encouraging them to explore what the West Coast means to them whilst exploring new skills in photography & image-making.

© Rhiannon Hunter. Image courtesy of the artist.

EMERGING CUMBRIAN ARTISTS

New work by emerging Cumbrian artists and filmmakers who have been mentored by Signal Film and Media including Rhiannon Hunter, Danielle Chapelle Aspinwall & Zoe Forster.

© Ashley Holmes. Image courtesy of the artist.

THE FELLS WITH IRON RIBBONS

The Fells with Iron Ribbons is an experimental sound-based work produced by a group of 16-19 year olds from across Cumbria. The work will explore ideas of identity, place and memory to document day-to-day experiences, relationships and the different ways they identify with Barrow and the West Coast of Cumbria. The 3-month course has been led by Ashley Holmes, an artist and DJ based in Sheffield across installation, sound, moving image, radio broadcasts and performance.

© Chris Killip. Image courtesy of the artist & Lee Devereaux

OUTDOOR INSTALLATION

A public outdoor installation on the side of the Cooke’s Studio building in Barrow-in-Furness of the portrait Boy with Pigeon by the late photographer Chris Killip. Including a remake of the famous image now entitled Man with Pigeon by Philip Green.

© Philip Green & Chris Killip. Images courtesy of the artists & Lee Devereaux

PUBLICATION

Based on a tabloid newspaper format, this free publication will be designed to give an experience of the festival to people from the comfort of their homes. The publication will feature photographs from around 20 artists & photographers who are exhibiting at West Coast Photo Festival. The publication will be designed so that the pages can be pulled apart and rearranged, to enable people to place the images on their walls, in windows, or perhaps even curate their own mini West Coast exhibition at home. 

EXHIBITIONS OPENING
IN CHAPTER 2

© Phoebe Kiely. Image courtesy of the artist.

VANESSA WINSHIP & PHOEBE KIELY

An exhibition that brings together for the first time the work of two acclaimed British social documentary photographers, Vanessa Winship & Phoebe Kiely. 

Vanessa Winship presents a new body of work inspired by her time on the West Coast of Cumbria. Her attention focuses not only on what she sees, but also pays attention to other senses, whilst at the same time embracing serendipity and coincidence. Phoebe Kiely’s distinctive images are crafted exclusively in the old-fashioned way, using analogue photography developed by hand in a dark room.

© John Darwell. Image courtesy of the artist.

CUMBRIAN FOCUS

Cumbrian Focus features the work of 6 photographers who have documented Cumbria and the West Coast in engaging and dynamic ways. The show explores themes including temporality and the shifting contours of our landscapes, tourism in unexpected places and the nature of dog walking. Featured artists include John Darwell, Katrin Joost, Henry Iddon, Philip Green, Marie Smith and Mario Popham.

THE CARAVAN GALLERY

The Caravan Gallery will be transforming a space in Barrow Market to exhibit work produced through a series of workshops as part of their Barrow Pride of Place project.

OPEN CALL COMPETITION

An open call competition will invite keen photographers from the region and beyond to submit their own striking photographs of the Cumbrian West Coast. The competition will be delivered in partnership with Florence Arts Centre and will run throughout the summer, with the winning submissions being featured in an exhibition in Autumn 2021. Details of how to enter will be released on 3rd June and submissions will be open throughout the summer.

More details on our full programme including workshops and events will be released in May. Keep checking our social media channels for the most up to date information.

For press enquiries please contact helen@signalfilmandmedia.co.uk

With thanks to our funders: