5 Minutes with Usha Mistry

Usha Mistry - Project Manager for Lakes Culture

Introducing 5 minutes with… Usha Mistry..

Who is… Project Manager for the Arts Council funded Lakes Culture project to affirm the Lake District’s position as the UK’s leading rural cultural destination.

Tell us more… the Lake District is a very popular visitor destination; it attracts 16.4 million visitors a year. People are drawn to the area by the stunning scenery. The Lakes Culture project is about raising the profile of what the area has to offer culturally.

The Lakes has inspired some of the world’s greatest artists, poets, writers and thinkers and it is still doing it to this day in both traditional and contemporary forms. Lakes Culture is about helping our established tourism industry to work closer with the cultural venues and artists to promote the cultural events that take place here. When people think of the Lake District, we want them to see that they can come here for the whole package – outstanding culture, great food and drink, fantastic quality accommodation and of course, the amazing countryside.

Why is this special to you… I used to visit the Lakes when I was at Lancaster University, then I’d visit friends in Old Hutton when my partner and I lived in London. It seems strange to actually live here now and be a part of promoting the area, but it is a special place that is very welcoming and a place I now call home. This project is important because it will help to keep the Lake District a thriving place for us lucky residents as well as the visitors. The world is becoming smaller but it’s worth being reminded what wonders can be experienced in your own country before thinking of jetting off to another.

What can audiences expect… Whether it’s a day trip or a short break, audiences can expect to have it all; they can pick and choose from an ever-changing array of music, theatre, comedy, festivals, and temporary and permanent exhibitions from outstanding collections. In short, they can expect a year-round events calendar with something to suit pretty much all tastes.

If you could name only 3 unmissable cultural hot spots or events in the Lakes – what would they be…

Given my role, that is a difficult one to answer, but speaking personally I would urge people not to miss:

  • Lakes Ignite 2016 – from 30 April to 22 May the Lake District will host a unique cultural festival with special highlights from our key venues plus three exciting artistic ways to experience our cultural landscape. More details will be released soon… watch this space!
  • Lakes International Comic Art Festival – you’ve got to see it to believe it. In October, Kendal transforms into a comic enthusiasts heaven. It’s not just for the aficionados though, my children love the special family zone events and it’s great to just walk around and soak it all up with your eyes.
  • Theatre by the Lake – without sounding like the Carlsberg advert, it’s probably the best location for a theatre in the world – right on the shores of Derwentwater surrounded by the fells. They hold a broad range of events all year round from high-profile literature festivals, jazz festivals and of course, in-house and touring theatre performances.
Theatre by the Lake, Keswick
Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

In a nutshell how would you describe the cultural offer in the Lakes…

Varied, quirky and unique.

You can see mainstream cultural things and you can see things that are special to the area, but the difference here is that you can experience them in unique settings, for instance in smaller more intimate venues than you’d get in a city, historic listed buildings, or out in the open with the backdrop of the incomparable Lake District scenery.

And after a cultural adventure in the Lakes, where would be your ideal place to eat or stay… I am a bit of a foodie so my choices relate to the gastronomic pleasure rather than the views.

  • The Wheatsheaf in Brigsteer – it won pub of the year in the Cumbria Life Food & Drink awards last year. It has a great menu of hearty Cumbrian fare and also lighter options. It also has a good wine and gin selection.
  • Infusion in Kendal – a family-run Italian. The Chef’s 5-course antipasti selection is delicious; just make sure you’re hungry when you go!
  • Strickland Arms near Sizergh Castle – a great family-friendly pub that is perfect after visiting the National Trust castle next door.
  • If I could sneak in one more I would choose The Highwayman in Kirkby Lonsdale – it’s near the Lake District and a lovely place to visit while in the region. The menu has delicious regional produce and proper food on the children’s menu – no naff chicken goujons.

And we just have to ask.. if you could choose one view in the Lakes where would that be… after scaling Great Gable during one of the Keswick Mountain Festivals, the view over Wastwater was one to be savoured.

Wastwater and Scafell in Wasdale - photo by Dave Willis, Cumbria Tourism
Wastwater and Scafell in Wasdale – photo by Dave Willis, Cumbria Tourism

To enjoy these Lakes Culture events and much more, book your break in the Lake District here