I’m aware that it’s been over a week since I got back from Kendal Calling and still haven’t written up anything about it, but in all honesty, I think I needed this time to recover and reflect! What a weekend!
After securing some last minute work for Big Green Coaches at the festival through a mutual friend, we made our way up to the lakes on Thursday afternoon and arrived on site some time later that evening. The site itself is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, it’s situated just outside Kendal in a big deer park full of forests, hills and stags.
After waiting around for half an hour we finally got directed to the right place and drove round to pick up our passes and wristbands. Once we were in the actual festival site, no-one seemed to know where we were going or who we were supposed to ask for directions. We ended up driving round the small one-way system about 2 hours before we found staff camping, by which point we were ready to go home again! There was a serious lack of organisation on the stewarding front -having done stewarding at a number of festivals, it was highly frustrating.
Once we found the right place, we unpacked and set up camp next to my sister who was also working there for the Warehouse Project who were staffing all the bars for the weekend. We were pretty much surrounded by Mancunians full circle, which was fine by me, but kind of made the pointless small talk of ‘so where are you from’ even more succinct. An hour later we were joined by the lads (again all from Manchester) and we got a nice little camp circle going on. Despite bringing my pop up number, I ended up sharing a tent with my sister and lending my tent to one of the bar staff who ‘didn’t realise she’d need a tent…’ hmmm.
Once all the tents were up, we decided to get straight on it and have a walk round the festival site. As the actual festival didn’t start till the following day, only part of the site was open and there was very little in the way of entertainment that evening. Despite initial thoughts however, we ended up stumbling across an amazing little marquee in the customer campsite playing cheeky drum and bass and dubstep all night – as you can imagine, this made us pretty damn happy. We all crammed in to the tent and danced into the early hours, before making our way back to the tents around 2ish. All in all a pretty successful evening.
The next day was a fairly early start, we were due at Penrith train station at 8.30am for a briefing about our days work and were all feeling a little tired and reluctant. We pulled up to the station and were delighted to see a McDonalds right next door! Despite normally avoiding fast food like the plague, I couldn’t deny the need for grease so invested in an egg mcmuffin. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful…our job basically involved selling tickets for a shuttle coach driving to the festival site and loading people on to the coaches. There was a good bunch of us doing it though, so we managed to fill our time playing epic games of eye spy and talking about anything and everything festival related. By the time 3pm came we were all shattered, despite having little to do I think we all underestimated how tiring standing on your feet all day could be.
We made a quick alcohol stop at Morrisons then made our way back to the festival site – we had to queue for about 45 minutes at the gate to get back in because they’d ‘run out of wristbands’ – the phrase ‘school boy error’ doesn’t even cover it. Having just stocked up on Kopparberg and reduced price Gaymers, we figured we may as well just crack on. So that’s exactly what we did…
An hour later and we were back at the tents again. We sat and chilled out for a little bit then went to watch the main stage for a while. The evening soon came upon us and we were all in the mood for a good party after working all day. We were all in agreement that the best place to be that evening was the ‘Glow Tent’ A.K.A. Dance Stage, so we made our way across to the huge marquee blaring out dirty electro beats. Having started drinking at 4pm, by 9ish I was rather merry and the evenings events have pretty much blurred into one night of uber rave. None of us really cared who was playing, as long as it was good and we could dance to it, then we were happy. Having looked back at the photos from that evening now, it seems we all had an amazing time and had the sweat dripping down our faces to show for it.
Sometime on Saturday morning I awoke fully clothed with last nights make up on and a relatively sore head. We all decided to take advantage of being able to go off site and drove to a local pub for lunch. We sat outside; sunglasses donned and pints of Coke aplenty. Being apparently incapable of making our own decisions, we all decided to copy Tom and have Bangers and Mash – Best. Choice. Ever. An hour or so later we were all feeling slightly less hungover and made our way back to the festival site again. Despite going the same way round the one way system for the last two days, today apparently, we weren’t allowed. We got about 200m from our campsite and were told we had to go all the way round to get in as we weren’t an ‘authorised vehicle’. As you can imagine, we weren’t impressed. After a massive trek around we managed to get back in and paid a visit to the Calling Out Stage where we had the pleasure of seeing Paris Riots play, they were amazing. After that, we watched Wild Beasts on the main stage who were again extremely good live – I think they were probably my favourites of the weekend. We made our way back to the tents and had some food, before getting ready for another evening of rave.
I was really looking forward to the evening’s dance tent line up, namely Mr Erol Alkan. After seeing him smash it at Parklife Festival a month previous, I knew he was worth a watch. He didn’t disappoint. We all raved together again until the tent closed at half 2 and then made our way over to the House Party tent for some more raving. At around half 3, we all left there and sat on a hammock style seat for about an hour just watching the world go by and taking pictures of each other. I sat there in a bit of a daze thinking about what the festival had been like so far. Despite being a relatively small festival (10,000 people), I’d possibly had one of the best festival experiences I’d ever had. I’m usually a firm believer in going to a festival purely for the music, and make my decision about which one to go to based on this fact alone. However, Kendal Calling was really making me question my own behaviour. I hardly knew any of the bands that were playing over the weekend, and was not massively bothered about seeing anyone and yet for 3 nights in a row, I had consistently raved into the early hours to amazing music, met some great people and had the time of my life. Could it be that festivals are actually better when you don’t know any of the bands?!
Sunday came and after 3 nights of raving, I was starting to feel it. My whole body had started to ache and I just wanted to sleep. I think Sunday was probably the most frustrating day for me – we had to stay as we were due to work on the Monday morning, and yet there was nothing we really wanted to stay for. I think this is where the lack of bands really showed. For most people I would imagine Sunday was probably one of the best days for bands, they had the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, The King Blues, British Sea Power, The Coral and The Subways amongst others. We managed to catch a few of them…The Subways were a disappointment, they were good live, but seemed to just play the same song for 45 minutes. Similarly, The Coral were really good live, but I’m just not a huge fan of their music so it seemed to drag a little. By the time it got to 9pm we were so bored we just went back to our tents. Although this sounds massively rubbish, we did have to be up at half 5 the next day to start our shift and there really wasn’t anything that took our interest enough to keep us awake. We just sat up chatting for a couple of hours in the tent before heading to bed…
Monday morning arrived and we opened up our tents to the sound of people raving still all around us. We dragged ourselves down to the meeting point and hopped on a coach to the station. It didn’t take long before we came back again and based ourselves at the festival site directing people onto coaches. We were all reunited again so passed the time quickly reminiscing about the weekends antics and telling each other stories from our reckless university days. It was half 11 in no time and the end of our shift. We said our goodbyes and made our way back down South to Manchester…
All in all I would say that the weekend was a massive success and I’d definitely go again. Working for Big Green Coaches was the perfect way to get into the festival for free and I’d recommend it to anyone. We met some great people, had 3 nights of amazing raves and saw some great up and coming bands in the day too. One’s to watch for the future are Our Fold, Paris Riots and Kathryn Edwards. I hope in the future that Kendal sort out the security and stewarding of the festival because it was appalling and a massive inconvenience for us both as staff and punters over the weekend.
Despite this, Kendal has definitely made me change my outlook on the function of a festival and why people attend – as I’ve said previously I’ve always been firmly in the ‘I go for the music’ camp, but this experience has undoubtedly made me change my mind. I still think bands are massively important and are one of the main pulling points to a festival, however in all honesty, I quite enjoyed not knowing who was playing this weekend and being able to do what I want, when I want, without feeling guilty because I’m missing one of my favourite bands. Compared to something like Glastonbury when there’s probably at least 5 people I want to see playing at any one time, it was quite refreshing not wanting to see anyone!
If you fancy just letting go and escaping for the weekend then I’d highly recommend you pay a visit to Kendal Calling next year…but for now, here’s a few pics from my weekend.