Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival is a celebration of the art of film, set in Berwick-upon-Tweed. The main Festival is a biennale, which since 2005, has taken place over in September. Director of the festival, Melanie Iredale, talks about how it all started and what’s happening this year.

Like many of the very finest ideas, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival was dreamed up in the pub. Academic and filmmaker Huw Davies, and Artist-filmmaker Marcus Coates were in the Barrels Ale House (a fine drinking establishment with a dentist’s chair at the Bar) when they developed a beer-fuelled vision to turn the small town of Berwick-upon-Tweed into one big moving image installation.

That was back in 2004, and every year since 2005 the border town has provided a platform for independent cinema, artists’ moving image and everything in between as part of a holistic festival of projections, installations, screenings and live events.

It’s safe to say that Berwick-upon-Tweed is most famous for its Walls – marking the border between England and Scotland, with the town being passed between England and Scotland 13 times in recorded history. For us, the Walls provides some of our most interesting locations, for example last year we commissioned Berwick-based artists Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich to create a video, Dancing Borders, for Coxon’s Tower, while we also installed Croatian artist Goran Skofik’s 10-screen installation, Corpus, in the Magazine, where the gun powder was held and where the barrels are still on display. Incidentally, the Barrels is also a regular venue, where last year we screened All Tomorrow’s Parties, a documentary about the music fest of the same name, followed by a DJ spinning tracks from the film.

Last year’s event was considered our most successful in many respects – we engaged with more children and young people than in previous years, commissioned more work than ever before, attracted more audiences per day, built better partnerships with other organisations, and the event was nominated for Best Event Northumberland at the Journal Culture Awards. Since then, we were announced as one of Arts Council England’s new National Portfolio organisations, meaning we will receive regular funding for the first time, 2012 – 2015.

This year’s festival will be my third as director, and will be curated to a theme that is of a real personal and academic interest to myself: that of the fairy tale film. Under the title of ‘Once Upon a Time’ the programme will explore themes such as sexuality, transformation and otherness through everything from fiction to documentary, narrative to artist video, and live action to animation.

Once again the Festival will showcase international work whilst remaining rooted in Berwick, with contemporary moving image spilling into historical locations across the town. The Festival will very much be a celebration of the art of story-telling on screen, and its not too late to be a part of it! We’re still accepting submissions via the website until 29 July. The programme will be announced end August and the Festival returns Friday 23 – Sunday 25 September.