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Kendal Mountain Festival 2023 – Life in a Northern Town…

I should have written this blog long ago, but recent weeks have passed in a blur.  After 38 years in professional engineering, I’ve retired and now wonder where I ever got the time to go to work..!  Finally, I’m sat at my keyboard and catching up with this ever-spinning world.  Here we go…

When the call from Kendal came, I knew that another weekend of action, chaos, laughter, and joy were on the cards.  I’m a seasoned presenter and always up for festival fun, but this year a slightly different request fell into my inbox.

The festival was approached by Kendal Town Council to ask if I would MC the Marketplace Christmas light switch on, complete with dancers, a choir, slack liner, parade, marching band, Father Christmas, fairground rides and the mayor.  How could I refuse..???

As I arrived in Kendal, I could feel the atmosphere building.  The town comes alive with thousands of folk piling in, filling the hotels and eating and drinking the place almost dry.  It’s a great boost to the economy at a time of year when the nights are dark and the weather changeable.  Thankfully the forecast was for a dry evening and that was enough for me.

The Christmas lights switch on was a great success with thousands filling the streets.  Traffic was brought to a standstill (sorry Helen Skeltern for making you late), and the atmosphere was full of joy.  Joy was the theme of this year’s festival and there was certainly plenty going around.  As I headed down the streets, people were laughing, and it felt good to have been a little part of the evening.

I’ve been presenting at the festival for over a decade and much has changed.  Evolution is a natural part of any event, and the Basecamp gets larger and larger.  Since the COVID Pandemic, the numbers attending events such as this have skyrocketed and I wasn’t surprised to hear that early on Friday morning, all the towns parking was filled. This was to be the norm for the weekend.

The Basecamp tent has once again expanded, and it was good to catch up with friends from Grangers, The Martin Moran Foundation, Sprayway, Montane, Ordnance Survey, Climbers Against Cancer, Plas Y Brenin and Community Action Nepal.  I’m still a man who prefers face to face meetings, rather than zoom or Teams, and the festival offers a great place to talk.  Lots of ideas and plans have been talked about and the next few months will bring great change. I used to run around the festival in my earlier years, trying to meet everyone and do everything. I’ve learned to take a much slower approach and catch up with good friends.

Highlights in the films for me were Winter 282, Reel Rock – Resistance Climbing, Une Belle Trace, Changabang – Return to the Shining Mountain and Nuptse. All brought home the realities of mountaineering life, with its ups, downs, dangers, and rewards. I presented five set of films in venues across town, closing my festival late on the Sunday evening with a ‘Best of Kendal’ session.  There were plenty of cheers, applause and standing ovations with filmmaker interviews galore over the weekend. I also enjoyed a wonderful catch up with festival awards creator Andy Parkin. Some friends from the Bassetlaw Hill and Mountain Club joined me in a festival of tweed as we donned our best vintage climbing gear. Apparently we caused quite a stir..!

The festival gets bigger and bigger every year and I wonder how much more it can grow.  Kendal is already bursting and the last thing I’d like to see is the festival outgrowing the town.  Several events local to myself have left their place of birth, or closed as they grew beyond their initial venues.

Right, time to get rid of the sodding cold I always bring home..!

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