As Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday, the woman at the helm is getting ready to bid a fond farewell to the event she’s taken from strength to strength.
This year’s closing gala is sure to be an emotional one for festival director Melanie Iredale as she prepares to stand down to take on the role of deputy director at the world renowned Sheffield Documentary Festival.
Melanie, who celebrated her 30th birthday during last year’s festival, has had a fantastic five years, dramatically increasing the depth of the festival’s programme and its audience, helping it to win the WOW award for Best Community Event and Journal Culture award for Best Event in Northumberland earlier this year.
“It’s a decision I didn’t take lightly,” she explained.
“I wasn’t looking to leave, but the role in Sheffield is such an incredible opportunity for me. I don’t think anyone in the industry in their right mind would turn it down.”
Chair of the board, Huw Davies said: “We’re obviously sad to lose Melanie, but delighted that her success with us has been recognised through her new appointment at Sheffield Documentary Festival.
“In five years she has transformed Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival into the highly successful and unique, creative event that it is today.”
Reminiscing about the year she started, Melanie was only given eight weeks to produce a festival in Berwick and she still remembers how she felt about being introduced to audiences for the first time.
“I remember our chair Huw Davies welcoming me onto The Maltings stage to speak and feeling incredibly nervous.
“One of the first things I thought was how much love there was in the room. People have also been very supportive and feel like they appreciate the time, effort and energy of those involved.
“Only the other day someone stopped me in The Maltings and told me that the film festival was one of the highlights of their year.
“I’d be very surprised if I don’t cry on closing night this year.”
When it comes to what she is most proud of in terms of what the festival has achieved in the last five years, Melanie said it had to be its massive increase in profile.
“The festival gets coverage in the national press now which has helped us attract international film makers and audience members from all over the UK.
“I’m also really proud of the new work the festival has commissioned. Pieces have premiered in Berwick and then gone onto major festivals in the likes of New York and Rotterdam.”
Looking forward to the future of the festival there are now a very large pair of shoes left in the office but Melanie has high hopes that someone will step in and fill them.
“I have to say I couldn’t be leaving the festival in a healthier position.
“I’m putting it in the hands of an incredible board and I’m hoping we get some one really good in to replace me so the event can keep going from strength to strength.”
The festival this year is taking inspiration from its opening year of ‘Border Crossing’ where it will explore border identities from all over the world and what differences lie on one side in comparison to the other.
With the Scottish referendum vote happening while the festival is on, the topic couldn’t be more poignant given Berwick’s location and history of changing hands.
○Border Crossing: The 10th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival will run from 17-21 September.
LISTINGS, PAGES 56-57
VOLUNTEERS, PAGE 58