Keswick’s calendar of fes­tive fun

Lancashire Life - - Places To Visit - WORDS: Mike Glover PHO­TO­GRAPHS: Milton Ha­worth

The town will be filled with sparkle

and won­der into the new year

The out­door tourist cap­i­tal of the North Lakes cer­tainly knows how to put out the red car­pet to wel­come Santa and his helpers in the run-up to Christ­mas.

Most of the year Keswick takes ad­van­tage of its lo­ca­tion, nes­tled between moun­tains such as Blen­cathra and

Cat’s Bells and lakes Der­went­wa­ter and Bassen­th­waite. But for the fes­tive sea­son, from the fourth Fri­day in Novem­ber un­til Jan­uary, its fo­cus is on jin­gling bells and tills.

Events start with the an­nual lights switch on, this year by the town’s fire­fight­ers, on Fri­day, Novem­ber 22nd. And through­out De­cem­ber, the Keswick Live Ad­vent Calendar fea­tures a trail of busi­nesses and other or­gan­i­sa­tions, putting on a dis­play from Sun­day De­cem­ber 1st, with the pub­lic vot­ing for their favourite.

The cli­max comes on Christ­mas Eve, when the town’s in­de­pen­dent cinema, The Al­ham­bra, hosts a packed-out mati­nee of a clas­sic fes­tive film.

The events are launched with a Santa splash on Mon­day De­cem­ber 2nd, with around eight teams of three pad­dlers dressed as Santa or as elves, brav­ing Der­went­wa­ter in Canadian ca­noes.

Santa seems to love Keswick, as he also ar­rives at the Royal Oak, cour­tesy of wagon and shire horses.

Town cen­tre man­ager, Vanessa Met­calfe, said: ‘The idea of the ad­vent trail is to pro­mote the dif­fer­ent in­de­pen­dent busi­nesses in the town. It en­cour­ages lo­cals and vis­i­tors to come to the town cen­tre to do their Christ­mas shop­ping. It also adds a lot of Christ­mas sparkle.’

Lights re­main lit un­til Twelfth Night on Jan­uary 5th, with the trail high­lighted on a map avail­able from the Tourist In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre, in the Moot Hall, which dom­i­nates Main Street.

‘It can be a bit of a quiet pe­riod between Christ­mas and New Year so we like to pro­vide an ex­tra some­thing for the vis­i­tors,’ added Mrs Met­calfe.

Carol Ren­nie, one of the own­ers of the Al­ham­bra, is de­lighted to get in­volved in Keswick’s fes­tive fun.

The cinema has just com­pleted a re­fur­bish­ment and it has been short­listed for Cinema of the Year by the UK Screen Awards, which were set up in 2010 to cel­e­brate ex­cel­lence in all the ‘be­hind the scenes’ busi­nesses in the film in­dus­try. The win­ner in each cat­e­gory will be an­nounced at the Screen Awards event at The Ball­room, South Bank, in Cen­tral Lon­don on Novem­ber 28th.

‘Our sub­mis­sion was based on what we have achieved in the last year,’ says Carol, who, with her hus­band Alan Hasler, took over the cinema from her mum and dad,

Tom and Sylvia Ren­nie, two years ago.

‘It is won­der­ful to be recog­nised for the con­tri­bu­tions we have made to keep­ing the Al­ham­bra Cinema flour­ish­ing at the start of its sec­ond cen­tury,’ she adds.

Achieve­ments in­clude in­creased box of­fice, hugely in­creased mem­ber­ship of its Friends of the Al­ham­bra scheme, a growth in sub­scrip­tions to its weekly email, on­line ticket sales, and the re­sponse to a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign which helped fi­nance the com­ple­tion of the re­fur­bish­ment. This in­volved mend­ing the roof and restor­ing the au­di­to­rium to its orig­i­nal splen­dour, in­clud­ing or­nate tin pan­els.

Now 104 years old, the cinema in St John’s Street is one of the long­est con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tions in the coun­try. It re­mains vi­able by be­ing run on a small bud­get, with the fam­ily owner-oc­cu­piers ful­fill­ing all roles. ‘Some­times I take the money at the box of­fice then run up­stairs to change a reel,’ says Carol.

Tech­no­log­i­cal innovation­s, pri­mar­ily the switch to dig­i­tal from 35mm reels, have been key to suc­cess for the 243-seat cinema and they are look­ing for­ward to show­ing Last Christ­mas, the Ge­orge Michael tribute film star­ring Emma Thomp­son.

An­other newly re­fur­nished busi­ness fea­tur­ing in the pre-christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions is The Royal Oak, at the top of Main Street.

The build­ing has been a mag­is­trates’ court, an auc­tion house and a meet­ing place for hun­dreds of years and plaques tes­tify its links to all the main Ro­man­tic poets who used the inn to write their mas­ter­pieces. It is now owned by Daniel Th­waites brew­ery, now based at Mel­lor Brook, near Black­burn and now has a fo­cus on food, with a team of chefs pre­par­ing all dishes on site. The Daniel Th­waites dray wagon pulled by shire horses, will bring Santa for its ad­vent calendar slot on De­cem­ber 20th.

Tom Hasler and wife Carol Ren­nie with Own­ers Sylvia and Tom Ren­nie at the Al­ham­bra Cinema

At work in the Royal Oak, Keswick is Vanda Si­pos from Hun­gary.

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