Kendal Calling Accessibility Review

Kendal Calling Festival for disabled music fans – a review….

But You Look So Well at Kendal Calling Festival
Wearing my butterfly wings at Kendal Calling Festival

I went to Kendal Calling last year – this is my review of the festival in general and how accessible it is for disabled music fans.

Kendal Calling prides itself on being a family-friendly and accessible Festival, but does it warrant the Silver award it has gained through Attitude is Everything?  

The official blurb states… “Kendal Calling is a 3 to 4 day festival set in the beautiful lake district with over 10 stages featuring regional, national and international talent. We work closely with Attitude is Everything to provide an event site that is accessible, and to that end, we are pleased to announce that we have received their Silver Award in accessibility on site and we are the first festival to be awarded the access starts online status.”

Kendal Calling Festival Review – Pros

A tent at Kendal Calling
One of the funky tents at Kendal Calling

– The festival itself is amazing – amazing scenery and “arty bits”. The stages were well curated with a variety of different ages at different times. I was impressed that music was going on until late, as this has been an issue with festivals previously stopping the music at midnight and not providing somewhere where party people can dance, hence interrupting those that wanted to sleep. 

– The decor in both the stages and tents and around the site had obviously had a lot of effort put into it. The fact it’s not plastered with Carling posters or the like, makes for a very pleasant environment.

Kendal Calling grounds
The hilly but beautiful scenery at Kendal Calling

– Kendal has one of the nicest atmospheres of festivals I’ve been to. The festival has a good vibe generally and there is plenty to do and a wide choice of food and drink (even for veggies). Pretty much everyone we met was friendly and down for a chat. 

Accessibility at Kendal Calling

– Initially,  I was impressed as the website had a thorough section on the website regarding Accessibility. Like most of the major festivals, you can get a free Personal Assistance ticket for you to take a carer to help if required. Once I had applied for PA ticket and access to the viewing platforms, I was impressed by the quick response time to my emails.

Accessibility staff at Kendal Calling
Some of the lovely staff on the viewing platform

– Roughly a week before the festival, an Accessibility Guide was sent out via email. It seemed very comprehensive and like they had put a lot of thought in.

– Most staff in the Access Areas, for example, the campsite buggy drivers and viewing platform staff, were very helpful and friendly.

– Buggies could be very good potentially and helpful in transporting people around

Kendal Calling Accessibility – Cons

– The difficulties getting on to the site on the Friday have been well-documented with many expressing their upset and disappointment at the long queues to get in. I was stuck in them a couple of hours before I worked out a way I could bypass them and go directly to the ‘green gate’.

Kendal Calling rain due
Ominous dark clouds at Kendal Calling Festival

– The site is very, very large and somewhat hilly making traveling around it very difficult for people with mobility issues. The mud and uneven ground made it impossible for me to use my mobility scooter and I imagine people in wheelchairs would have similar problems. I spoke to a lady and it had taken 3 of them to push a child across the grass in the main arena.

– There was a side access from outside the main arena to inside the main arena however this was the other side of the main arena to the viewing platform so not ideal if you were trying to get across there with mobility problems. Apparently, this access closed at 8 p.m. for some reason, perhaps because disabled people shouldn’t be out this late? (They shouldn’t, they turn into vampires come nightfall!)

View from the disabled viewing platform at Kendal Calling
View from the disabled viewing platform

– Whilst there was a decent-sized viewing platform on the main arena, any of the other stages or tents did not have this facility. there was also no transport available to help people transfers between different stages so basically you were stuck at the viewing platform all day unless you were able to make the journey across the site yourself.

– I personally didn’t make it across the site to any of points of interest such as Tim Peak’s Diner (which was a shame because one of my favourite bands the Cribs were doing a secret set there, not that I knew that or would have necessarily been there, but you never know!), the Woodland Stage or the Forest Walk which was apparently beautifully lit up at night. Even if you make it across there, you wouldn’t have time to make it back by the time the last buggy went because disabled people should be tucked up in bed by then (because as discussed previously, they turn into vampires after dark!)

Abul at Kendall Calling
A lovely man called Abdul who was on the accessible viewing platform

– There was a lack of awareness and knowledge from the general security staff. For example, I was told staff at the top by the main entrance to the arena would be able to help me locate where the buggy shuttle would pick people up from. This was an absolute farce. The first night I was told to walk all the way around, which I did, as I didn’t know any differently. It was exhausting and a very long journey and unlit. The second night I asked several staff members, none of which could answer the question. One person claimed they couldn’t find out because their walkie-talkie lines were too busy(!), another claimed his phone was almost out of battery and another consulted a screwed-up piece of paper and said ‘it’s around here somewhere’…. Which I could have told him! By this time others in the same position hoping to locate the buggy stop had arrived also with the same question. 

– On the Saturday night, a few of us went to get the earlier buggy back (rain and a lackluster Stereophonics set combined) and we were told by a security guard not to expect one for 2 hours…. which was surprising as we had been told by the driver previously that he would be coming as usual. The person on security continued to tell people arriving to get the buggies that it would be a 2-hour wait and the same conversation ensued several times. The buggies did turn up as the drivers have told us they would.

– Another issue was the Accessible Parking. Entering the site on Thursday (as instructed via the Green gate) we were made to feel like it was a massive concession allowing the vehicle to be on the site as it was now “live” with revellers. Indeed it was very busy trying to navigate into the site with attendees in various degrees of sobriety!

Kendal Calling festival wristbands
Not sure how I managed to end up with so many wristbands!

– I had arranged to drive in and out each day as I was staying off the site due to a need for electricity to power my medical devices overnight.  Navigating into and especially out of the car park was extremely tricky and you need to have your wits about you. This was especially the case during the evening when hoards of crowds were heading towards the Green Exit for taxis and pick ups were walking along the same path I was going along. I actually ended up leaving quite early one night ,because I was so fed up of trying to drive through the crowd and worried about safety. 

In conclusion: Is Kendal Calling Disabled friendly?

Ultimately this depends on your disability and levels of mobility.

Without a doubt, their heart is in the right place, and I genuinely believe they would try their best to help assist disabled people.  But ultimately the site is just not a place that is easy for disabled people to navigate – the mud, the hills, the distance between stages. There is more I think they could improve on, such as providing sturdier tracks between stages and the wooded area, providing a viewing area at some of the other stages and increasing the frequency of buggies (and providing later night transport back). Also, and a large one – educating and communicating with the security staff.

Sadly as much as I really enjoyed my time at Kendal, as it stands at the moment, I don’t think I would return. My body just can’t cope with it! Or I would try and source a off road 4×4 scooter!

Visit the Kendal Calling Accessibility Info pages for more info! Kendal Calling 2023 is headlined by Kasabian, Royal Blood and Blossoms. It has a brilliant line up and looks to be a great weekend!