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A look ahead to Keswick during Christmas

PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 November 2019

Keswick town centre with Moot Hall at the top of Main Street

Keswick town centre with Moot Hall at the top of Main Street

Milton Haworth

The town will be filled with sparkle and wonder into the new year

Keswick town centre manager, Vanessa MetcalfeKeswick town centre manager, Vanessa Metcalfe

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.

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

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.

Caroline Snape, Marketing and Communications staff at The Theatre by the LakeCaroline Snape, Marketing and Communications staff at The Theatre by the Lake

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.

The river Greta wends its way throught the townThe river Greta wends its way throught the town

'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 crowd-funding 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.

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