Merry Christmas and a happy new year from all of us at Kendal Calling! We hope you’ve had a lovely break, whether that involved catching up and partying with family and friends or taking it easy over the holidays.

It is New Years Eve as I sit down and type. To me, this day always feels like a nowhere land, a day of waiting for evening festivities to begin, which lends itself well as a time of reflection and a perfect moment to pen an update. It wasn’t always so – this day 5 years ago we were busy prepping for the biggest New Years Party I’ve ever attended – when Everything Everything and Tom Grennan took to the stage for the inaugural Kendal Calling New Years Eve Party. A few months before the big night I was travelling to the venue when my taxi driver launched into his reasons why ‘no-one goes out on New Years Eve anymore’. To hear this in the height of summer was rather ironic because I hadn’t actually told him I was heading to the venue to sign a contract to host a New Years Eve party. Fortunately I held my nerve, we didn’t listen to him and come the big night many thousands of you came down and we had an evening to remember! One special person in particular travelled from Whitehaven for the show, and I’m so happy to say that since meeting for the first time that night, we’ve been together as a couple for 5 years. This is one of the many joys of live music – the magic of bringing people together.

Speaking of music, you may recall that we lost a headliner in our last newsletter. After an incredibly frustrating couple of weeks, we’re thrilled to tell you that the Saturday night headline spot has been filled, and we’re confident you’ll love it.

We know this will likely prompt a lot of comments asking, “Can’t you tell us now?” and as tempting as it is, we always like to bring the majority of the bill together before we reveal the line up and we’ve still finalising the last few slots. It’s been a trickier year than most to ensure a fun, varied and exciting line up – but we always relish the challenge and it’s shaping up to be an absolute cracker!

The reasons for this difficulty are many and varied, with no simple solution. Just the other day, Nile Rodgers said that no modern record label would have allowed David Bowie to blossom into a star due to financial pressures since the advent of streaming, as the lack of funds reduces appetite to take risks. Another factor, the lack of rehearsal rooms, is cause for concern. When I used to live in Manchester, my walk each day saw me pass 3 different rehearsal rooms, with music pouring out of various windows making a kind of musical soup. As recording studios are often in low cost, industrial areas these are seen as prime sites for redevelopment; sad to say the rehearsal rooms I bopped past have all closed down and been renovated into apartments, famed for their proximity to live music venues.

That’s why it’s so brilliant to hear that, closer to home, Lancaster’s Co-Op rehearsal room – which was under threat of eviction – have secured a 100 year lease from the city council. Sadly not everywhere is not safe from developers, as just round the corner local music venue ‘The Pub’ (where I first saw the excellent Massive Wagons) has lost its battle to block plans for new flats to be built opposite the venue. For those not aware, similar happened to the wonderful Night and Day venue in Manchester who now find themselves repeatedly in court with the potential to lose their license because someone bought a flat opposite a music venue in an area famed for its nightlife – and then complained they could sometimes hear music.

Grass-roots venues like The Pub and Night and Day are vital to a vibrant music scene. These venues are where future headliners are born. Coldplay were ‘discovered’ and signed at the (since closed) Roadhouse in Manchester, a favourite haunt of Elbow, and I remember meeting Ed Sheeran, playing to a dozen people at Night and Day round the corner. He said he’d come and play Kendal Calling if I gave him a rollup cigarette. Well, that was 2011 and we’re still waiting (it won’t be this year sadly!) Similarly, watching The 1975 play to 50 people in Sound Control (since developed into student accomodation) led to them performing at Kendal Calling a few months later. These venues are the lifeblood of our industry and need support. The Music Venue Trust, a charity which acts to protect and secure grassroots venues, says that 2023 was an absolutely awful year for Grassroots Music Venues with over 120 spaces permanently lost across the UK. A combination of the cost of living crisis, energy costs, rising cost of services and supplies, drove many venue operators out of business – and as a society were all the poorer for this. One of my resolutions this year will be to watch more grassroots gigs – and any friends this year, you’ll all be receiving gig tickets for your birthday presents. Come and do the same, you’ll have a great time.

In other news, we’ve been fortunate to receive a couple of awards recently – one for ‘Lottery Winners Favourite Festival’ and another for ‘Marketing Campaign of the Year’. We’re very proud of both, but for different reasons. Lottery Winners are great friends of the festival, having grown with us over the years so it’s truly wonderful to know that the love is felt both ways. It’s an award we will really treasure, especially as they made it themselves out of loo roll and sellotape! The ‘Marketing Campaign’ gong was actually awarded for our Leave Nothing But Memories campaign which is making a real difference to sustainability of the festival. A lot of thought goes in each year to make positive steps towards our sustainable future but ultimately, we have all of you to thank for this one. We are so grateful to have such a receptive and caring audience, it’s fantastic that our pleas have been heard and meaningful change has been made over the last few years. This year there was zero waste to landfill and nearly 98% of tents were taken home again and we’re hopeful 2024 can see that number rise even further.

Well, we’d like to sign off by saying thank you for a wonderful 2023, it’s been absolutely grand! We’ve closed out the year with over half the tickets already sold for our return to the fields and we’re so excited to unveil more of our plans – who knows, by the next time we publish one of these, we may be able to chat about the line up!

From ours, to yours, a very happy new year to all.

Andy, Ben & The KC Team x

PS – Ah, news just in! Literally as I’ve been sat here, our Friday night headliner has just confirmed – a belated Christmas treat for us as we’ve been working on this one for months. Very tempting to give a little hint here but we’ll keep you guessing a little longer..