I’d only been home from my latest Himalayan expedition a few days, before another adventure began. The Kendal Mountain Festival might only last a few days in the eyes of the public, but to the organisers, planning a trip to the moon would be easier. The tsunami of e-mails that my inbox sank under took some sorting, but by the Thursday morning of the festival, I was ready to go.
Kendal is one of the leading Mountain Festivals in the world, and attracts films and speakers from across the globe. It opens in the high street, with an outdoor cinema show, where the weather was, for once, kind to us. I’ve stood in the pouring rain before and even seen last-minute screen changes due to high winds..! The crowd was huge and gave the festival a great start. I bumped into many old friends, and made some new, including fellow Derbyshire Climber Squash Falconer. I was hugged by dozens of people in one evening, because of the recent press reports of my disappearance – I could get used to this..!
As a member of the core presenter team, we welcome new presenters to the festival. For many its the first time they have stood before an audience and spoken, so we try hard to watch them in action and coach where we can. A little constructive feedback can go a long way, and I got the ball rolling early by helping Gail, at her first festival. As everyone is a volunteer, they’ve already accepted the gauntlet when it comes to presenting, and many are initially nervous, but soon get into the swing of things.
Friday, brings for me the challenge of the festival – KMF for Schools. A cinema full of inquisitive eyes awaited me, and as soon as I mentioned Frostbite and amputations they lit up like floodlights..! I opened a number of family friendly films, before speaking about my mountaineering adventures. By the end of the session I was barefoot with ice axes, had my adapted shoes in pieces, and was running up and down the theatre the best that I could. I’ve always enjoyed enthusing youngsters to go into the outdoors and adventure, and by the barrage of questions that came, I think a few more will be out there…
People ask me ‘who do you want to see at the festival..?’ They expect the names of world-class mountaineers and stunning films, but I’ve done so much running around at previous events, that this year I wanted to catch up with old friends, enjoy some time out and relax. As a core presenter, we don’t get much downtime, but it was good to meet old friends in the bar, talk climbing and travels, and blow off a little steam. The pressure of my professional life needed clearing out a little more after my Nepal Avalanche Special…
No event can stay the same, it has to evolve. This year a new feature was the Video Jukebox, where anyone could ask to watch a film whilst sat in the comfort of an armchair. It was really like having your friends around for an evening, armed with some of the worlds best Mountaineering and Adventure films. And not a bad way at all to see highlights of the festival.
Over the weekend I opened a number of film sessions, armed with a very useful piece of KMF kit – my Brompton Bicycle. It’s a must when getting around the numerous venues. On the Saturday evening it proved a real boon as the weight of numbers filled many of the venues to breaking point. This is the only downfall of the festival. Its popularity is huge and the numbers of visitors are only increasing. We work very hard to help everyone find the films they are looking for and it’s here where the Video Jukebox comes into its own. Saturday evenings are always going to be the busiest time, so if you visit the festival in the future, spread you time around (if you can..!)
The weekend was generally mild and damp, but a little sunshine graced us on the Sunday morning. There were already plenty of smiles over the weekend, but they broadened as the warm rays bathed the town. Dozens of families seemed to appear from nowhere, and it was lovely to see so many youngsters enjoying the atmosphere of the event.
Over the weekend I had an interview with Martin Lewes of BBC Cumbria, caught up with Paul Walker (who I was in Greenland with earlier this year for the ICEman Polar Race), Alan Hinkes (still can’t get a pint out of him), was delighted to meet the legendary Jeff Lowe and his partner Connie, and catch up with Maxine Willett at Mountain Heritage Trust, Paul Diffley, Claire-Jane Carter, the legend that is Andy Perkins, and so many other wonderful folk. This might be a festival celebrating Mountaineering, but it is also a gathering of people. Wonderful and adventurous people.
Same time next year..?