Please can you tell us what Kendal is all about and how it will run this November?
‘Kendal’ has grown into the world’s largest Film, Speaker platform and gathering, covering the vast realm of outdoor content. The Festival attracts around 18k to 20k visitors to the town each year. It really is a keynote in the calendar for many outdoor communities, brands, organisations and activists. The public come to meet up with friends, strangers, peers and heroes; the industry gathers to scout new talent and garner the latest outdoor news stories; athletes and ambassadors visit to share their adventures and enjoy the vibrant social scene that often lasts into the wee small hours! It’s like a Glastonbury or Edinburgh Fringe of Outdoor.
Kendal Mountain Festival has been celebrating outdoor adventure and inspiring people for nearly 30 years! Can you tell us where did it all began and why?
Actually, Kendal celebrates its 40th anniversary this year! Way back in October 1980, Kendal hosted a new two-day event. Named the Kendal Mountaineering Film Festival, tickets were £5 and visitors were promised art, seminars, films, photography and importantly – ‘two bars’.
The original group of six who set up the event were Alan Evans, Jess Stock, Ian Wall, John Porter, Jim Curran and Brian Hall. Little did they know what they had started, or how influential the event would become. As John Porter subsequently said, “We started it in 1980 as an annual event, then went climbing for a while”, as the original idea was partly to raise funds for expeditions.
As the event grew in stature and popularity it attracted greater audience numbers, plus a veritable ‘who’s who’ from the world of climbing and mountaineering.
We’d love to hear more about your wonderful team behind the scenes and how/where you all operate…
Our organisation has grown rapidly and we’re now a team of 12 people based in our humble Kendal HQ in the centre of town. We are all from the outdoor world, some in a professional sense and all as passionate activists in various or multi-disciplines. We are an eclectic and neuro-diverse bunch of very creative people with backgrounds such as political science, creative writing, design, filmmaking, marketing, travel and events. We are 3 company directors, myself, my wife Jacqui Scott (our CEO) and Clive Allen.
Unfortunately we can’t not mention Coronavirus. 2020 has been such a whirlwind and it goes without saying we hope everyone at Team Kendal is safe and well. The uncertainty must have been hugely challenging for the team but I know we speak for many in saying we’re grateful you’re currently still able to go ahead with the November festival and the tour in a brand new format. Can you tell us more about the impact Coronavirus has had on your business, the festival as a whole and how on earth you’ve managed it all?
These are very worrying times for all. We are sensitive to the many challenges we all face in this pandemic. As an organisation, we’re striving to keep the business viable and the team in employment. Our event is also very valuable for our region bringing in an estimated £4m+ to the local economy each year.
Our loss in visitor ticket sales is significant however most of our valued brand partners have stuck with us to which we’re extremely grateful. The challenge to us is to open up ‘Kendal’ to a wider British (and global!) public over lockdown and through December. In my mind there isn’t a better Christmas gift for friends and family!
You’ve got an impressive list of partners spanning a number of industries all under the outdoor adventure umbrella and we’re very proud to be included in that group. Can you tell us why you chose to partner with Pala?
I first came across Pala when I visited an outdoor trade show in Germany a few years ago and instantly aligned to the brand story, company values and ethics. The community feel of Pala is very ‘Kendal’ and crucially the products are amazing (I didn’t take my glasses off this Summer!).
Every year KMF brings together some amazing, inspirational speakers and the tour has travelled far and wide to share the love for the great outdoors. Can you tell us about your speaker selection process and how you decide on the themes each year?
The whole team are constantly scouting for new talent and stories, we have an incredible network and address book of contacts from around the world. I’m lucky to have a who’s who of the outdoor world stored in my phone contacts (thanks goodness for ‘cloud storage’!).
Since joining KMF in 2004, can you give us some of your personal highlights and tell us which year was your favourite?
To be honest, the years somewhat blend into each other. Particular highlights are seeing the growth of the Specialist Sessions, which I initiated in 2005 to the large-scale events they are today. There’s also the host of incredible guests who visit the event (over 100 each year) and some of these can be life-affirming and extremely inspirational.
What’s your secret to keeping things new and fresh every year?
We overlap in our planning and in some cases plan a year in advance, such are the logistical challenges in securing special guests and film premieres for the event. This enables us to be ahead of the curve in some situations. We also all look to other events and diverse creative sources for inspiration that might just influence our direction. The team are constantly brainstorming new ideas and challenging each other with new thinking for our sector.
Finally, please can you give us a flavour of what’s to come for KMF 2021 and beyond…
Firstly, I really hope we can all get some normality to our lives next year. We’ve planned an incredible come-back tour that kicks off in February around the UK. We’re developing new overseas partnerships for our touring content plus we will launch our Kendal Mountain TV channel online in early 2021. The work we are currently doing in the digital realm will I’m sure, set us in good stead for the future and next year’s event will inevitably be a fusion of live and digitally streamed content.
Thanks so much for talking to us about all things KMF Steve! Bring on the festival!
Thank you – and for your ongoing support. From all of our team, we really do appreciate your encouragement and kind words about the event (big smile).
Photos copyright Kendal Mountain Festival.
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