REVIEW: Kendal Calling 2012 @ Lowther Deer Park, July 27th to 29th

Words & pictures by Kevin Nobin (

I arrived at Kendal Calling having been three times before, yet never staying onsite. And on seeing the preceding weather in Cumbria, this year was going to be no different. Festival campsites tend to scrimp on their concierge service – especially in the mud.

Set against the Lake District backdrop of Lowther Deer Park, Kendal Calling is one of the smaller festivals on the circuit.

Perfectly juxtaposing the intimacy of a ‘gig feel’ with a ‘stadium vibe’, KC hosts several  smaller stages offering smaller acoustic sets, alongside a suitable platform for the main acts – with some of this year’s headliners performing for KC’s 7000+ crowd in the death rattle of their career. A cynical observation? Maybe. But when was the last time you heard the words James plays to sell out audience’?

But KC’s solid mix bill means there really is something for everyone; whether it be Lucy Rose’s acoustic guitar filling out the small but perfectly formed Chai Wallah tent, or Dizzee Rascal following Shed Seven (interesting scheduling there) for the Saturday night main act.

The 2012 line up seemed fairly family orientated; 90’s bands like Shed Seven and James blended in with more contemporary sounds of Little Comets and Various Cruelties. And apparently KC is THE festival for both parents of the Nirvana generation, and their subconsciously influenced kids who downloaded ‘Nevermind’ (Ed – had my first copy on a TDK 90).

So what about the crowd-pullers? Maximo Park headlining on the opening night had a solid following within the crowd, as a spattering of Clockwork Orange clad fans mimicked animated lead singer Paul Smith belting out the hits ‘Apply Some Pressure’ and ‘Velocity’, alongside tracks from their latest album – ‘The National Health’.

Dizzee Rascal, headlining the Saturday night, was riding the momentous crest of a wave from performing at the Olympics Opening ceremony; as the adrenaline continued to course through his performance, the crowd were treated to a display of pyrotechnics, lasers and fireworks.

However, the Main Stage closing night finale belonged to James; big(ish) in the 90’s, and eagerly anticipated by the mid 30 males in old tour t-shirts, who one can only hope were in better shape when they bought them (Ed – the t-shirts or the blokes?).

Watching James, however, felt like watching a band at the start of their demise. Plus they insisted on all rights to any professional photography, meaning we couldn’t cover their set freely. I refused to sign, and was so angry I paused the torrent download of their 1990 album, ‘Gold Mother’. 

(Ed – this a shitty industry caveat some bands carry, forcing all photography to be signed over to their PRs, management or label. Birmingham Review believes in a free press and will not sign over gig images. If you’re interested – Google ‘Stone 

Roses Photography Boycott’) 

Overall, Kendal Calling is good at what it does; introducing both punters and bands to the festival scene by not being too hardcore and recognising it’s place. It’s a stepping stone and, dare I say it, elephant’s graveyard; allowing young and old a happy introduction to the festival circuit.

This balance could be why Kendal Calling has won awards, sold out each year, and attracted a cross section of artists to play. All they need to do now is guarantee the weather; or open an onsite hotel.

Kendal Calling is held at the end of July every year. For more on the festival, visit