Live Review: Kendal Calling Festival, Lowther Deer Park, Penrith [28th to 31st July 2022]

By John Hayhurst
By August 4, 2022 August 7th, 2022 Event, Live, Reviews, Spotlight


Kendal Calling 2022 – A magnificent return back to the fields for this superb lakelands festival. Seen through the eyes of a festival and camping newbie.

Words Iain McClay

Photos John Hayhurst (@snapagig)

Having never been to Kendal Calling before and also having never camped in my life either, but as my neighbour and Soundsphere photographer John Hayhurst hasn’t stopped rabbiting on about how great it is, I decided to give it a go, he’s a veteran of being “in the fields”, I approached it with a mix of excitement and nervousness.

Excitement as I’d looked at the line up and seen a few bands I really wanted to see, a few I’d heard might be good and loads I’d never heard of (I love discovering a great new band) and also because Kendal has a very strong reputation as a friendly, relaxed and enjoyable festival. Nervousness because as I mentioned above, I’ve never camped in my life and didn’t really know how I would cope, as I do like my bed and a good shower.

However….I LOVED IT! Some of the best 4 days of my life. The line up turned out to be even stronger than I expected, the Oktoberfest tent (in July) was an excellent new addition for this year, and the choice and variety of food available was tremendous.

I quickly adapted to tent life and actually began to enjoy it, but you have to be prepared for disrupted sleep and if I heard a fellow nearby camper shout ‘I swear to god…..’ one more time on the Friday night/Saturday morning I might have been taken away for GBH!

My buddy John struggled a bit to begin with, because when we entered the arena he found the entire site had been rearranged from previous years, the main stage had become a new ‘Parklands’ Indoor Tent Stage and a new Main Stage had been put at the bottom of quite a big slope. Personally I thought it all worked really well. The sloping ground and natural bowl shape meant that everyone was able to move around to get to a good view of the main stage, as long as the chair w*nkers haven’t blocked your way through.

Both the Parklands and Calling Out Stages were fantastically well presented inside, I’d never seen such décor on the ceilings of tents before, they were festooned with animals, colourful designs and so much other decoration that they almost demanded more attention that the artists playing there, even the mud that developed over the course of Saturday into Sunday didn’t detract from the effort that went into presenting this festival, other festivals should take note, Kendal Calling just raised the bar here!

I do have one suggestion for improvement for next year, Kendal is a family friendly festival which includes people of all types, but there was only a viewing platform for those in wheelchairs etc for the main stage, I witnessed people in wheelchairs trying to go into both Parklands and Calling out and struggling, not being able to see, being crowded and made to feel uncomfortable, perhaps next year viewing platforms could be introduced to the back of both tents as they are certainly big enough to accommodate them.

As well as the main stages we also spent some time at the noisy Earache Records takeover on the Yam Riot tent and at the stage in the Woodlands area and various other venues, all of which provided yet another facet to Kendal and were well worth visiting. The nightlife alone was worth the ticket price and if you want a DJ evening into the early hours then the Glow stage area is just for you.

So enough about all that, what about the music? Well It was AWESOME!! From the Hacienda Classical on the Thursday night with a surprise appearance from Bez and his Maracas, through to Sunday’s explosive closing act on the main stage – Bastille, I saw so many great artists and also so much weirdness as well that I couldn’t have asked for any more.

I found an unexpected phenomena in Jamie Webster (who knew he had such a large, passionate and politically engaged following – I’d never heard of him!) and Henge (I’m still trying to work out just what I saw, dancers dressed as mushrooms, thousands of years old singers, aliens…). Fantastic bands that were new to me such as Baby Queen and Dead Pony, other new acts I suspect I will grow to love such as Delilah Bon and Stone, and revisited some artists I knew would be brilliant like Sophie Ellis Bextor, The K’s, Supergrass, Milly Manders and the Shut Up, Elvana, The Vaccines and the Stereophonics.

I worked out over the course of the weekend I saw 35 acts, I am not going to review all of them individually but if I had to pick my top five it would include Baby Queen, Dead Pony, Elvana, The K’s and Milly Manders and the Shut Up, but I genuinely didn’t see any act that I didn’t enjoy or think had some talent to them.

My main regret is there were a few I wanted to see – but didn’t make it, Pigs x7 for instance but fatigue caught up with me, there were also times I had to make choices due to clashes, did I always make the right choice? I’m not so sure, but when Elvana were as good as they were, sometimes you just don’t want to leave. I did feel sorry for Gabrielle, she was fantastic, what a singer and what an entertainer but she was up against the Women’s Euros Final being shown in the Oktoberfest tent and the atmosphere there was incredible.

A special mention has to go to the Lancashire Hotpots, a Sunday afternoon tradition at Kendal Calling and one of the most enjoyable acts of the whole weekend. There were easily 10,000 people at the main stage for their family friendly act at one o’clock on Sunday afternoon, everyone knew the words, the setlist, no-one left disappointed! They truly are the perfect festival experience, congas, dad dancing, dinosaurs and chippy teas, what’s not to like?

My first Kendal Calling, won’t be my last, in fact I’ve already booked my ticket for next year, and you should do too – get to now as they went on sale at 10am this morning and the super early bird tickets have already sold out. You can join me “In The Fields” in 2023.

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