Kendal Calling 2023: where the North shone even when the sun didn’t

We actually got a fair bit of sun, to be honest, which made the whole weekend even more magical.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 31st July 2023

This past weekend, The Manc Audio had the honour of going along to one of the North West’s biggest and, for our money, one of the UK’s best festivals in Kendal Calling 2023 and boy did we have an ace time — so, naturally, we wanted to put together a little review.

Spoilers: it was really, REALLY good. To quote the organisers themselves, “There was something very special in the air this year”. They weren’t wrong — you could feel it.

Nestled in a little valley behind the lush treelines of Lowther Deer Park near Penrith and the Lake District, Kendal Calling music and arts festival returned for 2023 quite literally bigger and better than ever, boasting a sellout crowd of 40,000 and some of the best names the weekend has ever hosted.

Started way back in 2006 with less than a thousand people attending, Kendal Calling has not only become Cumbria’s largest festival but a Great British favourite and after going along for the first time, it didn’t take us long to figure out why.

One of the most live music scenic settings you could hope for

Us busy Manc worker bees were still bustling away on Thursday, so we unfortunately couldn’t make it along to see the handful of artists who played the opening night but, luckily, we had a few friends who all went along to confirm it was just as wonderful as it looked.


With the likes of Scouting for Girls, Gengahr and Black Honey getting things started before the legendary Nile Rodgers & Chic polished off a class first night, the hordes of gig-goers began trickling into the site and by the time we arrived on Friday, the party was in full swing.

As we battled our way up the big hill from our parking spot to the festival entrance (bring a trolley, guys — don’t be muppets like us), we got a second wind when we heard Example playing through the forest and raced to pitch our tent, crack that first tin and start enjoying ourselves.


But even before we made it to where the music was, we couldn’t help but take in the gorgeous Cumbrian countryside dappled with every colour imaginable — and that was just people’s bucket hats. Seriously though, seeing the sea of tents, flags flying high, music lovers sharing booze and tunes and just generally having a good time was a real antidote after a long week.

The Northerners showing everyone how it’s done

By the time we got into the festival proper, we couldn’t have asked for better timing and a warmer welcome than the wonderful sound of Wigan‘s very own, The Lathums, serenading the packed-out main stage. Dreamland stuff.

That felt like the case throughout the festival, in fact; every hour or so it felt like we were treated to either a Manc band or a nearby North West favourite on one of the nine stages. The crowd felt like it was largely comprised of people from the North too, which gave the whole weekend an added layer of familiarity.


Be it the Happy Mondays, The Lottery Winners, Mel C or Reverend and the Makers, up-and-coming Manc artist Phoebe Green, the Kaiser Chiefs, Circa Waves or the one and only Rick Astley, just to name a few, there were countless Northern acts to enjoy and it came as no surprise that they smashed their slots harder than anyone.

It was only fitting that probably the biggest moment of the weekend came when the Mayor of Greater Manchester himself, Andy Burnham, surprised everyone on stage by introducing Blossoms for the headline set, celebrating the North and Stockport, specifically, on Saturday night.

Come rain or shine, the British festival spirit was unshakeable

Much to our delight, the sun was shining as well; in fact, we were treated to plenty of it throughout the weekend considering the forecast we were facing on the drive up, and you know what Brits are like when the sun is and they’ve had a beer or two.

Yes, the wind and rain eventually came and made it feel like a proper UK festival — people rushing around after flying tent pegs and trying not to slip on the increasingly muddy walk from the campsite to the arena simply becoming part of the routine — but it was genuinely all part of the fun.

As our new mates from Leigh said during their dynamite set on the main stage, “We don’t mind a bit of rain do we!?”. We didn’t, not one bit, especially when the lineup was stacked with so much talent.


Putting our regional bias aside, some of our top picks would have to be post-punk outfit DEADLETTER, who were simply insane (we still have the bruises to prove it), the mighty Frank Turner — who joined The Lottery Winners on the main stage in a truly unforgettable moment — The Hunna and, of course, Kasabian because their Friday headline set was absolutely dynamite.

Kendal Calling after dark was quite the experience…

And then came the late-night DJ sets, after parties and all-round craziness that ensued after the headliners finished their respective slots at 11pm, which we’re pretty sure we’ll never be able to fully put into words, so that should give you enough of a hint.

One thing we loved about Kendal Calling 2023 so much was how mixed the crowd was, with people of all different ages and cultural backgrounds turning up to enjoy the festivities. There were so many young families there having the time of their lives and what a way to introduce kids to the festival scene.

However, if you didn’t have little ones to put to bed and fancied staying up until the early hours in a forest lit by neon, multi-coloured lanterns and, or raving in a tent to one of the most unique electronic sets we’ve ever heard by DJ Yoda, you could — it was all there for you.

There was even an acoustic guitarist called Matthew One Man recreating club classics with an acoustic guitar and loop pedal whilst a truly indescribable musical theatre company called the Rimski’s Yard performed around him and some bloke with a big afro shoved a firework up his arse. Yes, of course, we have video evidence:

No words.

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The truth is, we probably didn’t even scratch the surface when it came to experiencing everything this festival had to offer but based on what we did get to see during our time at Kendal Calling 2023 left a huge impression and we know what we’ll be doing again this time next year.

We can’t recommend this festival highly enough and if you want to be part of one of the best festivals the North has to offer, then grab yourself a ticket for Kendal Calling in 2024.

Be sure to follow The Manc Audio to see what else we got up to this weekend and for all your Manc music news. God, isn’t great to be gigging again?

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Featured Image — The Manc Group/Kendal Calling