Photography: Jody Hartley
Lowther Deer Park

It’s hard to stay boutique and continue to grow. By the look of this year’s event, KENDAL CALLING are giving it a hell of a go.

One of the key parts of Kendal Calling’s identity over the past decade has been much of the stuff that a lot of other festivals miss, focusing on the experience outside of the music. A bohemian hootenanny, immersing attendees in the festival experience, away from the much too common ‘let’s put a stage and beer tent in a field’ approach.

To accommodate 10,000 more attendees in two years is no mean feat (see recent Y Not debacle for reference) but Kendal continues to be a northern leader in offering a comprehensive, encompassing festival experience. The site – now packing in over 20,000 festivalgoers over the weekend – is a bright, immersive, practically-sized creation, providing suitable attraction for the young, late-night revellers and families with kids. Of the latter, there now seems to be an abundance, compared to previous years. Is this testimony to an ageing culture of attendees around festivals? The 6Music/Britpop generation keeping the fires burning?

Bars are reasonably-priced, the food selection is extensive and the toilets deliver the necessary goods (small mercies). Perhaps the campsite could grow slightly to accommodate the new influx – which it kind of has in one direction, but no one is keen to be out in the sticks.

Line-up wise, the bookers have top-loaded the bill with the headliners, with there being realistically little depth to cater to the less pop-savvy tastes. Overall, this is a non-issue, STEREOPHONICS, MANIC STREET PREACHERS, JAKE BUGG, EDITORS, THE CORAL, FEEDER and the real BRIAN WILSON being plenty to go with. The DJ line-up is decent, too, although the dance-oriented Glow Tent becomes a bit of a nightmare to get in around the time an act is about to start. Moral of the story? Get there early. The breakout smaller dance arenas, such as House Party, have enjoyed more than a lick of paint. Feeling bigger and better, it’s further evidence that the organisers seem to have ramped things up a notch all round.

The early slots on the main stages are where the lesser-known acts find their home, including a now customary proud smattering of Merseyside talent, with SUNDOWNERS and VEYU leading the charge. One thing that’s noticeably lacking is the traditional Lucid Dream appearance. Carlisle’s favourite sonic explorers have been a Kendal Calling staple for years, up until their stock has entered the stratosphere, but not so this year. There is the obligatory secret set, the mantle this year being taken up by a rejuvenated Coral in the mighty performance concept Tim Peaks Diner (make sure you catch it at a festival this year).

The one ‘I was there’ moment this year comes in the form of an ageing, but no less enthusiastic, Brian Wilson, one of pop music’s greatest sons. Stood in a field in the Lake District, listening to Pet Sounds in its entirety, you can’t go wrong. That’s what you call a moment.


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