Cumbrian festival Kendal Calling returned for its eleventh year with a stellar line up, complemented by a sunlit site from start to finish. Proving its credentials as one of the most popular festivals in North, this year's event was sold out to 23,000 party loving punters.
Situated in a spectacular location in the Lake District, Kendal Calling is the destination of choice for plenty of Mancunians, Scots, Lancastrians as well as Yorkshire men and women. Now classed as a mid-sized festival and with a diverse range of names on the bill, Kendal seemed to attract music fans aging from about fifteen through to fifty.
Many flocked to the fields on Thursday evening to see the legendary The Charlatans back on their favourite festival stage, while many others made it for the core three days starting from Friday. Inevitably the Main Stage was where the biggest crowds were often found, but that was possibly as much owing to the surprisingly summery weather as to the quality line up.
Saturday afternoon on the Main Stage was an energetic affair with Teesside's finest Maximo Park livening up the lazy atmosphere. Singer Paul Smith showed he's still got it, bounding around the stage in his familiar style and entertaining with the likes of indie anthems 'Our Velocity' and 'Apply Some Pressure'.
Next up was The Darkness, fronted by a shiny purple cat suit clad Justin Hawkins. Looking like a comedy cross between James Blunt and Freddie Mercury, Hawkins was brutally honest about the band's varying success in the last 13 years, joking how they'd mainly play songs from their 2003 album as "it's the only one anyone bought." This approach seemed to pay off with the crowd attempting to hit all high notes along with him. Later, Swedish rockers The Hives helped to keep energy levels up with their high kicking, audience interaction and of course by performing singles like 'Hate To Say I Told You So'.
Headlining the Main Stage on Saturday night were national treasures Madness. Suggs and the gang treated the Kendal crowd to a hit parade including My Girl, Baggy Trousers and One Step Beyond, followed by an encore of "It Must Be Love". There was a very odd interlude where the bassist took centre stage unannounced to sing Bon Jovi karaoke, but perhaps the less said about that the better! Massive coloured balloons bounced across the crowd and confetti cannons decorated the audience in glitter as the crowd showered the band with applause and appreciation in return; a memorable end to the evening at The Main Stage.
Sunday saw American hip hop trio The Sugarhill Gang bring their stateside sunshine to the large outdoor arena. Describing how they've been partying since the '70s "in the basements, block parties and dancehalls"; you couldn't help but be in awe of this group of greats. As to be expected, songs like 'The Message' prompted some mass participation from fun loving festival goers.
Liverpudlians Lightning Seeds took to the Main Stage later in the afternoon and were superb. Slick, cool and collected, Ian Broudie delivered classic tracks like 'The Life of Riley, 'Change', 'Lucky You' and 'Sugar Coated Iceberg' with all the confidence of the Britpop star that he is. They also provided a nice little 90s warm up for the man who needed no introduction, Noel Gallagher, who performed as part of band Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. Playing to a capacity crowd, the living legend stormed through a set of his recent stuff, as well as a selection of crowd pleasing Oasis numbers.
Away from the main arena there was of course tons going on at the other stages. Tim Peaks Diner, Tim Burgess' popular haunt, was the perfect venue to pop in and out of, and is renowned for impromptu appearances. The "special guest" advertised in a top slot on Saturday evening was obviously going to be well attended and later squeezed into the steamy shack, Peter Doherty's sweet tones were instantly recognisable. The packed out room were treated to an enigmatic set from the topless singer, climaxing with Babyshambles' famous 'Albion'.
Other highlights from Tim Peaks Diner included the Stay Beautiful Bowie Disco on Saturday night, for which scores of people jammed into the venue to pay tribute to the late legend. The place erupted when the DJ dropped songs like 'Modern Love' and 'Young Americans' and there was a real sense of unity, joy and celebration for the great man. On Sunday, a dreamy and rather psychedelic set from Gulp was ideal for those still recovering from the evening before. New song 'Spend Time Right Here With You' felt just right for the easy and informal vibe, and the modest crowd drank it in.
Elsewhere, the music on offer was equally diverse with an absolute mass of people crammed into the Glow Tent for Craig David's TS5. (And yes, the crowd really did say "bo selecta"!) The Calling Out stage saw a typically more youthful bunch turn up to see performances from the likes of breakthrough bands like Blossoms and Leeds post-punk outfit, Eagulls. Over at the Chai Wallah stage, festival goers could enjoy a different brand of dance music with world, funk and reggae genres dominating the evening line ups.
Comedy fans were absolutely spoilt rotten with the mighty Jason Manford taking a slot on Friday night in the Soapbox tent. Plenty of people must have been envious of those able to pull up a pew in the venue (myself included!) and having big names like Manford on the bill is a testament to the force this festival has become.
Likewise, tucked away at the Carvetti Stage an interview with actor, writer, director and musician Paddy Considine was a hidden gem. Part of a Louder Than War Q&A session with Editor Sarah Lay, Considine discussed how different touring with his band, Riding The Low, is to the practice of making films; a captivating listen from a fascinating chap.
The Woodlands area was another favourite attraction with 60s star Donovan taking the last slot on Saturday night before the infamous Silent Disco. Although unwilling to queue for some headphones to take part in the disco, it was brilliant to watch the throng of people clearly miming along to 'We Will Rock You'; their tell-tale hand gestures easily giving the game away. The art exhibits in the Woodlands and Lost Eden areas were excellent too. There was an interactive beating heart and some smutty neon signs you'd expect to see in Amsterdam, but with a tongue in cheek nature-loving twist.
The festival site was well organised with a good selection of food available. A vegetarian curry from Ghandi's Flipflop was really tasty, although perhaps not quite as indulgent as the massive bacon baguette from The Butty Boys the following morning. Festival goers certainly didn't go thirsty either with well-staffed bars serving plenty of craft beers such as the specially brewed 'Kendale' bitter. The only downside of this was the often lengthy queues for the toilets, which seemed to fall short of the amount required for a full capacity event. Meanwhile the Kids Calling area was well used with lots of little ones enjoying the craft workshops and having fun on the inflatable slides.
Despite some slight reservations that Kendal Calling had gotten a little too big for its boots; the festival did us proud this year. Spirits were high the whole time and the experience was calm and carefree, which is as a festival should be, but nonetheless an admirable achievement for a sold out event. No doubt everyone's only regret was leaving the stunning Cumbrian site to return to their real life come Monday morning. Thank you for the memories (and the fab tail) Kendal Calling!
latest on this festival
video of the day
video of the day
Kendal Calling 2021 interview
festival home page