Film festival putting Hawick in the spotlight

Last year's Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in Hawick.
Last year's Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in Hawick.
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A film festival to be staged in Hawick next year will again put the town on the international cultural map, also providing a timely boost for its struggling economy.

The Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, featuring experimental works from across the world, has been staged at the Heart of Hawick annually since 2010.

Submissions from any part of the world are welcome, and the festival celebrates a diverse range of work, from the visually experimental to the commercial.

The 2016 festival screened 124 films from 26 countries, with 44 UK or world premieres and more than 50 film-makers in attendance.

Next years’s festival will take place from Thursday, March 2, to Sunday, March 5, next year, but anyone considering entering only has until the end of this month to do so.

Richard Ashrowan, creative director with Alchemy Film and Moving Image, based at the Crown Buildings in High Street, says the event is of both economic and cultural significance to Hawick.

The town’s bed-and-breakfast establishments, hotels and restaurants are always packed out by visitors from across the globe each spring, and townsfolk have also taken the festival to their hearts.

He said: “Hawick is really important to us. It’s a small town, and the festival is an intense four days of activity.

“People eat together and stay in the same B&Bs, and there really is a sense of community.

“It has been said that Hawick is an unusual setting for such a festival, in a relatively traditional and economically-struggling town of just 14,000 people in the rural Borders, yet the beautiful and unusual setting of Hawick is exactly what gives Alchemy several of its special qualities.

“The local community has become very involved in the festival, with a volunteer team of around 50 people, plus a very active artist film-making community that has grown up in and around the town.

“Local businesses also support the festival in a variety of ways, from offering the use of disused shops and characterful warehouse spaces for our installations to financial sponsorship.

“In turn, the economic impact of the festival is now significant for the town.

“We attract many international visitors and always sell out all the town’s B&B accommodation well in advance, while restaurants and bars report some of their busiest weeks of the year.

“The festival is helping to put Hawick on the map as a contemporary cultural destination, while offering visiting audiences and filmmakers a uniquely friendly experience that is just not possible within the urban centres.

“The event has generally grown and there is no comparable festival in the UK, never mind Scotland. You have film festivals in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but they go for a much broader reach.”

In a twist to proceedings next year, film-makers will head out on a day trip to a historic Borders site, possibly Hermiatge Castle, at the end of the festival.

They will be encouraged to film the experience for posterity, and a collaborative film will be produced from the resultant footage.

Deadline for submissions this year is midnight on Sunday, October 30, and entries will be notified if successful no later than Wednesday, February 1, next year.

Rosie Crerar, screen officer at Creative Scotland, said: “Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival is a unique international film festival with experimentation at its core.

“It’s making a significant contribution to the Scottish artist moving image landscape.”

To find out more, go to www.alchemyfilmfestival.org.uk