“I made a couple of robots from tinfoil in the kitchen earlier in the day. Then I had a fight onstage. Then I climbed up the tent…” So remembers British Sea Power’s Martin Noble, of his band’s headline set at the first ever Kendal Calling back in 2006. That tent pole he climbed? It was fifty foot high. A feat of aerial daring that caused the promoters, Andy Smith, then only 18, and Ben Robinson, still 21, no end of terrors. “I was seriously nervous when he started going up,” Andy recalls. “We’d put everything we had into this – and you really just can’t plan for that.”
Martin’s high-wire act turned out OK, and their first festival, put on for 900 people near Kendal Castle, passed off successfully. Just three years after opening, they moved to the 20,000 capacity Lowther Deer Park, where Kendal has lived ever since.
Soon enough, the Tribe Of The Stag came out to play. “They were coming up really close to people and trying to freak them out,” says our photographer Scott. They wended through the forest, celebrating freedom, art and exploration.
Behind them marched Spark! five drummers in bright white face paint and silver costumes, who picked up great gaggles of curious followers as they swept through the Lost Eden. A stage-hand walked behind them, perfuming their path with dry ice. They stared, and grinned, as their drums changed colour in time with the dense, complicated rhythms recurring and morphing constantly. As they reached the far end of the Lost Eden, they performed a dazzling forty minute display of drums, lights, intricate choreography, before, in another puff of dry ice, they were beamed back up to whatever planet they’d come from.
In just a year or two, the concept of chucking powder paints at your mates en masse has gone from fringe pursuit of highly strung people who own too much powder paint to something everyone wants to join in on. In the main arena, there were three paint fights on day one. For the rest of the day, those who’d joined in could be easily identified by their orange and yellow glow.
Meanwhile, at knee level, a festival within a festival was taking place. Kids Calling has organically grown into a big part of the Kendal experience, and now incorporates a host of activities. This year marked the first ever kiddie rave: Big Fish Little Fish. There were dance lessons, art lessons, bizarre musical instruments for the young ‘uns to find their inner Bjorks with, an Insect Olympics, Dr Zig’s Bubble Show, Cbeebies presenter Alex Winters, and of course the actual Kids Calling zone.
This was no ordinary journey. Virgin had pulled out the stops to make train travel feel as glamorous as air travel did forty years ago. There was on-board entertainment, goody bags, and on the platform at Manchester Piccadilly, the station tannoy blasted not only the usual announcements about not feeding pigeons and having a valid ticket, but a bunch of shout-outs, done in the same flat train announcer monotone. “Welcome… aboard… the… party-train”.
Long-time Kenadaler comedian Mickey P Kerr had bought a ticket on the Kendalino too. He was so excited that he treated carriages A, B and C to a greatest hits set.
Like a QEII of the rails, Virgin Trains launched their party train to Kendal on Thursday afternoon. With three first class carriages, and free prosecco for those within them, the Kendalino Express set off direct from Manchester Piccadilly to Penrith.
And now, with the tenth anniversary over, Andy and Ben and everyone on the team would like to take this moment to say a very special thanks.
“From that first tent-pole climbing high-wire act at Abbot Hall Park in Kendal a decade ago, we never believed it would turn into what it has. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to every single person who has, by coming or contributing, made this festival with us.”
See you in the fields for another ten years.
Ian Taylor, Paul Whiteley,
Giulia Spadafora and
Words by Gavin Haynes. Web development by Andrew Kendall for Digital Photo Gallery. Art direction by Kris Atomic.