If there is a best practice guide in how to evolve a festival from a small gathering over two days to an award winning four night musical and arts paradise, then you need look no further than the beautiful Lake District and Kendal Calling.
Back in 2006 a group of music nuts kicked off a two-day party with British Sea Power at the glorious Abbot Hall Park, fast forward 10 years and at Lowther Deer Park Kendal Calling won Best Medium Sized Festival for the second year running, hosting Madness, Noel Gallagher, Blossoms, Rudimental and many others over a packed 4-day programme.
It’s no surprise that tickets have already sold out, so this isn’t a plug for you to buy a ticket for 2017, you’re too late – However, 2018 tickets are already on sale on the website www.kendalcalling.co.uk and you can pay by monthly installments at less than a tenner a month, that includes camping and booking fee!!
As a Kendal regular I wanted to let those newbie festival attendees’ in on what to expect and what you shouldn’t miss at the gathering in the north west fields this year.
Firstly, the thing you need to be aware of is that it’s a beautiful country park setting, stunning huge trees and hills – and the first hill you will find is the one you will be walking up, carrying and pulling all of your camping gear. The car parks are at the bottom of this hill and the later you arrive the further up the hill you have to walk! You have been warned!
It goes without saying that there will be great music, the plethora of diversity of music genres from gritty rock bands to folky souls, hip-hop and grime artists mean that just about every appetite can be fulfilled over the 4 days.
I’ll cover the top ten acts not to be missed in another RockShot article (Manics!!), but for now just take it as read that there is always great music available, however, that’s just one part of this excellent festival.
Tim Peaks Diner:
Tim Burgess, lead vox of The Charlatans, hosts his own café venue at the top of the festival site and expect to see lively debates, intimate performances and a good cuppa in proper souvenir mugs. It’s always busy – so keep checking the schedule and announcements, because you know someone is about to ruck up with an hour’s notice to play a few songs – last year Cabbage, Pete Doherty, Blossoms, Dodgy and Too Many T’s did just that, and you don’t want to miss out as there is only space for about 100 people inside.
It’s cooler in the Woodlands and you can potentially lose yourself for a while. There are a couple of stages where more regional bands will be playing, and then there will be spoken word, discussion and poetry pieces too. Art lives and breathes life in all sorts of ways, from the murals that build throughout the 4 days of the festival, with a different artist adding their piece for the day, to the unusual pop up theatre performances and sculptures being created right before your eyes.
By night it becomes Lost Eden – just watch the area transform into a cornucopia of curiosity. Intriguing installations, motion-sensor light art and walkabout performances
It really comes alive with all kinds of moving art, some clever glowing huge bees were there last year that hovered over you as you walked by, and then I got chased by a two headed blue space girl with a gun (honestly I was not under the influence). It is an assault on the senses and I would encourage anyone to visit at least once when it gets dark.
If you are lucky enough to have VIP access then use it, especially at dusk when the most magnificent sunsets can be seen near the chilled out lakeside marquee. Soft gentle music, a nice sofa to rest on and an exclusive bar and dance floor – all this and it manages to shield any noise emanating from the other stages, tranquil bliss from the heavy partying. There’s also the Garden of Eden where you can indulge yourself with a bit of pampering, massage, Yoga and the like!
The Glow Tent:
This area is for the party hardcore, the DJ loving, glow stick, bass bin noise merchants, it’s another planet for most of us, but if you like your cutting edge dance music and legendary DJ’s in the house, then this is the place.
This area could have any form of music playing – from Jazz to Blues to Cosmic Disco and booty rattling dub. The stunning centre piece is a tree trunk with hundreds of light bulbs bursting from the top and leading to every corner of the tent, a great atmosphere here after the artists have finished on the main stages.
Yes there is food, and it is probably fair to say that festival food in general has improved in the last few years, no longer restricted to dodgy burgers and cheesy chips. At Kendal there is a full range of everything your heart and stomach would desire, personal favourites are Piggie Smalls hot dogs and Ghandi’s Flip Flop that does some amazing curried food. Vegan, Gluten Free etc. all accommodated – so you don’t have to rush back to your tent to start cooking anything.
Well we all like to have a tipple at some point during the festival and here there is a Real Ale Festival to compliment the traditional beers, lager and wine provision. Soft drinks are everywhere. But also to highlight the Jagerhaus section here. Made up of The Lodge, The Backyard, The Warehouse and The Loft, it is also a place to see some surprise performances as they tend to feature recently discovered bands and DJs – who are about to make it big! Check that blackboard schedule outside the entrance.
As well as a line-up of music, the Jagerhaus also has interactive elements such as the Entrance Tunnel, which greets guests with a sensory experience of mist and spices.
Kendal prides itself to be a family festival and so it caters for the little ones too. There are workshops, games, creative performance, madcap mayhem, chill out zones and carnival-themed arts and crafts – from musical instrument making to carnival masks and flashing lanterns to sewing tutus, headbands and bracelets, kazoo and other musical instrument making. While jam-packed with entertainment, Kids Calling is also a welcoming area for families with children aged 0-10, shaded by lovely tee-pees, activity bell tents and an inflatable ball pool for under 3’s, where little ones and parents can take time out.
There is also the annual parade on the Saturday at 2pm, which tours the whole site, fancy dress theme this year is ‘Into the Wild’.
All in all, Kendal Calling is a jewel of a festival, the Glastonbury of the North, impeccably organised, clean toilets, great food, great varied entertainment and really shows what a good regional independent festival can become after years of continuous improvement. That’s why it’s already a sell out again in 2017, and I’ll be there along with several thousand other regular returners. See you in the fields!
Festival Preview by John Hayhurst