Kendalians may have noticed a phenomenon gripping the town in recent years - The Festival.
Barely a month goes by without some new banners going up across the main streets and the flags coming out. I don’t know whether this is planned or has just “happened” but I feel it is an excellent way to promote Kendal, which is between a rock and a hard place just outside the National Park.
Last week it was the turn of the Kendal Mountain Festival, which is by far the biggest event in the local calendar. You might be forgiven for bemoaning the abundance of duvet jackets and not being able to find a parking space…but think on. This festival is the biggest of its kind worldwide. Visitors were not just passing through on their way to somewhere else - they stayed here, ate here and shopped here.
The benefit to local business is in the region of £2 million…not to be scoffed at in the current climate. We at Financial Management Bureau were in the trade marquee to promote our specialist life cover for climbers. It’s great to be part of something so successful and talk to visitors all enjoying the local hospitality. What a great showcase for Kendal.
It’s not just KMF doing its bit for the local economy. In October the first Lakes International Comic Art Festival took place in venues around the town. It was a great success - being scattered around the yards and public spaces gave visitors the chance to really explore the town and see what Kendal has to offer. The 2014 International Comic Arts is already planned for next October.
There are other festivals too; Moonfest, The Comedy Festival and Mintfest for example, which are crowd-pleasers for locals and visitors alike. I have fond memories as a child of the Kendal Gathering, a week-long festival when the fair was in town and the Torchlight Procession was in its heyday. The origins of the Wool Gathering were in the industry which made Kendal wealthy and I was pleased to see this year a revival of this historic event. The fact that so much effort went in to reinvigorating the Torchlight Procession for 2013 also indicates that local people realise the importance of these events in the calendar.
Festivals give visitors a reason to visit Kendal. They put our town on the map for the national and the international community. They also give us a fantastic opportunity to market the town, pooling our resources and attracting external funding to advertise and create a real buzz.
So it’s up to local businesses and the council to get behind these events and make sure Kendal remains vibrant and interesting; a top place to visit in its own right, not just a “gateway” to something else.