As a dedicated #eventprof that is always looking to better herself, learn from others and up my industry game, I only thought it was right and proper that I attend one of the North West’s most popular music festivals to fully immerse myself in the outdoor events experience. Kendal Calling (KC) has been up and running since 2006, and has grown so much, it’s not even officially in Kendal any more! With the line-up, and more importantly the weather forecast, looking better than ever, I thought I’d go down again for my third weekend in the fields. (Purely for research purposes, obviously!)
As a previous winner of the UK Festival Award for Best Small Festival in 2010 and then UK Festival Award for Best Medium Festival in 2013, when I heard the numbers had increased again since my last visit, I will admit I was slightly concerned that KC might have been a victim of its own success.
But I should have known better!
Kendal has always had independency, originality and home grown charm at its core. It’s what makes it special, and it knows it! Despite the fact that this year you were camping with 22,999 other people, there is a sense that everyone on site is a ‘local’ and to be perfectly honest, just bloomin’ lovely! As I said, this was my third trip to the fields and every time I’ve gone, other festival goers have been a treat. Irrelevant as to whether it’s the people we’ve camped next to, the guy stood next to you at the bar or the lady and her children you use as middle-marker for finding your way back to your group, everyone on site seems to keep an eye on each other and is just there to have a really great time.
The older I’m getting (mid to late twenties now, cringe!) the more weight I put behind the importance of festival facilities. Pleasant toilets, a wide range of food options and reasonable priced drinks are all an absolute must! And KC ticks all the boxes here.
Its toilet facilities are award-winning (Best Festival Toilets, UK Festival Awards, 2015) and seem to be getting cleaner every year. I mean, they aren’t going to rival your bathroom at home but restocked toilet paper, plentiful hand sanitiser and air freshener in abundance across the weekend was a winner.
Food vendors were vast and catered to all tastes and diets. The Hip Hop Chip Shop, PieMinster, and Texas Smoker all based within the arena proved popular with my group. However, I’m not sure anything could get higher praise than a couple of vendors based in the Village Green camp area. Toastie Heaven has been a morning lifesaver in the past, and the marvellous wood-fired, handmade pizzas from Pizza Peddlers were so good that my friends are thinking about booking them for their wedding reception! Can you get higher praise than that?!
Kendal’s independent roots have also benefitted the bar situation at the festival. The opportunity to fully sell out to a huge name sponsor is, I’m sure tempting, and no doubt the offers are plentiful. However, KC’s refusal to do this means there is a decent selection of drinks available on site at all the normal bars, alongside real ale tents offering local brews and ciders, and a pleasant surprise this year was the added addition of a gin emporium. Prices aren’t cheap but also aren’t half as extortionate as they could be, so although you don’t feel like you’re getting a bargain when it’s your turn to get a round in, you don’t feel overly ripped off either.
Another part of KC’s un-ignorable charm is its eclectic line ups that seem to get better and better every year. There is always something for everyone; a fantastically quirky mix of new and old music, bands, artists, genres, from the relative unknowns to the big hitters that end the nights!
Some bands have become part and parcel of the Kendal Calling experience, and for me, it wouldn’t be the same without them. Riot Jazz, who have proved so popular in the past, they now curate their own stage, and the local delicacy that is the Lancashire Hotpots, are both KC regulars now and always get the crowds going.
Another artist that absolutely wowed the crowds at this year’s event was 90’s Garage superstar, Craig David. His much talked about TS5 set was scheduled for the Glow Tent on Saturday evening and under the canvas, it was packed to the rafters! The full hour set saw live performances of all his 90’s classics we know and love, combined with fresh remixes of more recent club tunes. I’ll be honest, normally I’m a dedicated indie kid that listens to bands that play guitars, but curiosity got the better of me. And I’m so glad it did, what a set! The crowd went wild for a full hour and I think if they wanted him back next year, Craig could more than do justice to a main stage slot.
The smaller stages and tents throughout the site aren’t overlooked at the expense of the bigger names either. It’s clear that thought and planning have gone in to all running orders. Soapbox has top headline comedy acts, which this year included Jason Manford, the Woodlands Stage is usually a showcase for local NW bands that all seem to have a loyal following and new for 2016 was The Lost Disco and Carvetti stage hidden at the back of the site, in amongst light sculptures, sound installations and interactive art that brought the woodlands to life for late night revellers. In a post-Craig David-search for more music so the dancing didn’t have to end, we ended up in front of the TwoGood DJ’s on the Carvetti stage, and they were absolutely smashing out the tunes. Rest assured, the dancing continued.
This year’s headline acts on the main stage were also a weird and wonderful mixture of crowd pleasers, with Rudimental, Madness and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds all on the bill. I saw all three, and all three were ACE! Rudimental for the huge party tunes to get you ramped up for the weekend, Madness for the pure nostalgia and silliness, and Noel Gallagher’s anthemic hits (Both HF Birds material and Oasis hits!) were exactly what you wanted to hear to round off your weekend. I’m not sure anything can beat the feeling of standing in the sunset, in the glorious Lake District, with a drink in hand, absolutely belting out Champagne Supernova with your friends. Wonderful!!