With almost 30 films covering every imaginable adventure sport, outstanding speakers, a run and ride together with two inspirational athletes, and strong support from local businesses, the 2017 Peebles Outdoor Film Festival last month (27-29 Jan) proved a massive hit, with more than 1,100 people flocking to the Eastgate Theatre.
“We’re so pleased with the response to the festival, which continues to grow rapidly year on year,” said Rich Rowe, part of the organising team. “Our hope was for this year’s programme to really inspire and energise people – and that’s exactly what happened. With this being such an outdoors community, we saw great support from the local area, but were also delighted to attract people from all over Scotland.”
The tone was set in the opening presentation by mountain biking legend Crawford Carrick-Anderson – the first in a series of ‘local hero’ sessions at the festival. Crawfy’s life story is a remarkable one, and his presentation left a packed room truly inspired.
This year’s festival saw a change of format in its main auditorium programming, with each afternoon and evening session beginning with a selection of breathtaking short films from around the world, followed by live presentations from some major names. And with food supplied by Osso Restaurant during the interval of the evening sessions, audiences were well-fed as well as well-entertained.
There was a moment during the headline Saturday night presentation by renowned adventure cameraman Keith Partridge that seemed to sum up this year’s festival. As part of a tour de force presentation that ranged from the steaming rainforests of Venezuela to the intimidating North Face of the Eiger, Keith provided a gripping behind-the scenes account of life filming on award-winning climbing documentaries such as Touching the Void and The Beckoning Silence.
But it was his clip of hunters in Mongolia who train golden eagles to catch foxes and wolves – complete with a tiny camera mounted on the back of an eagle – that drew audible gasps from the audience.
That sense of ‘how did he do that?’ was also in evidence on Friday night when endurance adventurer Sean Conway gave an amusing account of completing the world’s longest triathlon – a sometimes chaotic 4,200-mile cycle, run and swim around the entire coast of mainland Britain.
On the Saturday and Sunday afternoons, runners and riders were treated to specially-themed sessions that saw an eclectic selection of short films, followed by live presentations by record-breaking fell runner Nicky Spinks, and World Champion mountain biker Tracy Moseley. These two stars of their sports also experienced some of the Tweed Valley for themselves when Swift Trails led a ride-out with Tracy, while Moorfoot Runners guided a run together with Nicky.
“Peebles is a delight – a really lovely town surrounded by very runnable hills,” commented Nicky, on her first visit here. “Thank you so much for inviting me to speak at the festival.”
As well as pulling in the big names, the festival also featured a range of local adventurers, all with compelling stories to tell. In addition to local hero Crawford Carrick-Anderson, the festival saw David Aston reveal all about his trek to the magnetic North Pole, while Ed Shoote spoke to another packed room about his bikepacking experiences around the world. Later presentations by charity marathon runner Bob Johnson – complete with life-size Dalek outfit – adventure racing supremo Paul McGreal, and Scottish winter climbing sensation Greg Boswell were all hugely entertaining.
The audience for Greg’s presentation had a particular treat, as Greg premiered a talk that he will take to this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival – the most prestigious event of its kind in the world.
The festival ended in celebratory mood on the final night with a screening of the winner (Project Attack Squad by Lynne Armstrong and Lucy Grant) and runner-up (Our adventure by Chris and Thomas Hilton) of this year’s Outdoor Shorts film competition as part of the final short film session.
It was then left to Edinburgh-based bikepacker Markus Stitz to round off the weekend with a wonderful tale of his recent 21,000-mile ride around the world on a singlespeed bike – the seeds of which were sown when he first started bikepacking right here in the Tweed Valley.
The Peebles Outdoor Film Festival would like to thank this year’s sponsors – John Muir Trust, Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Tontine Hotel, Out & About, Swift Trails, Peebles Physiotherapy and Ridelines – without whose generous support the event could not happen.
Image: Spot the climber ... Emily Harrington toughing it out in Role Reversal