Monday, 20 November 2017

Behind the scenes at Kendal Mountain Festival

Endurance, grit, determination, a drive to push yourself beyond the limits of your comfort zone and a willingness to face fear square in the face are just a few of the qualities you'll need to be a volunteer at Kendal Mountain Festival.

Having visited the festival for many years, this year we decided to get involved so we volunteered to help out a bit and see things from the others side.  We had an absolutely brilliant time.  Utterly exhausting but brilliant.  At one point I was sat in a film session where there was a Q&A with the film-makers who had survived untold challenges canoeing along the Amazon in a dugout boat (which they'd dugout themselves and documented in a film called Dugout).

They talked about how they'd survived the extremes of tiredness and hunger.  "That's nothing" I thought "I haven't had a hot dinner for 3 days and all that stands between me and the end of my shift in 8 hours are two Yorkie bars and a bag of mini Cheddars".  I should have listened to Jean - a seasoned volunteer who had wisely packed a tuna sandwich and had a rucksack full of enticing snacks.

So what does being a volunteer entail?  Well, pretty much anything and everything.  The amazing Kendal Mountain Festival (KMF) team are there to ensure everyone has a fantastic time at the festival and our job is to do whatever they need us to do in order to make that happen.  In exchange we got a rather lovely T shirt, a Hydroflask and a pass to get in to see films and events when we're not on shift.  Me & Steve absolutely LOVE watching the films at the festival so over the course of 4 days we worked 27 hours and also fitted in well over 15 hours of films, which didn't leave a lot of time for food.  Or sleep.  I knew exactly how the Dugout guys felt - bar the odd swarm of enormous ants and the occasional dog-sized spider.  (Of course we could have had more time to eat if we'd watched fewer films, but where would the fun have been in that?)  😀

Between us our duties encompassed:
  • Putting up bunting
  • Taking bunting down when an angry lady told us off for putting it in the wrong place
  • Giving out brochures
  • Answering questings
  • Acting as VIP drivers and ferry folks to the station and assorted hotels
  • Selling festival merchandise
  • Handing out passes and tickets to VIPs
  • Not recognising some VIPS and feeling bad about it later*
  • Picking up litter
  • Fetching a burger for Tom and trying not to lick it as it smelled so good
  • Giving out tickets at the opening ceremony
  • Taking tickets in again at the opening ceremony
  • Buying batteries
  • Putting said batteries into tealights
  • Putting up posters
  • Helping to pack stuff away again when it all ended
Another famous bloke
* A young guy arrived at the Summit Desk (VIP spot) when I was there alone.  I looked at him.  "I know I know you" I said "and I know you're a climber, but I'm so sorry, your name completely escapes me just now".  It was Pete Whittaker - one of the most talented climbers on the planet and thoroughly nice guy to boot.  If you don't know him take a look at this.  The man is a legend.

Pretty much everyone we met was utterly delightful, including world famous climbers and the occasional TV star.  The tetchiest person we met (apart from the scary bunting lady) was a journalist who shall remain nameless.  They wanted a lift from the Brewery Arts Centre to an event at the Leisure Centre (a distance of around a mile for those not familiar with Kendal).  Both pool cars were out and it would have been half an hour before we could take them over there.  They stared at me.  "I'm happy to walk you over there if you're unsure of the directions" I offered.  "I know where it is" they replied "but it rained on me one year and I don't want to get wet."  

What I wanted to say was "This is a mountain festival so dig deep and brave the drizzle".  What I actually said was "Would you like to take a seat and I'll see if I can find you a coffee while you wait?"  Sometimes I hate myself.

The entire KMF team were hugely appreciative of our efforts throughout, though special mention should go to Tom for his unending cheerfulness and Festival Manager Paul Scully who stopped to say thank you every time he passed a volunteer.  The KMF team were easy to spot as they were all sporting eco-friendly white down jackets from festival sponsors Columbia.  The jackets may have many fantastic features including being warm, waterproof and made from 21 recycled water bottles, but every time I saw 4 of them gathered together I started humming E17's Stay Another Day - all they needed were fur trimmed hoods.  (The whiteness is another eco-feature which avoids the use of coloured dyes)

Will we be back next year?  Absolutely - if they haven't been put off by me insulting world famous climbers and surreptitiously Googling other vaguely familiar faces and names.  It is one of the most exhausting, brilliantly fun weekends I've had in a long time.  I think I might even film our experience and enter it into the following year's event.  You want endurance mate? I'll give you endurance...

(And if you want to buy tickets, see what's on or volunteer next year just click here for more info)

The brilliant Dan Keeley

I'm calling this one "Psychohorizontal"

Absolutely no idea what Tom had just sat on...
My favourite film of the festival - just 5 minutes and guaranteed to make you smile.

MORE THINGS TO MAKE YOU SMILE - our books are packed with fun facts and fab photos - perfect as a pressie or just to treat yourself!  Click HERE to learn more!

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