Grizzly bears to Komodo dragons – TV’s Iolo Williams at event celebrating nature through film, photography and discussion

Springwatch presenter and documentary maker Iolo Williams will recall his wildlife adventures when he joins other star guests at the new Wild Film Festival Scotland (WFFS).

He will describe his exploits making films all round the world, which have included being charged by grizzly bears in Alaska and encounters with Komodo dragons in Indonesia.

The theme for the festival, in Dumfries from 24-26 March, will be amazing journeys, wild places and rewilding – which will be celebrated through outstanding film, photography and discussion.

Full details of the headline guests and the major films to be shown will be unveiled soon. The films will include winners from the 2016 Panda Awards (the wildlife film Oscars).

WFFS is working closely with Wildscreen, the world’s leading international festival celebrating and advancing storytelling about the natural world, which hosts the awards.

Iolo, who will be appearing on Saturday 25 March, said: “Having a new festival devoted to the best wildlife film and photography, and with lots of live discussion, is a brilliant idea and I’m really looking forward to being there.

“There is some truly amazing work being produced in this country and all around the world right now. And Dumfries and Galloway is an incredibly beautiful part of Scotland, with an abundance of wildlife. With all that going on, I’m sure it’ll be hugely popular.”

Iolo’s talk, A Career In And Out Of The Media, will cover his early days as RSPB Species Officer for Wales as well as his adventures snorkeling with sperm whales in the Azores, following in Attenborough’s footsteps to film mountain gorillas in Uganda and diving with gannets off Bass Rock for Springwatch.

The festival is also showcasing the tremendous photographic and filmmaking talent in Dumfries and Galloway, and highlighting the region’s appeal as somewhere to see spectacular wildlife all year round. Among those bringing their own special expertise and insights to the festival will be:

  • Keith Kirk – award-winning photographer
  • Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming – internationally renowned environmental photographers
  • Gordon Rae – 2016 Scottish Salon Nature Photographer of the Year, who is also well-known for his work with bears
  • Jesse Beaman – astrophotographer and dark skies park ranger.

Both Keith and Jesse will be looking at what Dumfries and Galloway offers at night. Keith leads nocturnal tours using the same thermal imaging equipment that people see on films to watch everything from red deer and badgers to foxes, hares and owls. Jesse sets his sights even higher, taking people on stargazing and photographic expeditions to make the most of the unparalleled views from the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.

Keith, who is based in Castle Douglas, said: “Most people only get to see wildlife and the natural environment in the daytime – but that’s only part of the story. We will be revealing everything that Dumfries and Galloway has to offer in daylight and after dark.

“We really hope that visitors will seize the opportunity to get out there themselves and discover its incredible variety of species and habitats – from moorland and mountain to forests, woods, rivers and the wonderful coastline.”

Jesse added: “Our region has one of only four Dark Sky Parks in the world, which means it is an exceptional place to explore the night sky. It will be great to have the chance to share some of the breathtaking pictures that it’s possible to take when you have the combination of clear night skies and superb wild landscapes.”

Morag and Ted have recently exhibited at the Head On Photo Festival in Australia. They are well-known for their Zero Footprint project which has seen them take thousands of pictures from the same spot overlooking the Rhinns of Kells. Their creative use of season, light and weather conditions has created a very special collection of subtle and atmospheric landscape images.

Morag, from near Dalry, said: “Dumfries and Galloway is an enchanting place, from the wild lands of the biosphere core area to the magical coastline by way of myriad streams and rivers, one can wander here for days immersed in a quietude that is hard to find in today’s frenetic world. We’ll be inviting people to step inside our view of this fascinating and beguiling region.”

Gordon, who is based in Lockerbie, added: “Wildlife photography is always an adventure, and it’s taken me to some amazing places, such as photographing grizzly bears in Alaska, and just recently polar bears in the Canadian tundra.

“It was a wonderful experience to see these huge creatures close at hand, but heart-rending to learn how climate change is destroying their habitat and food supply, driving some to the point of starvation.

“The photography I do at home is just as special to me. It feels like a privilege to photograph mountain hares in the Highlands, or some of the few remaining black grouse left in Dumfries and Galloway.”

One of the attractions of WFFS will be the British Wildlife Photographer Exhibition which will be hosted at the Gracefield Arts Centre. The films will be shown at the nearby Robert Burns Film Centre. WFFS is also running a Wild Young Film Makers project in collaboration with National Trust for Scotland filmmaker Simon Goodall. This will see young people make their own short films to be screened at the festival.

Ed Forrest, Project Manager for the Southern Upland Partnership which has led the partnership of local wildlife groups which set up WFFS, said: “We’ll be taking people on amazing journeys, allowing them to explore wild places and looking at the issues and arguments about restoring landscapes to their natural state and reintroducing extinct species.

“With Iolo Williams, the British Wildlife Photographer Exhibition and everything else we have lined up it’s going to be a really exciting event and we are particularly pleased to be working with Wildscreen to show a variety of truly exceptional films.”

WFFS is part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Union – LEADER 2014-2020 programme and supported by D&G Council Major Events Fund the Holywood Trust and EON. Follow our Facebook page www.facebook.com/WildFilmFestival/ and see the website www.wildfilmfestivalscotland.co.uk.