For anyone remotely interested in lofty places Kendal is the place to be as high altitude painters Andy Parkin, Peter Liddle and Kate Wright set the scene for the Mountain Film Festival.

Sweeping brushstrokes that capture towering crags and magnificent snowscapes are high on the agenda of the Mountain Art exhibition, providing an artistic curtain-raiser for the thousands who will descend on the region for next week’s festival (November 9-16).

Kendal Mountain Film Festival has climbed its own dizzy heights, joining the crème de la crème of film festivals and rising to become one of the top three mountain festivals in the world.

Based at the Brewery Arts Centre, in Kendal, the annual event attracts droves of mountain enthusiasts, whatever their sport or interest, to a week-long programme of breathtaking artwork, stunning films and photography, informative and entertaining lectures, workshops and events, peaking for the festival weekend – which, from my experience a couple of years ago, proved to be one the most electrifying gatherings I’ve ever attended.

Audiences are transported to the heady world of mountains – the excitement, the beauty, the mystery and the adventure - through an incredible line up of films and lectures, not forgetting the Mountain Art in the Brewery’s Warehouse Gallery plus photographs of Doug Scott on show in the arts centre’s Intro bar.

One of the big draws for this year’s spectacular is the gala première of Touching the Void, screened at Kendal Leisure Centre, on Saturday, November 15 (3.45pm).

Based on the shocking but truly inspirational book written by Joe Simpson, it’s about his mental will to survive following a horrific accident in the remote mountains of Peru.

Despite falling and breaking his leg, Joe managed to survive, against all the odds, and crawl back to base camp.

Oscar-winning director Kevin MacDonald directs the feature length flick, which also has three showings at the Brewery (Saturday, November 15, 3.45pm and Sunday, 12.15pm and 6pm) plus at Penrith’s Rheged (Sunday, 8pm).

The festival kicks off with The Best of Everest on Film, at Rheged, this Sunday (November 9, 7.30pm) featuring a trio of classic Everest films.

Also on Sunday (8pm) and Monday (2pm and 8pm), Changeling Productions stage Elevation at Kendal Climbing Wall - a vertical and dramatic telling of obsession and exhilaration set in the world of rock climbing.

Performed on the climbing wall, the story is told using text, music, visual imagery and stunning choreography.

Quality and the diversity of films is the name of the game for the festival with a host of speakers that are part of an inspirational and entertaining programme encompassing all aspects of mountain activity, culture and environment.

Special evenings dedicated to White Water and Wheels (Wednesday, November 12 (7pm-10.30pm) and Extreme Snow: Skiing and Boarding (Thursday, November 13, 7pm-10.30pm) are among the many exciting highlights at the Brewery. And new for 2003 is an Extreme Film Makers competition with workshops at the Brewery (Friday, November 14, 9am-5pm).

A Fascination with Everest is a day-long presentation celebrating the history and impact of Everest on mountaineering from 10am at Kendal Leisure Centre on Sunday, November 16.

It includes Everest veterans young and old including Stephen Venables, George Band, Doug Scott, Rebecca Stephens and the grand knight of mountaineers Sir Chris Bonington, to name but a few.

An evening of Everest Lives is at Rheged, on Friday, November 14 (8pm) compered by Ed Douglas.

As well as Joe Simpson, the festival’s packed lecture programme line up also includes Catherine Destivelle, Conrad Anker, Jamie Andrew, Leo Dickinson, John Beatty and Alex Huber, not to mention more than 50 of the world’s best mountain films in competition.

Another attraction is MacNaught Davies, George Smith and Niall Grimes who present a history of British Sea Cliff Climbing on Friday, November 14 (7pm) also at the Brewery.

KMFF director John Porter tells me the festival has one of the most exciting line ups of films and speakers that it has ever seen, with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the first ascent of Everest proving exceptional: “The Kendal Mountain Film Festival is really making a name for itself internationally, not only for the quality of the event, but also as the place to come for inspiration and entertainment”.

For all Kendal events contact the Brewery Arts Centre on 01539-725133. For Rheged the box office number is 01768-868005.

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