What is the history of Kendal Mountain Festival, where did it begin and why?

Kendal celebrates its 40th anniversary this year! Way back in October 1980, Kendal hosted a new two-day event. Named the ‘Kendal Mountaineering Film Festival’, tickets were £5 and visitors were promised art, seminars, films, photography and – importantly – ‘two bars’.

The original group of six climbers who set up the event didn’t they know what they had started, or how influential the event would become. Their concept was partly to raise funds for future expeditions.

As the event grew in stature and popularity it attracted greater audience numbers, plus a veritable ‘who’s who’ from the world of climbing and mountaineering.

Today ‘Kendal’ is the world’s largest gathering of filmmakers, athletes, professionals and public who all convene to celebrate the multi-genres of ‘Outdoor’. We attrract around 18-20k visitors each year. In recent years Snowsports and Biking have become the largest gatherings at the event, at our annual Snow Night and Bike Night with 1k people in the venue each night!

Who makes up the team at Kendal Mountain Festival?

We are currently a core team of 14 people. One CEO – Jacqui Scott and two directors, myself and Clive Allen. Our team is comprised of mix of creatives, programmers, marketing specialists and film production people; we have all had or have specialisms in various outdoor disciplines, many of us at a high level/professional capacity.

This year, due to Covid, is going to be a year like no other, how are you and the team adapting to the current restrictions?

These are very worrying times for all. We are sensitive to the many challenges we all face in this pandemic. As an organisation, we’re striving to keep the business viable and the team in employment. Our event is also very valuable for our region, bringing in an estimated £3m+ to the local economy each year.

Our loss in visitor ticket sales is significant, however most of our valued brand partners have stuck with us to which we’re extremely grateful. The challenge to us is to open up ‘Kendal’ to a wider British (and global!) public over lockdown and throughout December. In my mind there isn’t a better Christmas gift for friends and family!

Kendal Mountain Festival always has rich and diverse content and individuals speaking, how do you choose these what route you want to go down?

Some people call us the Edinburgh Fringe of Outdoor. I feel this is a great analogy as our event is known for its inherent creativity, to push boundaries and change traditional perceptions of the outdoor sector. We have a long way to go and are more than aware at the lack of diversity in many sectors; but we’re working hard to attract the right people and content that challenges the status quo. Every year we meet as a team to brainstorm our central theme which guides us in many of the narratives we create. This year our theme is NURTURE (nurturing new generations, mentoring talent and of course caring for the environment which we all love and rely on for wellbeing). Just watch our new Festival trailer – ‘Only Weather’ which we created with our friends at Land & Sky Media. It’s a relevant piece of promotional film for these difficult times.

In the past KMF have featured professional skiers and snowboarders, such as Jenny Jones, but this is the first year GB Snowsport is taking part in Kendal. How do you see that partnership developing moving forward/what we can bring to the table?

As a former young ski racer then a professional Trainer and Coach, I’m aware of how the sport enabled me to travel the world and benefit from many incredible experiences and to be in the fortunate position I’m in today helping to run such a great organisation. I’m passionate about competitive winter sports and follow the scene closely; I have been incredibly impressed at the progress of our nation across several disciplines on the international platform. I would love to do a regular feature on GB Snowsport both at our Festival and online through our new Kendal Mountain TV channel that promotes the latest news and stories from the world of competition.

KMF promotes mountain films and stories from around the world, but are you excited to be promoting British skiers and snowboarders ahead of Beijing 2022?

Mountains’ to us are a great metaphor for all outdoor content and engagement. As I mentioned, today snowsports is a very important part of our programme. Traditionally we have specialised in big mountain and free-ride adventures but I don’t underestimate the influence our Team GB and emergent athletes have on the industry and progression and promotion of their sports. If we can help their cause in our small way then we will.

Looking ahead, how are plans for Kendal Mountain Festival 2021 coming along?

Firstly, I really hope we can all get some normality to our lives next year. We’ve planned an incredible come-back UK Tour that kicks off in February that travels the country far and wide. We’re also developing new overseas partnerships for our Touring content plus we will launch our Kendal Mountain TV channel online in early 2021. The work we are currently doing in the digital realm will I’m sure, set us in good stead for the future and next year’s event will inevitably be a fusion of live and digitally streamed content.

Oh and if we are back to ‘normal’ circumstances next November, the come-back live Festival in 2021 will see the biggest parties we’ve ever had!

Kendal Mountain Film Festival starts from the 19th of November 2020. Follow the festival on social media here:

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