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Outdoor film festival inspires and entertains

on Mon, 01/02/2016 - 12:34

An exciting combination of big name speakers, local heroes with amazing stories to tell, hands-on sessions and outstanding adventure films from around the world left audiences inspired and energised at last weekend’s Peebles Outdoor Film Festival.

Still only in its second year, the festival saw almost a thousand tickets sold for the various events that took place over three busy days at the Eastgate Theatre. The tone was set by global adventurer, Mark Beaumont, who presented to a packed house on Friday night. Amusing, insightful and hugely entertaining, Mark talked about his often frightening ocean rowing exploits, as well as his remarkable endurance feats on a bike.

Having listened to Mark’s accounts of cycling around the world, the length of the Americas and, most recently, shattering the Cairo to Cape Town World Record, one young lad brought the house down when he asked at the end: “But have you been to Glentress?”

Equally gripping was Niall McCann’s account of his dual life as an adventurer and biologist, with a particular fascination for the endangered wildlife and micro-habitats of South America. From speed-flying in Greenland, ski mountaineering and big wall climbing to battling logging companies and wrestling giant anacondas, Niall had the audience gripped from start to finish.

As well as pulling in the big names, the festival also highlighted some of the many talented people doing remarkable things here in the Tweed Valley, and elsewhere in Scotland. The bike-themed first day saw Lee Craigie (who later hot-footed it north to participate in this year’s Strathpuffer), Tweed Valley trail-building legend Pete Laing, together with some trail-blazing kids from Peebles High School, and enduro star Katy Winton present to rapt audiences. Later presentations by mountaineer James Ogilvie, tri-athlete Scott Noble and ultra-runner Elspeth Luke all also attracted large and hugely-engaged audiences.

Elspeth Luke, who spoke publicly for the first time about her 680-mile run along the Scottish watershed, even added a further £155 at the door to the more than £13,000 she had already raised for Funding Neuro – a charity that funds research into effective cure and treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s. “I loved being part of the festival and must thank everyone who donated to Funding Neuro following my talk,” she said.

And Elspeth was not the only speaker to enjoy herself. “We had a great time at the festival – it’s such a lovely, friendly event,” commented Jen Randall, a rising star in adventure film-making who presented on Saturday afternoon.

Appropriately enough, the festival also stepped outside with a riotous cani-cross demonstration at Traquair House, courtesy of Cani-Fit. Dogs and owners alike enjoyed trying their hand at cani-cross before catapulting each other along on fat-bike-style scooters and bikes. Meanwhile, a group of wildlife photographers were delighted when they spotted an otter during an early-morning nature photography fieldcraft walk along the River Tweed led by Laurie Campbell. One of Scotland’s most celebrated natural history photographers, Laurie later presented on the return of otters to the Tweed back at the Eastgate. 

The festival ended on Sunday evening with a presentation to the winners of this year’s Outdoor Shorts film competition as part of the final short film session, followed by a wonderful talk by downhill mountain biker turned award-winning film-maker Stu Thomson, whose production company, Cut Media, works with some of the world’s most remarkable outdoor athletes.

“We’re delighted with how the festival went,” said Rich Rowe, a member of the organising team. “There was a real buzz from start to finish, and we just loved seeing how audiences responded to the various films and speakers. It was a true celebration of the outdoors.”

The Peebles Outdoor Film Festival would like to thank this year’s sponsors – Regional Screen Scotland, John Muir Trust, Ridelines, Swift Trails, Out & About, and Borders Forest Trust – without whose generous support the event could not happen.