Hop across to Evangelical Focus, and there you will find a a report that over 4,000 people recently converged on Keswick to do a bunch of dotty Christian stuff over a three-week period, including listening to lectures by Canadian theologian Don Carson, pictured above.
The Keswick Convention mercifully ended in the first week of August, and locals, breathing a huge sigh of relief, said “good riddance”.
And for good reason, for the evangelicals do nothing for the picturesque town except throttle tourism and insult the locals by calling them “sinners”.
According this report, the tranquil town, with its fudge shops and dog-friendly pubs, sees its revenues plunge when the joyless, penny-pinching 142-year-old Keswick Convention comes to the area. Angry traders say their takings plummet by as much 90 per cent when the KC sets up camp for three weeks at the height of summer.
Grumbled Garry Price, general manager of the Kings Arms Hotel in the market square:
It shouldn’t be allowed. This is a nice tourist town where families come to enjoy the scenery, but they can’t visit because everywhere is booked up for the convention.
Shouldn’t this please him?
The conventioneers take up the accommodation and the parking spaces, but they don’t spend their money in town. We’ve even had people on the street telling everyone they are sinners.
It’s getting on people’s nerves. You just can’t hear yourself think when the convention is in town.
Tom Rennie, the owner of Keswick’s 103-year-old cinema, the Alhambra, said:
I usually get around 60 people per show. But it’s a write off when the convention starts. We only had 11 at one show during the convention. There’s a great deal of resentment in Keswick.
Pubs have also reported a drop in evening trade – with a picture posted on social media showing one bar completely empty at 10.15pm on a Saturday night.
Will Thomas, the manager at the Golden Lion, says:
We’re busy when serving food when the convention is here, but afterwards there’s an exodus from the bar. Our drinks sales drop, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. The convention should be held in February instead.
Adventure company Keswick Extreme has also reported a drop in trade of up to 70 per cent during the convention while the Keswick Launch Company, which offers rowing boat hire and cruises on Derwentwater, says it has been decidedly quieter on the lake in the mornings .
Locals also claim that the evangelicals demand special treatment in restaurants and are so mean that they even take their own teabags into cafes.
The Keswick Convention began in 1875 with a prayer meeting in a tent on the lawn of a local vicarage – and like a cancer its been growing ever since.
Towards the end of last week, thousands of fundamentaloons in waterproof coats could be seen gathering in the rain at an encampment of large marquees on the edge of town for morning Bible readings and evening celebrations, and at the convention’s headquarters in Skiddaw Street, where the words “All one in Christ Jesus” are etched on the wall.
The theme for this year’s convention was “Captivated: Hearing God’s Word”
Townsfolk are also gravely displeased over plans to move the convention back a week from this year’s opening date of 15 July to the 21 July in 2018 – the start of the first three weeks of the school holidays in Cumbria and many other parts of Britain.
Dozens of traders crammed into a town council meeting to complain that the convention is “throttling” local businesses and to appeal for it to be moved to a quieter time of year. The local newspaper, the Keswick Reminder, in print since 1896, told in a front page headline how businesses are warning:
We don’t want you here for half our summer holidays.
And an online petition, which has been signed by more than 2,000 people, says:
Keswick is the adventure capital of England and it is essentially closing its doors to the outside world while the convention is happening.
There are also concerns about a plan by Keswick Ministries, which runs the convention, to create a £10-m permanent home for the event at the town’s former pencil factory, with 60 beds, a dining area and conference centre.
Jutta Devenish from Keswick Ministries says the annual convention brings £2.5-m to the town and £250,000 is spent each year on accommodation for volunteers and staff.
The proposed date change next year is because school holiday times are changing across Britain, she says. Families attending the convention have free afternoons so they can explore the local area.
Traders could consider adjusting opening times to work around the convention, including earlier meal times for people going to evening events, she adds, and petitions and “ranting” will “not achieve anything”.
It is important to us that, as members of this town, we find ways to engage with other members of the town constructively. Conversations are the best way forward. You will not find anyone in town who can say that we are not willing to talk and to hear from the community. The question is whether they are willing to engage constructively.
Speaking at one of Keswick’s beauty spots – the Derwentwater foreshore – Brian Price, an antiques dealer, said:
We’re not anti-Christian by any means. This is the most beautiful view in the country. I’m lucky I get to see it every day when I walk my dog. It’s idyllic. But no-one is here to enjoy it when the convention is on. They’re stopping hundreds of other people from coming to Keswick to enjoy this stunning view.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn