If you go down to the woods today: Eden Arts' Picnic Cinema

David Banning

We preview the foul deeds, eerie forests and haunted castles that are on the menu for this year’s series of outdoor film screenings.

After the success of last year’s outdoor cinema programme, Eden Arts , the agency responsible for arts happenings that range from open studios to sculpture in trees, has put together a monster line-up of scary movies that’ll be screened at remote locations in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Lancashire and County Durham this summer. Film lovers can choose from one-off screenings in forest sites or themed camp-over events held at unique venues, including the romantic Lowther Castle and a suitably haunted Muncaster Castle. Francis Ford Coppola’s sumptuous horror flick Bram Stoker’s Dracula will be shown at the splendidly Gothic Leighton Hall near Carnforth, Lancashire. As dusk begins to settle and darkness descends in the rolling parkland, picnickers can expect a warm and gory welcome from the Count’s bloodsucking vampires.

“It’s just the maddest idea, taking our huge cinema screen, plonking it down in the middle of a forest or an extraordinary Gothic castle and screening classic films,” says Adrian Lochhead, Director of Eden Arts. “I think everyone realises that it’s something special, an opportunity to do something that is really out of the ordinary.” In collaboration with the Forestry Commission, the series of films will also feature Danny Boyle’s marauding zombies in 28 Days Later, showing at both Hamsterley near Bishop Auckland and Grizedale Forest, and Coppola’s epic Vietnam War classic Apocalypse Now at Gisburn Forest in the Forest of Bowland. Black comedy Sightseers will reach new levels of creepiness when screened at Keswick’s Pencil Museum and brave Withnail and I fans will be able to take a pilgrimage to Uncle Monty’s cottage, Crow Crag, and pay homage to the late, great Richard Griffiths.

It’s the maddest idea, taking a cinema screen and plonking it in the middle of a forest or castle

Eden Arts’ Heather Walker urges picknickers to come in costume. “Dressing up is very much encouraged at all the cinema events. Audience members get unique access to castles after dark, to see films where they were made and experience great drives on forest roads that are not normally accessible to members of the public,” she says. With an abundance of zombies, vampires and gore, it’s important not to forget this year’s motto – “Pack wisely, picnickers” – and make sure you have enough garlic and wooden stakes for that scary walk back to your tent.

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