Review: Kendal Calling Festival, Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, near Penrith.

Frankie Francis. Frankie and the Heartstrings lead singer. PLEASE GIVE PIC BYLINE TO Ian Taylor/Kendal Calling
Frankie Francis. Frankie and the Heartstrings lead singer. PLEASE GIVE PIC BYLINE TO Ian Taylor/Kendal Calling
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AMONG 2,000-year-old trees where the deer roam, a little bit of magic happens.

What the proud beasts who wander these fields make of the annual carnival that invades their beautiful home, we can only wonder.

But Kendal Calling seems the perfect festival for this perfect place in the Lake District.

No surprise, then, that this wonderful weekend event was voted the Best Small Festival in last year’s UK Festival Awards. I’ve not experienced the competition, but Kendal Calling’s podium place ought to be assured again this year.

Set in rolling fields, Kendal Calling caught my attention this year after Sunderland’s Frankie and the Heartstrings were confirmed on the line-up.

With our nine-year-old son James and youngest daughter Millie, five, coming along to experience their first festival, it was a journey of discovery for all of us.

I wondered how we might balance their needs with our intention to take in plenty of live music, but Kendal Calling cracked it.

The kids loved the music, James joining me down at the front for Frankie and the Heartstrings in the Calling Out tent on Friday night.

I’ve never heard them sound better. Under the canvass, their sound seemed beefier and their 45-minute set got the special reception it deserved.

Camping in the Emperor’s Field allowed us the benefit of parking where we pitched the tent – a luxury I would have loved to enjoy at Glastonbury, where you hike a back-breaking distance from car park to field.

Saturday took us to the fun Ladybird tent. The children tried plate spinning, hula-hooping, had their faces painted and were impressed by juggling feats.

Later we wandered round the compact site in lovely weather to visit the Kaylied tent, where Midlands-based band Goodnight Lenin were an unexpected treat.

A tremendous acoustic set by The Charlatans was an afternoon highlight – whetting the appetite for Sunderland’s Split Festival next month – and later it was back down the front again for James and I, this time on the main stage to see Wakefield rockers The Cribs bring the curtain down on a great day.

There was more larking about with the always-smiling Ladybird crew on Sunday before the kids got creative, making kazoos out of carrots and guitars from cardboard tubes and boxes.

James gathered up the courage to attempt a tightrope walk and then we all made our way down to the main stage to take in ex-Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell, the quirky Lancashire Hotpots – who really whipped up a great atmosphere – and folk-rock legend-in-waiting Frank Turner, watched with Millie perched on my shoulders and singing along throughout.

Talking of legends, The Levellers and Blondie closed a very memorable weekend.

Not all of the music was my taste, but that’s always going to be the case at festivals and the children and grown-ups all stayed entertained.

Thanks Kendal Calling for something special. We must do this again next year.

Ian Laws