Ok, ok, so it’s over a week since the Kendal Mountain Festival finished for another year and the web is already full of blogs..! Time hasn’t been on my side over this last week as I’ve been enthusing school pupils to get into the outdoors and do, rather than surf, however here we go…
The life, love, laughter, late nights, chaos, cavorting and creativity of the Kendal Mountain Festival came around quick this year. I’d been preparing for weeks, printing out pages of notes, watching films and getting ready for the Tsunami to come, but no-matter how many years I’ve been working at the festival, it always brings surprises.
We’re a tight-knit festival team and I was thankful of that as my rail journey north was a disaster. Fires, cancellations and platform scrums delayed my arrival, but I was picked up at Oxenholme and sped to the opening ceremony and parade on time. Hundreds of people grabbed flags, bells and torches, creating a loud and vibrant start to the festival. I had get cracking, opening the Best of Kendal Past early on the Thursday evening, but I could tell straight away that it was going to be a bursting few days. The festival has expanded massively during my time and already thousands of people were beginning to pack out the town.
What’s left of my feet aren’t much good at running around these days, so I present, watch films and watch the people of the festival. By Friday the world seemed to have descended upon Base Camp and rightly so. This vibrant place has, for me, become the centre of the festival. It’s free, busy, colourful, loud and full of fun.
So much goes on that I’d struggle to write it all down, so here are a few highlights from the weekend…
I caught up with fellow mountaineer and author Matt Dickinson. We both speak and work in education and love enthusing youngsters to not only adventure, but to also write about their experiences.
I compared the Findra Everyday Adventures session with Tom Hill, Jo Moseley, Julia Hobson, Graham (Beardy) Kelly and Katie Hall. All have adventures which fit in with their busy lives, and the session highlighted the fact that many of us in the outdoors don’t have a silver spoon inside our mouths. We have to work and then enjoy the outdoors in our free time. We also explored what the word ‘adventure’ really means and the effect that Social Networking has on the outdoors. It was a lively and well attended session with lots of audience interaction.
Ultra-runner Brendon Leonard not only shared some real home truths about training and running, but also had his audience in stitches. His straightforward approach to life was a refreshing change to the world of strict coaching and training. He just enjoyed himself and surely that what life is all about. I’d highly recommend you catch him onstage if you can.
The crowds in my sessions were wonderful and applauded every film as it closed. Films such as Ascending Afghanistan (Best Culture), This Mountain Life (Best Visual) and La Congenialità – The Attitude of Gratitude (Best Mountaineering) went down a storm with crowds of people enjoying their stories. Stories, surely that’s what films are all about..? The technical side is fine, drone work is ok and 10 GoPro’s are good, but surely every film needs a story..? To me, a story makes all the difference.
There were quite literally hundreds of films at the festival and I can only see so many before my eyes go square, but one brought a personal and touching moment for me. The film was AMA by Julie Gautier which won ‘Best Short’ at the festival and rightly so. I felt tired and footsore as I sat with my lap top before me in the corner of the media room. Outside the festival was in full swing with people bustling, films playing and speakers preaching. Beside me was a welcome cup of coffee, which filled my dull sense of smell with its pungent aroma. I put on my headphones and pressed play. The next six minutes transformed me from the festival world to a place I’ve strived to find for so long – inner peace. The music and movement of the film absorbed my fatigue and allowed me to shed a few quiet tears. My mind emptied itself of distraction and felt strangely still as more tears fell from my eyes. For a few blissful moments I drifted away until the world slowly returned. I packed my bag and walked silently through the crowds as if on air, no-one aware of my state, although my reddened eyes probably gave me away. It’s hard to describe the beauty of that afternoon, but if you’ve felt it yourself, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
And so, another festival was done. My sombrero was packed away (if you were there, you’ll understand), my feet were exhausted and my eyelids heavy. Many of us give everything over the festival weekend and spend the next week recovering. I’d caught up with precious friends, put the world to rights with them and felt ready for the next challenge to come. Surgery is on the horizon and a very peaceful festive season looks to be coming my way.
The ghost of mountains past is catching up with me and I’m going to be out of action for a few weeks – well, until the next mountain calls…