You may already know this, but just in case you don’t – tomorrow (28th July 2016) marks 150 years since the birth of Beatrix Potter. A remarkable and formidable woman who was undoubtedly one of the world’s favourite children’s authors and a celebrated champion for the conservation movement in the Lake District. In a month of special anniversaries and events associated with the outstanding achievements in her lifetime, her beloved house and farm (one of 14 farms and 4000 acres that she gifted the National Trust) – Hill Top in Sawrey celebrated 70 years of being open to the public. On extremely busy days the house (left as if she had just popped out) often welcomes 700 people through its door. Many visitors arrive expecting to be transported onto the film set of Australian director Chris Noonan’s hugely successful 2006 biopic Miss Potter. Dubbed ‘the most enchanting tale of all’ it is now established as a firm family favourite.
Starring Renee Zellweger as Beatrix with Ewan McGregor playing her first love Norman Warne, the film celebrates it’s own 10th anniversary this year too. However, it still amazes a lot of people that not one scene was actually shot at Hill Top. Instead Noonan and his production team cleverly disguised Yew Tree Farm (a farm bought by Beatrix in 1930) on the outskirts of Coniston as Hill Top’s double. Like Beatrix herself, one of the film’s most enduring legacies is the huge windfall it continues to bring to the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria, with thousands of tourists still flocking to see all the movie locations for themselves. At the time of its release some forecasts predicted the ‘Miss Potter effect’ would be second only to the way New Zealand profited from Peter Jackson’s all powerful Lord of the Rings trilogy. Fittingly, to celebrate her special birthday on Thursday July 28th, Sticklebarn in Great Langdale are holding a free screening of Miss Potter on their big screen at 6pm. Get there early to avoid disappointment and see the Lake District in all its rugged splendour!
Last Sunday (July 24th) at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, the world premiere of the new BBC Films & HanWay Films production of Swallows and Amazons took place. A star studded affair received worldwide media attention as members of the cast and crew graced the red carpet in front of adoring fans who had gathered outside.
Members of the cast who attended included: Kelly Macdonald, Jessica Hynes, Hanna Jayne Thorp, Seren Hawkes, Orla Hill, Dane Hughes, Bobby McCulloch, Teddie Malleson-Allen along with screenwriter Andrea Gibb and a beaming director Philippa Lowthorpe. A number of early reviews of the film have now been published, with most of them enjoying the modern adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s classic story. A review in the Telegraph stated the high adventure was in ‘safe hands’ and gave it a 4/5 rating! Arriving on the back of the National Trust’s ever popular Derwentwater regatta a couple of weeks previously, (where the original Swallows and Amazons dinghies re-staged their iconic race) the film premiere is another huge fillip for Cumbria and the Lake District. With yet more extensive press coverage expected in the run up to its UK release on August 19th, these are certainly exciting times for the area’s filmic history with a potential tourism boom in the offing.
You can listen to me speaking further on BBC Radio Cumbria’s ‘News Hour’ from July 25th about my new book ‘An A-Z of Films Made in Cumbria & the Lake District’ (which features both Miss Potter & Swallows and Amazons – to be published by Hayloft Publishing Ltd. in September 2016) along with the impact of the Swallows and Amazons premiere and film in Cumbria – starts around the 25min mark: