The warm and wet autumn brought the risk of severe flooding in Kendal. Not good for the festival I thought, although it would bring the adventurous aspect of the weekend close to home..!
The drive north was interspersed with sunshine, driving rain and road works, but as darkness fell, I entered the town. I never have much time to tour the sights as distractions spring from every angle, but such is the life of a core presenter. The core crew met at the Brewery Arts Centre for the first meeting (of many) and caught up. Many of us are old hands, but from this point on the festival is full on, ever evolving and exhausting, but in a good way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people working in such creative environments will drive themselves hard, harder than most and still have a beaming smiles to compliment their tired eyes. Their hearts will be full of joy even if their limbs are aching.
The opening ceremony was wet and windy, but this is Kendal. As ever, whatever the conditions, the streets were packed. A few of the shorter films were shown with Andy Perkins doing his usual job of entertaining the crowd, before the main part of the festival began on the Friday morning. Believe me, it began with a Bang. I’ve spoken at Kendal for Schools twice before as I love enthusing youngsters to get outdoors. The festival is famed for its big budget, dramatically shot epics, but I was heartened to see films shot by Dad, and put together by Mum and Dad. They were based on family adventures and bring the festival back to its original roots. Many of us were, and continue to be inspired by our family days out, walks and climbs. I certainly wouldn’t have travelled across the world if my mum and dad hadn’t taken those first outdoor steps with me in the Peak District.
The rain was replaced by cold skies and sunshine, and I wondered if winter had finally made an appearance. I love bright frosty autumnal mornings, as they fill my eyes with such beautiful colours. Though the wet weather had held many leaves onto the trees, the rain had been dismal. Suddenly there was wall to wall down clothing in Kendal, although a great deal of it looked far too new and untouched..! I think climbers are getting soft…
Nothing can stay the same. Even the most traditional stalwarts have to understand that time moves onward and the revised Base Camp Tent was a huge success. The principle was similar to previous years, but a whole new design and style brought hundreds of people in. The theme was built on Pallets and prayer Flags, reminding us that Nepal is still reeling from the earthquake it suffered earlier this year. The centre had free lectures, displays and music all weekend. It ran like a Kendal Fringe and it was lovely to see families everywhere, bringing the next generation of climbers and adventurers into the festival.
The film and speaker programme was relentless and I spent most of Saturday running in-between events, opening films and hating literary events. A shining event was listening to Peter Gillman speaking about the dramatic 1966 winter climb on the Eiger North Face. He was a young reporter for the Sunday Times and wrote about the fateful climb which cost John Harlin his life. He spoke with great humility and honesty about the climb from an age when national newspapers sent reporters to write the story and telephone it in. A far cry from this modern world of the internet. I feel we have lost much to the sacrifice of speed as a good reporter crafts a story, rather than compresses it into a single paragraph or 140 characters.
Crowds packed the Saturday evening, but that’s nothing new. I presented late films, including Tom, the story of Tom Ballard, son of the late Alison Hargreaves. His story struck a chord with me as Alison and I went to the same school and both became climbers. The film opened with touching images of Alison and her young family, before moving onto Toms quest to climb all the Alpine North Faces in a single winter season. He’d already climbed the North Face of the Eiger as Alison was six months pregnant during her ascent. He’s singular, driven and determined, which is excellent for a climber, but I feel the blinkers need to come off, if he is to survive in life.
Sunday brought sunshine and frost, before the Andy and Ella Kirkpatrick show..! I’d opened the Family Adventure morning, before handing over to this father and daughter double act. They break so many presenting rules – planning, preparation and organisation for starters, but they feed off each other so well that the audience doesn’t mind. They have the ability to create interest and comedy from their stories and cross many age groups as they adventure as a family. I introduced Andy in is formal (I say that with a huge pinch of salt) lecture before I began to wind down. My festival was coming to an end and I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon catching up with friends and letting what’s left of my feet recover. They were tired, aching and fatigued (a bit like the rest of me). It was time to put them up and for once, watch the world go by.
Why do I come back every year..? Kendal is not a local event, takes up huge amounts of time and wears me out. It does however have some wonderful moments where I catch up on the world of adventure, see some wonderful films, speakers and events and meet old friends. I walked into an old friend I’d last seen on a Raleigh International Expedition in Chile during 1994..!
Regardless of the media madness, it’s the human moments that make a festival. We are creatures whom rely on human contact, smiles, hugs and laughter. That’s impossible to feel from a digital perspective…