REVIEW: Kendal Calling 2016 - a no mud miracle of festival awesomeness!
Sunshine may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the words 'Kendal' and 'Calling' in the same sentence.
But the 2016 instalment of the hugely popular Cumbrian festival offered just that, with no sign of the mudfest of years gone by.
Now in its 11th year - the event, which confusingly is nowhere near Kendal was sold out again.
Around 23,000 festival-goers flocked to Lowther Deerpark, near Penrith, in the Lake District, to see an impressive array of around 200 acts across 12 stages and four days.
As was the case last year, the Thursday night lineup got the early bird crowd into the swing of things, offering a glimpse of things to come.
Headlining the main stage were The Charlatans, but for me it was Northern Irish indie band Ash, who stole the show. I caught the tail-end of Pins, which I wish I could have seen more of.
Molotov Jukebox - featuring Game of Thrones actress Natalia Tena - were a pleasant - if eclectic - surprise on Friday night as I didn't really know much about them, nor had I heard any of their stuff.
Catfish and the Bottlemen drew a huge crowd during their set, and headliners Rudimental had a tough time beating that performance.
A shout-out to The Hives, who went down a storm, although they appeared to do far more talking than actual singing. Maximo Park were great as always, although we only got about half an hour out of them, due to a German airport delay.
A real stand-out for me were Slydigs and False Advertising, who both played the Calling Out stage. I caught these two by accident, as one of the very few rain showers of the weekend, drove me to seek shelter under cover.
Saturday also saw The Darkness and Madness play the main stage, although I wasn't overly impressed with the latter.
Some of my favourite haunts during the festival were the Woodland and Carvetti stages, in - you guessed it - the woods.
This area especially came to life during the hours of darkness, with some stunning light displays and art installations in the Lost Eden area.
Having opened up to the public last year, the the lakeside 'Green Room' was restricted to VIP access only this time around, which was a shame really as the vast majority of revellers missed out on, you know, seeing an actual lake on their visit to the Lake District.
I managed to blag myself in with my press wristband on the Sunday, having failed miserably to gain entry two days earlier.
A first for the festival, was the Carnival Of Colour Parade on the Saturday - which saw festival-goers immerse themselves in Brazilian-style carnival atmosphere.
Food and drink-wise there were treats to be had from all four corners of the globe, with beer fans catered for at the two real-ale tents, which also hosted tasting sessions. The cinema tent showed a mix of films, from the day-time and into the early hours of the morning. Nigh owls could also head to Glow, Riot Jazz, and Chai Wallah - all of which provided music until 3am. Kids Calling provided fun for the younger festival-goers, with music, stories, crafts and more, while comedy fans were treated to the likes of Jason Manford.
Tim Peaks diner was back again, boasting secret sets from Donovan, Peter Doherty and Blossoms, over and above the published lineup.
Sponsors Regatta and Emmi Caffe Latte, made sure there were freebies to be had at every turn - I have never had as many iced coffees in my life and I came away with about seven pairs of heart-shaped sunglasses, as well as a t-shirt, which I got to spray paint myself.
Obviously, I am saving the best for last here. Noel Gallagher anyone??!!
Noel and his High Flying Birds closed Kendal Calling 2016 in spectacular fashion, with just about every single person heading to the main stage to see the former Oasis guitarist.
Performing a number of his own material, it was inevitable that these would come second to Oasis hits, like 'Don't Look Back in Anger', Champagne Supernova, and of course Wonderwall.
It was a great end to yet another great year in the fields, and 2017 can not come soon enough. And yeah, I am saying that in spite of the guy I caught trying to nick my windbreak in the campsite.
And the organisers were pretty happy too, with Kendal Calling Director Ben Robinson saying in a gushing statement: “From small seeds a stunning and magical festival has been created in the fields of Cumbria.
"Our thanks go out to every single person who joined us in the fields this year. Festival-goers and the staff working to stage the event came together and created an atmosphere and weekend that will be remembered for a long time to come. Without question the 11th Kendal Calling was the best yet and an exciting new decade for the festival lies ahead.
“With secret sets in Tim Peaks from Blossoms and Pete Doherty, incredible art and mysterious happenings in the woods right through to a triumphant and jaw dropping closing performance from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, the weekend was a delight and honour to be a part of.
"We take our hats off to everyone involved and cannot wait to start planning for next year. See you in the fields in 2017.”
After last year's tragedy, which saw a teenager lose his life and more being treated in hospital, organisers rightly tightened up safety measures around drugs, working with independent drugs advice service The Loop to offer Multi Agency Safety Testing (MAST).
Cumbria Police made 19 arrests at the festival, including 13 under suspicion of intent to supply illegal substances.
Chief Inspector David Bosson said: “Although we did make a number of arrests over the weekend, the number is relatively small in comparison to the large number of people who attended the festival, and we are very pleased with the vast majority of festival-goers who appeared to enjoy the music and the sunshine sensibly”.