Kendal Calling was cosy and sprawling with nothing but fun and loveliness.

My sidekick and I arriving at KC as first timers. It made such a big impression. And I just know we will be back next year.

The site is surprisingly small and cosy with a wonderful natural sunken basin in front of the stage. Surrounded with splattering's of beautiful trees to shade you from the sun or the rain, which we had both of. Plenty of seating, in particular around the food areas and wide undulating open spaces. There is a stunning Lake. An amazing woodland. Everywhere just full to brimming with lots of things to wander past and find day or night.

So even though the site is dinky enough to walk around quickly, it is quirky enough to be filled with enticing creativity and satisfaction.


We arrived at 9 am Friday morning to some confusion over our passes but were soon sorted with nothing but smiles and a little footwork from both the stewards and ourselves. We parked our VW campervan on the end of the very orderly queue in the orderly campervan field and before you could say ‘brrm brrm’ we had nine VW neighbours all around us, and so the weekend of base camp van talk began. Love it! There were so many incredible specimens to be admired in the campervan field that I could have spent all day just wandering up and down admiring them, never mind the festival. But that was not why we were there.


So Friday we ventured into the main arena, enjoying the sprawling site, the large welcoming letters and the artistic signs. The fact it was torrentially raining did nothing to dampen our spirits as we treated ourselves to a couple of beers at the bar and had a short respite inside the relaxing Chai Wallah tent. We were soon tempted out of the comfortable space towards a large broadleaf tree where we swapped consistently pouring rain for big occasional dollop dros and listened to Beardyman. His beat box styling over his DJ turn styling. Quite enjoyable and the crowd were large and receptive in the rain.

We took a wander around the site, checking out where the yummy food stands were, admiring but not trying the helter skelter and the chair swing merry go round. Located all the larger tents and got our bearings. We popped into the House Party tent which had only just got started with the first man up DJ Megatune. A quick bounce around to some old classics but we were soon too intrigued to discover the rest of the delights in this wonderland world.

We then discovered what quickly became one of our favourite part of the whole festival. The Woodlands. Lost Eden.


The newest part of the ten year old festival. And in our opinion the best part of all. Absolute Paradise. Lost inside were many wonders. It even had its own Lost Eden program! We enjoyed the smaller intimate stages, the art installations, the golden bird cage, the Liminal Orb, the bench seat circles, the wandering performances, the weirdness's and the wonderfulness that appeared on the Carveretti stage. But most of all there was something fantastic about sitting amongst the trees with the sounds filtering over you and feeling that sense of nature and beauty while enjoying stimulation and people. It was magical. It was madness. And at night it was even better.


We caught an artist at the Jack Rocks stage in the Woodlands a youngster called Adam Walsh. He treated us to a lovely acoustic set that was most enjoyable in the trees.

We then thoroughly enjoyed Soul ll Soul on the main stage. What a wonderful sound these old timers still produce. Starting with 'Keep On Moving' and ending with 'Back To Life'. The sun came out mid set and everyone cheered and danced more merrily. Sadly once the set was over the clouds closed in again and the rain poured down. The warm yet persistent drenching rain.

We had to head back after a while to get out of soaked clothing outfit number one and into something warmer and dry for our evening antics.

The walk to and fro earnt new muscles on our calves and thighs due to the undulating ground and the stupendous amount of wet sludgy mud. But we were full of laughter and everyone else struggling in the same way had nothing but interesting encounters to say.

We finally made it back to the arena, taking a pass on the Levellers and heading back into the woodland out of the drizzle. We caught a young band called Colt 45. Absolutely fantastic young sound, very funky, made us jumpy! Then up we trudged back to the main stage just in time to see The Vaccines. They were really great. Loud, engaging and the whole arena sang along to their every song. We skipped off before the end as our excitement to see the night installations in the Woodlands was at ecstasy levels. And WOW was it great!


There were a few areas that were only open at night, one of which I can only explain as a strange technology decorated weirdness with bench seats, unusual music and a neon flashing sign that said GREAT TITS, with three green birds above Tits. Needless to say it gave us plenty opportunity (and amusement) to randomly enquire as to where the great tits were, had anyone seen great tits and who keeps flashing great tits? Much hilarity ensued, even if we were a little non PC and tactless but we got away with it every time. It helps to have a flashing neon sign above your head!


Sitting there we came across, or did they come across us? Anyway they were the Spark Drummers, covered head to toe in silver costumes and silver face paint. They were entrancing and slightly spooky.

There was also a blooming HUGE globe that was lit up with moving cloud like patterns which had some strange effect on people, who just had to touch it. (of course we did!, while going Ooo) We also found a wonderful raised fire pit, with safety fire people wearing retardant gloves that enabled them to stoke the fire with their hands. The whole pit fire was surrounded by benches intermittent with large trunks with flames on the top. It was a lovely space to sit and when the rain got too heavy we took cover under a huge tree. When that started to drop big splatters of rain on us we decided to call it a night and head back for warmth and comfort.

As we walked down the weaving wooded pathways our ears were drawn to a thumping dance beat coming from another direction in the tress, and before we could stop ourselves there we were jumping up and down, using the last of our dance energies in our knees to dance about merrily in the tress.

We had found the Lost Stage. It was a tiny booth, the DJ in which was rocking out some pumping tunes and was accompanied by a lady with an incredible voice. The two together were mesmerising and moving, certainly to our feet.


But eventually we were too wet, too tired and absolutely sated with Kendal Calling loveliness to continue on any more. We had a last beer half way home, to wet our whistles after such a thrilling and thirst quenching day.

Almost home, my side kick totally jinxed us by passing comment on how well we had done to not fall in the slurry. And BANG! We fell in the slurry. Two slop covered ladies with brown muddy legs, arms and hands. We walked the final distance into our field very carefully, and promptly removed every brown soaked item and climbed into our cosy camper bed. Our final slurring words...what a tremendous day.

Saturday was extremely sunny!! You could feel the happiness, see the delight and enjoy the warmth with everyone. And apart from the mud under foot, Kendal Calling and its beautiful site just came alive with the sunshine.

I was so impressed with the live art installation taking place in the lost Eden woodland. No mean feat in such variable weather and such fine art too. Not a large brush of spray canister in sight. Credit to the three boys who put it together and were really humble to speak to: Bobbi Abbey – Illustrator, Mike Winard – Artist and John Pearson artist and professional weaner (for reasons I cannot tell you but are totally Bobbi and Mikes fault)


We made a beeline for the Lakeside. Something we had not come across on the Friday via the use of our program. Yet had discovered while reading what to do that morning. We were surprised to learn we had missed something from all our wandering. But actually pleasantly surprised when we got down to the Lakeside and discovered its hidden beauty.


It's hard to believe you can sit in such a picturesque area with music streaming loudly around you, with an easy reach bar, large deck chairs (which make you look like little people) talking to a lovely family dressed as the whole cast from Scooby Doo. It was absolutely idyllic.

We caught the first half of Barry Ashworths excellent DJ set while drinking ice cold wine and watching dragonflies zip about.

After that we we happened to catch a new to us artist on the main stage, Nick Mulvey. He played beautifully on the guitar, accompanied by the most wonderful cello.


His voice was lovely and the rifts were absolutely beautiful and perfect for such a sunny day. We then enjoyed wandering the variety of stalls while regularly stopping to listen to Nick.

Then later in the afternoon we saw a great band called the Owl Parliament, fantastic gentle singalong rock. Very meaningful and enjoyable. Did you know a group of Owls is called a Parliament? Well we did. So we went to see them, in homage to the knowledge.A little time was lost here and there, exploring fun things in the sunshine. Until we found ourselves centre crowd as Elbow came on. What an uplifting euphoric set. And the cream on the bun for us was being with lovely people we had just met who danced hand in hand with us as the whole crowd sang “throw those curtains wide, one day like this a year will see my right”. Guy Garvey encouraging the crowd to sing it over and over without the band, even getting us to do harmony. It was blissful.

Wandering back into the Woodlands we were met by a strange sight. Lots and lots of people wearing blue and red ear pieces. I turned to my side kick asking if we had perhaps invaded the security convention but actually it turned out to be the silent disco. It looked so funny. I’ve seen a silent disco before but usually in a tent. So to see lots of people walking around in the dark with headphones on (well actually all you could see were the small lights on their headphones, as demonstrated below by my bad giggle hand photograph) it amused us greatly.


We had a short go but the novelty was not as good. What was more surprising was the range on these things. Giving us plenty of opportunity to see loony loner's boogying their way around various paths, totally oblivious to the fact they were singing and dancing to a tune no one else around them could hear.

We ventured to the Lost Stage for god knows what. Warmed up by the fire again and spoke to lots of happy campers. Making it back to our camper van in time to get into our PJs and snuggle in the warmth moments before dawn began and so did the rain.

Sunday we found ourselves sheltering from the spittle back at the wonderful Jack Rocks woodlands stage, the wooden slates looking lovely in the wet against the twinkly lights where we saw The Lancashire Hotpots. They had to be the most talked about band of the weekend. It seemed by the crowd there that everyone went to see them. We enjoyed their ridiculous lyrics and hilarity. Our favourite was, 'I Fear Ikea'. Absolutely brilliant, comedy band, reminded me of Beautiful South but with a sense of humour rather than a sense of impending doom! I would highly recommend.

Then we ventured into Tim Peaks Diner to see the parody band Everly Pregnant Brothers with their hilarious songs like 'Slob Marleys: No oven no pie' and 'Buggered Up Shoulder'. Renditions you found yourselves reliving and singing for the rest of the day.

We caught a little bit of Billy Bragg while passing the main stage. What can you say? You get what you expect with Billy Brag! We then sat comfortably inside a bar listening to Less than Jake who were inoffensive and not as political or as raw as Billy but still nice toe tapping fodder for eating a nice Falafel wrap to.


We took a cautious dive into the Riot Jazz tent. Both of us unsure. Sure that we didn’t like Jazz but unsure with what we would find. WELL!!! Pleasantly surprised or what! We caught the Gypsies Of Bohemia who were incredibly skilled musicians playing their guitars and cellos and doing all sorts of covers including Prodigy, Back Street Boys and Britney Spears. In style and verve you just could not dispute. We were glad we popped in.

And then Embrace. Ahhh Embrace. How great they were, from a distance. Oops...But what really really stuck with us, was that we were ages away when they played the one song we really really wanted to hear. 'Gravity'! You should have seen the sight of us afro’s wearing lunatics running back towards the stage (as best you can run in lots of slippery mud), barely managing to sing the words to each other over the sound of breathlessness. We made it just in time, to hear the crowd sing the final verse. Bah!


Oh well...another beer soon increased the cheer. But sadly Snoop Dogg did not do it for us, he is a good DJ, but after admiring people playing instruments for over 48 hours, he just made us feel like we were at a field disco. 

Anyway we soon made our way out to watch the Kaiser Chiefs who of course put on an incredible show and were very high octane but again we left just before the end so we could get to a good position in the Glow tent for our finale of the night, the awesome Groove Armada DJ set.


We got right to the front, right in the centre of the Glow tent for the set. We were slightly disappointed that their was nothing to see on the set. Apart from the odd searching spot light or occasional strobe there were no stage visuals at all. However it didn't matter because the set was banging and we just enjoyed where the music took us and danced and danced and danced. It was hot steamy and sweaty. Fantastic end to a fantastic weekend. Kendal calling really was too delightful to have highlights, the whole things was awesome from beginning to end.

And what’s really stuck with us after returning, apart from the beauty, the bands, the hilarity and the people is the new playlists we have from the discovery of many new bands. And that is always nice.

My new playlist: Nick Malvey, The Owl Parliament, The Talks, Gypsies of Bohemia

Review & Photos: Lou Hyland