So, you’re a music fan. I’m not talking disposable tokenistic pop rubbish. I’m talking about actual talent: bands and artists who play their own instruments, write thought provoking, toe-tapping songs themselves and actually sing live without the support of a mass of well-groomed backing singers or digital auto-tune devices. But, let me guess, the closest you get to listening to real music these days, since having kids, is your treasured Spotify playlist (when, of course, you finally manage to turn In The Night Garden off). It doesn’t have to be this way!
Anyone who has followed us over the last few months will have seen our four part guide to taking kids to festivals (if you missed it, the links are at the end of this article). Hopefully, then, you’ll already know there are a raft of family friendly festivals out there ready to welcome you and your critters with open arms each festival season. So, last weekend, together with some family, friends and their little critters, we headed up to the Lake District and Lowther Deer Park, to our current personal favourite, the awesome Kendal Calling.
Taking place over four nights in late July, Kendal Calling has an eclectic mix of dedicated kids’ area, pop up theatre, stand up comedy, art installations and performances, live interviews, cinema tent, and a wonderful themed fancy dress carnival that takes place every year on the Saturday. My God, you can even have massage treatments and attend yoga classes in one of the woodland yurts while you’re there!
However, Kendal Calling is still first and foremost a music festival. And boy, did the line-up please this year! Being a teenager in the 90s, I’m unashamedly an indie kid. So, stick Noel Gallagher, The Charlatans, Catfish and the Bottlemen and Blossoms on the bill and I’m already toe-tapping with excitement.
This year’s line-up was brilliant. Although, to our delight, the bill was indie heavy, it also offered a little bit of something for everyone. From the Sugarhill Gang blasting out Rappers Delight and Apache (Jump on it), to Madness prompting a mass sing along with It Must Be Love, to DJs I’m not cool enough to know, entrancing revellers in the Glow Tent, Kendal Calling offers, arguably, one of the best line ups of any medium sized music festival anywhere.
Having paid the extra fee for a Thursday entry, we made the long journey from north Wales up to the Lake District at the crack of dawn. It was well worth it though. We arrived just after the 9am opening and literally drove straight in…no queues whatsoever! Arriving so early also meant that, once we’d packed the Potty Adventures festival wagon with the first load of gear, we made our way over to a nearly empty family campsite, and had our pick of the best spots. Not too close to the loos (nobody wants to get downwind of those when the poo wagon comes to suck them clean every morning, believe me!), but not too far away either when you have a bladder the size of a peanut. Selecting your pitch is a very tactical affair!
Despite securing our perfect pitch, this is where our luck began to change. A few days earlier, I’d mentioned to Nat that I wasn’t sure we’d reattached the groundsheet of our ZIG-style bell tent. Somehow, we managed to convince each other I had. Of course I hadn’t. And now the heavens opened! Struggling to reconnect the canvas to the groundsheet via the zip while torrential rain soaked us resulted in one thing: a tent with puddles in it! As an experienced camper and outdoor enthusiast I was furious with my rookie mistake.
Fortunately, as I went back to the car for the second load of gear, Nat did an amazing job (albeit with my shower towels!) mopping up the extra lake that we’d created for the district. Not the ideal start, but we were set up and raring to go nonetheless.
By late Thursday afternoon, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. And it stayed out! We lit a BBQ, sat round with a couple of beers while the kids ran each other ragged around our tents, before watching Ash and The Charlatans on the main stage in the evening. At the main stage one immediate improvement from last year became apparent, where the organisers had created a large area of woodchip on the floor to the right of the stage that became notoriously boggy last year. In fact, at one point last year there were two lads with toy rods pretending to fish, the puddles were that large. None of that this year.
After the exertions of the first day, we were all glad we had paid the extra money to be able to use the upgraded ‘Club Class’ shower and pamper facilities. Even during busy period there was barely a wait for the men’s showers. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the female showers. The women in our group adopted the tactic of going later in the day or very early in the morning, which significantly reduced their wait time. However, next year, I hope the people behind Club Class recognise they simply need more female shower units. That said, the showers were great and instantly warm, while the pamper room was very well stocked with hairdryers, hair straighteners and mirrors, meaning queues here were never an issue.
Following our shower and pamper, Friday began with a visit to the kids’ area where our critters were busy making masks and musical shakers ready for Saturdays carnival. The kids’ area itself seemed slightly larger this year and they also had a much larger canvas tipi-style marquee to play host to the craft tables and activities, all of which were well resourced and staffed. There were also far more circus activities and contraptions available this year, meaning that, even when it was busy, no critters were left waiting for something to become free.
So, from hula-hooping and juggling, to stilt walking and uni-cycling, little performers could spend hours mastering them all. The kids’ area also had giant inflatables, ball pits, a baby tent with sensory activities, a disco tent, face painting, and family-only loos and baby changing facilities. As ever, EVERYTHING in Kids Calling was free. Winner!
As well as watching bands like We Are Scientists, Catfish and the Bottlemen and Rudimental on the Friday, we also wandered up through Lost Eden and the Woodlands. Here you find an amazing collection of art and performance in a truly wonderful outdoor setting.
After 9pm, it really comes alive as new routes to explore open up in the dark and everything is given a magnificent LED makeover. It really is an awe-inspiring place at night so, allowing them to stay up beyond their normal bed times, we watched as our critters marvelled at the giant luminous bugs and spider webs. One fantastic addition this year was the graffiti wall, which we all really hope is back again next year!
Saturday is traditionally fancy dress day at Kendal Calling and this year the theme was ‘carnival of colour’. Each of us donning our costumes, we made our way to the cinema tent meeting point to be greeted by the awesome Mr Wilson’s Second Liners (a Mardi Gras meets 90s club classics band), a giant dragon and a group of Day of the Dead backing dancers. Walking through the festival site, as part of the carnival parade, joined by so many others in colourful fancy dress, was a real highlight for our entire group. The kids loved it and we loved it.
On Sunday morning we headed back over to Kids Calling again to watch the brilliant Fabularium perform their pop up theatre show ‘Reynard the Fox. I’m not joking when I say that the kids in our group are only ever quiet when they’re asleep, and sometimes not even then! Well, they were mesmerised! The performance was witty and musical with great costumes and staging. It lasted for well over an hour and it was family time very well spent. It’s quirky little shows such as this, and the frequency of them, that really show just how family friendly Kendal Calling is.
Maximo Park and the very funny and entertaining Lancashire Hotpots lit up the main stage on Saturday so, by the time Sunday night swung by, we had seen some great live performances. Everything Everything did a great job of warming us up, but Sunday night belonged to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Performing a mixture of his solo work and some of his biggest Oasis songs, the crowd was packed, singing along and I don’t think there was one disappointed face in sight. It really was an incredible atmosphere.
Away from the music and more obvious forms of entertainment, Kendal Calling also has a great collection of bars and eateries. The dads always seemed to go to the toilets located near the Jagerhaus, no matter where they were in the festival, while the mums enjoyed cocktails at the gin bar located near the ever popular Tim Peaks Diner, which plays host to secret sets and interviews throughout the day. There was also an Argentine wine house and onsite craft beer festival where CAMRA were on hand to offer tasting sessions. At some festivals we’ve attended you see the same food and drink stalls repeated around the festival grounds. Not here. The food is equally varied with everything from Vegetarian Indian cuisine, to Texas Smokers. The choice and quality really is very good indeed.
So, overall, if you want a festival with a grown up musical line up to entertain the adults in your group, but also want to keep your kids fully engaged with a wide variety of dedicated children’s entertainment and activities, you really should check out Kendal Calling. Our group will be back next year, and it’s likely we’ll be even bigger!
If you’d like more information on the festival please check out their official page www.kendalcalling.com
If you missed our four part guide on taking kids to music festivals you can catch it here: