Kendal Calling Festival 2023 - The Review

A 17th consecutive sell-out transforms the fields of Lowther Deer Park for another momentous weekend

By Tom Lawson-Corney | Published: Wed 9th Aug 2023

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Thursday 27th to Sunday 30th July 2023
Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, Cumbria, CA10 2HN, England MAP
£189+ fees for the weekend with camping
Daily capacity: 25,000
Last updated: Wed 7th Jun 2023


With the weeks leading up to the arrival of 40,000 festival-goers reminiscent of a monsoon season, it was with trepidation that I packed my walking boots and a lack of waterproof gear for my first camping festival in a while. This being my first visit to Kendal, I was warned of the potential mud bath that could ensue. However, on arrival at lunchtime on Friday, the park was looking magnificent. Panoramic views of the Lake District make this one of the most stunning sites in the country for sure. We camped in The Shire where there was plenty of space and a great atmosphere throughout the weekend. Wherever you’re based, the distance between the campsites and the main arena is easily manageable, which is another plus point for me.

The facilities across the arena and campsite were spot on; regularly cleaned and little-to-no queuing. Plenty of drinking water points were dotted around the site and the last-minute addition of covered seating areas under tipis in the arena was beneficial during the sporadic downpours.

Food and Drink


The standard of food on offer at festivals has increased massively in recent years. For someone as indecisive as me, the plentiful choices at Kendal were difficult to navigate. My highlights:
Columbo Street Sri Lankan Street Food – Incredible devilled fish kottu - 10/10
Tibetan Kitchen – Combo of three dishes with rice and momos - 8/10

On the alcoholic drinks side of things, Brewdog took the lead on beer, Thatchers on cider, and Hooch on the fruity brews. There were also numerous cocktails bars dotted around if that’s your thing. Pints ranged from six to seven pounds with cocktails closer to a tenner.

Chai Wallahs offered a great range of non-alcoholic and alcoholic coffees, teas and hot chocolates in a relaxed environment for times of recuperation.


Arriving at lunchtime on Friday meant the first act we caught was American indie-rockers We Are Scientists on the main stage. Their short-set saw them delve into their strong back catalogue with tracks including ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘After Hours’ interspersed with some of their more recent pop-leanings.


Next up was Dublin artist Somebody’s Child on the Calling Out stage, powering through tracks from his acclaimed debut album. His accomplished delivery and stylish stage-presence will no doubt propel him to bigger slots in the future.

Mel C took to the main stage to an adoring audience who were treated to a mixture of songs from both her solo catalogue and the Spice Girls greatest hits. The set included some dance-infused party-starters, an acoustic singalong ‘When You’re Gone’ and a triumphant ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

The Parklands stage hosted Rhythm of the 90’s for 45 minutes of full-band dance classics. ‘Set You Free’, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Meet Her at the Love Parade’ all brought the rave to Kendal.

A trip to the Woodlands stage saw a large crowd witness Scottish star-in-the-making Rianne Downey perform tracks from her growing catalogue. Having seen her stand-in for Jacqui Abbott with Paul Heaton this summer, there was no questioning her sensational voice. This set proved that she has the songwriting ability to back it up and rise up the lineup in the coming years.

Rianne Downey

Having not seen Kasabian since their lineup change, I was unsure what to expect of the Friday night headliners. As sub-headliners of Glastonbury in 2009 before Springsteen, I thought I had witnessed them at the peak of their powers. I was wrong. Serge is a commanding frontman and leader, and the addition of Rob Harvey on guitar and backing vocals has added an extra dimension. A particular highlight was ‘Stevie’, which comes alive in festival fields alongside their more well-known anthems.

Brief stop-offs to see Chris Hawkins, Deathretro and Gina Breeze ended our first day on site.

Saturday began with a DJ set from TV Bangers, which saw the Thomas the Tank Engine theme played twice in a row due the enthusiastic response. Match of the Day saw a great reaction too. This kind of thing is right up my street but next time, midnight rather than midday would be more appropriate scheduling.

Special guests Happy Mondays got things going on the main stage on Saturday. Bez bounced around stage whilst Shaun voiced his concern about just how early the set time was for him. The performance was good, with ‘Hallelujah’ particularly pleasing for the old guard in the audience.

Happy Mondays

Following a last-minute lineup reshuffle, Mystery Jets were added to the main stage and delivered a crowd-pleasing set including old favourites ‘Young Love’ and ‘Two Doors Down’. The highlight for me was a euphoric ‘Someone Purer’ that finished their short (but very sweet) set.

Deadletter took to the Calling Out stage as one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend and they did not disappoint. Opening with an aggressive take on their recently released ‘The Snitching Hour’, the band romped through 30 minutes of post-punk perfection. ‘Fit for Work’ saw the crowd eating out of the palm of frontman Zac Lawrence’s hands. Special shout out to my new favourite bass player too. Pure intensity.

Next up saw Jools take to the Woodlands stage for a short but powerful set. Despite a limited number of songs publicly available, the dual-fronted outfit engrossed their sizeable audience. An accomplished performance and one-to-watch for sure.


Confidence Man arrived on the Main Stage as part of their UK run that seems to include every festival going. They’re at the peak of their powers, with recent collaborations ‘On and On (again)’ and ‘Now U Do’ adding extra oomph to their set. The set began in the pouring rain, but a magical moment saw the sun break through and a rainbow backdrop the stage during a gleeful ‘Feels Like a Different Thing’.

Another memorable performance saw Frank Turner headline the Parklands Stage, opening with a glorious opening salvo of ‘The Ballad of me and my Friends’. Working his way though his back catalogue chronologically, the ever-touring troubadour demonstrated his prowess armed only with his acoustic guitar and an adoring audience. His stated aim of this set was to demonstrate to his nieces and nephew that he was cool. Mission accomplished.

Frank Turner

Sunday saw a chilled start in Chai Wallahs, with Los Dedos soundtracking some sore heads with their surf-rock sounds.

Next up, by chance we stumbled upon one of the moments of the festival. Charity Musiclinks were hosting bands in the Desert Island Disco tent to perform inclusive sets from acts elsewhere on the lineup. Here we witnessed local duo Bossy King perform a short, polished set which the audience provided percussion for. In the following Q&A, the band invited up six-year old Fern to orchestrate and sing during what turned into a heart-melting moment of joy. Very special.

Natalie Imbruglia was next on the main stage, performing to a sizeable crowd that were not surprisingly waiting for ‘Torn’ near the end of the set.

I’ve been wanting to see Katy J Pearson for a while and her set on Calling Out demonstrated her talent as an exceptional songwriter as she drew from her two fantastic albums.

Katy J Pearson

The Enemy headlined the final night on Parklands with an electric performance that drew heavily from their debut album. The love for them is still as strong as it was fifteen years ago and flares lit up the tent during the anthemic ‘We’ll Live and Die in These Towns’.

The final act of the weekend saw my first visit to Tim Peaks. Deja Vega have been on my hitlist since the release of their superb second album ‘Personal Hell’. Opening with ‘It’s All Gone Wrong’, the intensity was non-stop as the band powered through 30 minutes of deafening punk rock delivered with pure ferocity. It’s criminal that they aren’t bigger but, on this form, it won’t be long.


40,000 attendees and I didn’t see one bit of bother. Kendal really is communal and that makes it stand out from many other similarly sized festivals. Would I take my wife? Yes. Would I take my kids? Yes. Will I be going again in the future? Most definitely.

review by: Tom Lawson-Corney

photos by: Tom Lawson-Corney

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