With numerous polls highlighting a dip in super-festival attendance, it seems 2012 might be the time to swap the monsters for something slightly more boutique.
Since its birth in 2006 Kendal Calling has answered the wails of the small time festival goer that enjoys a slice of fun and a sense of community with their main course of music. It has rightly become a Cumbrian institution and it’s northern voice has called to crowds all over the country who succumb to the magical charm of the deer park in Lowther. With a handful of best small festival awards in their pocket, Kendal is an eclectic mix of performance, music and art alongside traditional rural entertainment. It is, without a doubt, the most fun you can have in a field.
An 8000 strong crowd gather together for three days of tomfoolery at the end of July; a significantly smaller audience than most. Instead of being herded from queue to queue, revellers can easily navigate between the nine stages at the village style site in minutes. The festival treasures this sense of intimacy and locality. I have visited the festival every year since 2009 and it has become somewhat of an insatiable habit. It’s the innovation of the festival and the deliberate choice to nurture a small audience that has kept me, and many others coming back for more.
In 2011 Blondie,The Levellers,The Cribs, and Chase and Status took to the main stage whilst the likes of Beardyman,John Cooper Clarke and the Young Knives wowed the others. This year Maximo Park,Dizzee Rascal,Dans le Sac,Feeder,James and Inspiral Carpets will flock to the mainstage with the likes of the Little Comets,Lucy Rose, Rae Morris, and the Whiskey Cats occupying other rabbit holes.
Each stage comes furnished with individual quirks. There is the Glow Dance Stage, the Soapbox, the Holy Quail, Calling Out and my personal favourite; the Kaylied Stage. Since it joined the festival as a new feature in 2008, the stage has played host to some astounding names in folk, world and roots music. Mumford & Sons, Frank Turner and Michael Kiwanuka have all performed to astonishingly small crowds at this venue. It’s also the first festival stage Craig Charles erupted with his Funk & Soul magic. Then there is the other end of the spectrum in the shape of the house party tent; a unique living room experience at the heart of the festival. As the Guardian described it – ‘A perfect night out, you’ll be dancing one minute and talking broken biscuits in the kitchen the next.’ Nintendo Wii in hand, it’s one you won’t forget.
That’s without mentioning the real ale, the fancy dress bonanza and the notorious Cumbrian Olympics (promised to be bigger and better than ever in order to top their competitors in London!) The games are compered by women dressed in 1940s tennis skirts, drawn-on moustaches and red bobbed wigs and often attract bigger crowds than the main stage bands. After choosing ceremonious “anthems” for the crowd to sing, the winners of each event are presented with Cumbrian Olympics medals. There has been some unmissable moments in the shape of a spine-tingling duet from Badly Drawn Boy and his daughter, OKGO inviting the audience members on stage whilst confetti canons went off to a freakshow with naked skaters, and Bez djing to the Houseparty ravers.
The deer are jetsetted off on holiday to make way for the crowds to light up the fields. Its not just a music festival but an entire experience that I, for one, look forward to every single year. Get kaylied, frolic in the fields and become part of the Cumbrian revolution.
Kendal Calling 2012 takes place from the 27th-29th July at Lowther Deer Park,Cumbria.