You'd think that anyone organising an outdoor event in the Lake District in August would make adequate provision to prepare for what is the second rainiest month of England's wettest region. Especially if they grew up in the area and could be under no illusions as to its damp climate. But arriving in an already soggy field on the first day of Kendal Calling last Friday, our hearts sank to discover that preparations for a wet weekend in a field with 4,000 people amounted only to a couple of rugs and a laughable sprinkling of straw. Before the gates had even opened to the public, all the major paths were churned up with mud, and the vain hope of some sunshine to dry things out quickly evaporated. As the weekend went on, the grounds of this fledgling festival (now in its third year) went through all the imaginable stages of muddiness - from slippy to slick to sticky to something resembling the Battle of the Somme by Sunday evening. I've done muddy festivals before (Glastonbury 97/98 and Roskilde 2003 spring to mind as particularly hellish examples), and can put up with it if the musical offerings are sufficiently distracting. Unfortunately for Kendal Calling, two of their headline acts (The Long Blondes and Mystery Jets) pulled out at the last minute, leaving Dizzee Rascal (so not my cup of tea) as the only major crowd-puller, unless you count Cumbrian natives (now based in Brighton) British Sea Power, who were not on until Sunday night, by which point a fair few weary festival-goers (including us) had already bailed.
Ant and I took one look at the bedraggled (and stupidly steep) camping fields on Friday afternoon and got straight on the phone to Auntie Judith, who kindly offered us a bed for the weekend, up the road in Ambleside. This meant that one of us had to drive back each night, but at least we could have a hot shower and a decent night's sleep in between traisping through mud. We caught a few good bands over the course of the weekend - Babyhead, Three Daft Monkeys and The Witch and the Robot stand out - but were underwhelmed by the festival as a whole. Not wanting to go into detail, the toilet situation was worse than at any festival I've been to recently; and little imagination had been put into the site layout or any non-musical activities. With so-called 'boutique' festivals like Latitude and Green Man raising the bar in recent years, festival organisers really need to start thinking outside the box in order to compete. Our trek up North was far from wasted though, as we got to spend quality time with family - including a tranquil afternoon of tea and cakes at Stuart and Lotta's beautiful cottage by Lake Windermere, a couple of excellent meals out (The Jumble Room in Grasmere and Zeffirelli's in Ambleside) and a look around the prestigious annual Lake Artists exhibition. Lunch with Gran and the in-laws in Preston on the way home rounded off a very pleasant, if musically disappointing, few days.
More photos from Kendal Calling at: www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar/sets/72157606562798971