I MAGINE it. Count Orlok advancing out of the gloom in Hexham Abbey as a Brazilian pianist fills its august portals with music that will send souls soaring and plummeting by turn.

Never has there been an evening like it in Hexham, but welcome to the new Wide Skies Film Festival – it’s about to put Hexham on the celluloid map.

Due to run for three fun, fact and fear-packed days over the long weekend beginning Friday, June 17, Nosferatu is but the highlight of the juicy extravaganza.

At the heart of the festival are the plethora of community groups who have each nominated a film for broadcast that best reflects their ethos.

The result is an eclectic mix that includes Annie Leibovitz: Life Through A Lens, chosen by Hexham Photographic Society, the French crime drama Dheepan chosen by Hexham Town Twinning Association, Mustang , the story of five Turkish sisters, chosen by the Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services, and a re-run of Eddie the Eagle at the behest of Hexham East Residents’ Association.

But, oh, we’ve got to start with Nosferatu , for it is the big one. Filmed in 1922 in what was then the Weimar Republic of Germany, the cult classic is a thinly disguised take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula – disguised because the studio, Prana Film, couldn’t get the rights to the novel.

Hence Count Dracula became Count Orlok and the word ‘nosferatu’, thought to have been an archaic Romanian word synonymous with vampire, was used.

Prana Film ultimately had to declare bankruptcy to dodge copyright infringement suits instigated by Bram Stoker’s widow, but for a one-hit wonder, it certainly made its mark on cinematic history.

Despite a court ruling ordering that all copies of the film should be destroyed, a few impressions slipped through the net and it is now widely regarded as one of the most influential masterpieces of all time.

The conundrum facing the co-organisers of the Wide Skies Film Festival, Tamsin Beevor of the Forum Cinema and Geof Keys of the Queen’s Hall, was who on earth should they get to accompany the otherwise silent film?

The answer proved to be Tony Berchmans, the top flight Brazilian pianist who will be midway through a concert tour of Europe when he drops in on Hexham.

“It’s a bit of a coup, so we’re quite excited!” said Tamsin.

“There will be a fantastic atmosphere in the Abbey, watching Nosferatu as the sun sets and Tony Berchmans plays. Hats off to Rector Dagmar Winter for agreeing to it!”

The Refectory within the Abbey visitor centre will be staying open, so people can dine either there or at any of the other eateries in town beforehand.

If it is a warm, sunny evening, they could also picnic in the cloisters or, indeed, have the TV dinner on offer at the Queen’s Hall across the road.

The way the evening is programmed, the Queen’s Hall is serving up pizza and wine during The Italian Job at 7pm and Nosferatu starts at 9pm.

“People could do both,” said Tamsin.

“The Nosferatu event is the one we really need to be a success, because while this will be a loss-making festival generally, the biggest bill will be for bringing the pianist in.”

The title Wide Skies not only reflects the nature of the Northumberland landscape and the world-class Dark Sky Park status it enjoys, but also the many and varied hues of the people living within its embrace.

Tamsin said: “Unlike the Berwick Film Festival, which has something of a national flavour to it, Wide Skies is about reflecting the interests and concerns of the people of the Tyne Valley.

“It’s about local residents feeling they have ownership of it.”

The group behind the Hexham Debates are not only pleased that The Divide , a documentary inspired by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s best-selling book The Spirit Level, is going to be shown, but also that Wilkinson himself will be in attendance.

The film presents a series of profiles that between them illustrate how inequality shapes society today in America and England, where the top 0.1 per cent owns as much as the bottom 90 per cent.

From the fast-food employee eking out a living to the Wall Street psychologist who aspires to live the affluent life of the damaged white collar workers he ministers to, the film posits that the increasing gap between rich and poor has a negative impact on both.

There should be plenty to talk about during the question and answer session afterwards.

The film Paper Planes , by way of contrast, is a fictional take on a heart-warming story that has a direct link with a Hexham resident.

Tamsin first got wind of it when Barbara Grundey put a post on Facebook that informed her friends that the film sweeping Australia was based on the story of her nephew, James, and one of his friends.

Barbara told the Courant : “My nephew James and his friend Dylan, who inspired the film, used to make paper planes for fun when they were at university and decided one year to enter the Red Bull international paper plane flying competition.

“They won a place and did go off to Austria to compete, where Dylan came first for ‘length of flight’ and James came third in the ‘height of flight’ category.

“During that period, though, Dylan was diagnosed with a brain tumour, so really the story is all about overcoming adversity and winning through.”

While the festival will use just the three venues this year – the cinema itself, the Queen’s Hall and Hexham Abbey – the plan is to expand into the more wide flung and the unusual.

One idea is to show a film in the Cold War bunker that lurks all but forgotten underneath Hexham House.

Tamsin said: “It’s wider than Hexham House itself, in that it stretches out underneath the park behind.

“It really does hark back to the days of the Cold War and was designed to save the members of Tynedale Council should the worst come to the worst.”

The ultimate aim, she added, was that Wide Skies would become a year-round festival, and they are beginning with a weekly slot at the Forum Cinema itself on Tuesday mornings.

That slot will be home to the foreign language films and documentaries that generally find favour with the more senior element of the Forum’s loyal following.

They will kick off with Pearl Button on Tuesday, April 26, she said. “The Tuesday mornings will pave the way for the concept of the Wide Skies Film Festival, so there will be a greater awareness of the big weekend event by the time it arrives in June.”

Tickets for films at the Queen’s Hall are available now from the box office there. All other tickets are on sale now at the Forum Cinema.