Kendal Calling
Lowther Deer Park, Cumbria
27-29 July 2012

Another magical weekend of music and mischief in Cumbria’s fields has come to a close – we take a look back at a few of the highlights of this year’s Kendal Calling.

At first there was sunshine, then there was rain but what did a few showers matter? With so many festivals being pulled in 2012 the important thing was that we were here, together, in the fields for Kendal Calling.

Taking over Lowther Deer Park for the weekend the Kendal Calling crew transform the fields and woodland into a magical arena of musical delights. This is still a small festival, although it’s growing, and is rapidly becoming the Glastonbury of the North West with performance, fancy dress and an amazing line up over an increasing number of stages.

2012 saw Maximo Park, Dizzee Rascal and James take on main stage headlining duties over the three day festival. They were joined by hundreds of other bands and performing throughout the festival.

This year a new Woodland Stage was added – an intimate clearing in the trees by the lake which played host to bands during the day and the silent disco every night.

Also added was the Tim Peaks Diner. Making use of one of the permanent log cabins on the site it was transformed for the weekend into a real life version of the meeting place The Charlatans’ front man Tim Burgess created on Twitter. As well as serving up coffee, tea, Totes Amazeballs cereal and damn fine cherry pie the diner hosted bands, DJs and poets throughout the festival including stunning performances from Roddy Frame, Edwyn Collins, Tim Burgess, Hatcham Social and The Gramotones.

The jamming and solo sets from Roddy, Edwyn and Tim were a real pleasure to witness. The diner was packed – standing room only and people peering in at the windows as throughout Saturday the three performed solo sets, jammed together, got the crowd to help out and chatted to compere Dave Haslam. One of the highlights of the festival for those lucky enough to catch it.

The main stage on Friday had the likes of The Minx and The Correspondents on throughout the afternoon warming up the gathering crowd for bass pumpin, sample heavy sets from DJ Yoda and Scroobius Pip. From the front line to those way back on the hill beneath the tree there was dancing and smiling and arms in the air action.

Maximo Park closed the first day on the main stage with a mix of old favourites including Going Missing and Girls with Guitars through their second album crowd-pleasers including Penultimate Clinch and a few new ones from recent album The National Health including lead single Hips and Lips. Singer Paul Smith in trademark suit and hat leapt around the stage working the crowd into a frenzy as the sun dropped below the horizon and paper lanterns and fairy lights lit the arena trees.

There was much going on across the festival on Friday too with memorable sets on the Calling Out Stage by Hatcham Social and Little Comets both bringing their own brand of indiepop to the slightly mud fields of revellers.

Saturday meant fancy dress day – this year with a theme of comic book or fairytale characters – adding a surreal feel to the festival and yet fitting perfectly with the setting. As many Little Red Riding Hoods and Big Bad Wolfs roamed the site crossing paths with Batmans, Spider-Mans and Poison Ivys the music got going again.

Kendal Calling – festival live review

Utah Saints and Toddla T had the dance tent bouncing while Dodgy and Shed Seven got everyone singing along in the sun and showers in front of the main stage.

Hot band of the moment Toy took to the Calling Out stage early evening and hit the growing crowd with a wall of sound, pounding out their krautrock and psychedelia inspired indierock. This was the sort of set which pulled at your solar plexus, the bass and drums making your insides expand and contract, the guitars exciting your very being while the keyboards hypnotised. Absolutely breathtaking, bone-shaking renditions of singles Left Myself Behind and Motoring meant the initially small crowd was filling the tent by the end of the set.

The sun went down, darkness fell and from the main stage came the call of dirty bass, grinding beats and spiralling raps – Dizzee Rascal was here to get the whole festival in the party mood. Glow sticks were fetched out and the anoraked masses bounced, raved and whooped along to his set which included mass sing-alongs of crowd friendly hits like Dance Wiv Me and Holiday as well as versions of his Brits collaboration with Florence Welsh You Got the Love and closing the night by making everyone reach for the lasers as glitter cannons, pyrotechniques and a barrage of bass accompanied Bonkers.

It was a memorable set and there is no doubt that he got everyone jumping. His social commentary, sparse earlier material and moments where he let his DJ go solo perhaps perplexed and lost the momentum for the more casual fans in the crowd but his talent is not to be underestimated and this was a winner of a headline act.

Sunday then and the willful ignorance that the magic is coming to an end. There was a plethora of musical distractions though to wile away the last few hours in the fields. Twisted Wheel opened the main stage ahead of The Lancashire Hotpots – Cumbria’s answer to the Wurzels and blinding sets from We Are Scientists and the Inspiral Carpets.

Kendal Calling – festival live review

We Are Scientists went down well with the crowd playing hits from all three of their albums and Chris bantering with the crowd. Singer Keith was quieter than usual and his usually smooth and effortless vocal had an edge by the end, belying the recent throat issues he’s had which led to the cancellation of some of their non-festival UK dates. The audience bounced along with Great Escape, After Hours and Nobody Move with smiles on their faces and flowers in their hair.

And then the Inspiral Carpets. Looking fresh in Fred Perrys and smiles all round they took to the stage and thrilled with hits, new one You’re So Good For Me and a couple of real oldies. The crowd went wild for big hits including Joe, She Comes in the Fall, I Want You, This Is How It Feels to be Lonely and closer Saturn 5.

Kendal Calling – festival live review

Martyn Walsh stood defiently at the front of the stage grinning throughout while Clint Boon and Stephen Holt became a sort of joint, mega-frontman with Steve on singing duties and Clint smiling as the crowd chanted ‘Boon Army’ and mooed inbetween songs. Graham Lambert axed out the riffs while Craig Gill grinned and went crazy with the back beat.

Festival sound is never perfect but even up close the vocals could have been higher in the mix and Stephen’s voice is steadier, stronger and surer than during their own tour earlier in the year. It was all a thrill though, the Farfisa the air whistling past your ears as you fall down the rabbit hole into this soundscape of psychedlia from a band revisiting their garage roots.

Feeder and James did their thing and did it well to close the main stage while the Calling Out stage came to a sticky, swampy end, the crowd dancing and grinding in the mud of the tent to the bluegrass rhythms of Vintage Trouble.

Kendal Calling – festival live review

Finally Craig Charles finished off the whole thing, taking revellers into the night on the Chai Wallahs stage as he Djd a live version of his funk and soul show.

This is a festival of magic, a festival of smiles and a festival that knows how to have fun and feel the love between artists, audience and organiser.

The little touches around the arena – buttons on trees to activate a strobe to give a spontaneous rave zone, a hidden bar to which you had to find clues, roaming face painters and the fun of fancy dress – really make this something special and serve only to highlight how commercial many of the big festivals have become.

Next summer seems a long way off but I don’t think it’s too early to look forward with hope and happiness to Kendal Calling 2013. See you in the fields, yeah?

All images by Elspeth Moore. More from Elspeth on LTW here.

All words by Sarah Lay. You can read more from Sarah on LTW here or follow her on Twitter.

We’ll be bringing you fuller reviews and interviews with Tim Burgess, Toy and the Inspiral Carpets from Kendal Calling over the next few days so keep an eye on LTW. 

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Sarah is a former editor of Louder Than War and a freelance music writer for numerous other publications online and in print. Co-owner of Reckless Yes Records she has put out music by LIINES, Pet Crow and lots of other awesome bands as well as put on shows by bands including Bivouac, Mark Morriss, Desperate Journalist and Dream Nails. She's an author, user experience designer and digital content strategist, as well as an occasional broadcaster. Sarah is a compulsive collector of coloured vinyl, a believer in the boogie and is in love with possibilities.


  1. Lancashire hotpots….httpss:// i think from Lancashire not Cumbria….

  2. Great review of a very enjoyable festival, Sarah. I had the honour of being Poet Laureate for the festival this year. My specially commissioned poem “When Kendal Calls” was in 15,000 programmes and can be heard at httpss:// Along with the bigger bands, my personal highlights included up-and-coming Manchester bands Naymedici, I Am Blackbird and The Gramotones – be sure to check ’em out, folks! Cheers.


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