The Kendal Mountain Festival 2015 ? A Survivor's Guide

© Kendal Mountain Festival

Going to the Kendal Mountain Festival? Not sure how on earth you are going to cope? Here Niall Grimes gives us his personal tips on surviving what could be your most terrifying climbing expedition of the year: KENDAL! He also gives us a cheeky plug for the BMC Breakfast Club event on the Sunday morning, but we'll let him off cos it sounds pretty good actually!

Just as teachers talk about The Sunday Feeling, that belly-pit dread of Monday mornings that starts some time during the sleeping hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning, so every year, starting in October, I start to get The Kendal Feeling. The anxiety that coming down the line towards me is the huge, fantastic, ever-popular mountain festival that erupts each November in that rain-splattered corner of Cumbria.

Amongst many great films and talks there are also many problems. And, like a hidden crevasse, these have to be negotiated with care. Here is a look at some of the worst problems I usually encounter at Kendal, and the solutions I have found to them. These are the tactics that have helped me survive the Kendal Film Festival.

Kendal Mountain Festival
© Kendal Mountain Festival

Problem: Getting cornered by someone you don’t want to be cornered by

Solution: Of all the hundreds of people milling around at Kendal the chances are that there will only be a very small number of people you will want to speak to for a few minutes. So how do you deal with all the others? One solution is to always walk around looking at the ground and never make eye contact. That will cut out most people. The second ploy, should this fail, is to set up a rescue partner, someone with whom you set up a pact so that if they see you talking to someone, will come over and say something like “John wants you. He’s in Screen 2!” You will provide the same service for them. The final option is to faint. Lie on the ground with your eyes closed until the cornerer goes away.

Problem: A Filmmaker asks you if you liked their film. You didn’t.

Solution: In fact, you hated it. A favourite tactic is to respond with a very oblique comment that they won’t have time to think about or, being filmmakers, they will imagine is a compliment. “In this era the indictments to production are such that to even get a project onto the screen regardless of its quality should be seen as a success. You should be proud of yourself.” Something like that. Mostly they will say Thank you. If this fails, try fainting again.

Problem: Friday night and it’s desperate to get served at the bar.

Solution: Start drinking early. On your first drink make an overly generous tip to the bar staff. Say something so they will look at you in the face and remember you. For the rest of the evening you should be remembered although if you started drinking early enough you should be finished by the time the last films let out and the place gets too busy.

Problem: It’s Saturday night and it’s impossible to get served at the bar.

Solution: Start drinking early. Hopefully the bar staff you tipped on Friday will still be there and will remember you so you won’t need to repeat that expensive tactic. However the best thing is to install yourself somewhere safe and easily defendable with a solid supply of beer from the off-licence. I recommend getting in to the back of one of the wooden vats in the upstairs bar with your supply inside a Berghaus rucksack. The beauty of this is that you can easily fend off unwelcome boarders from joining you. The big downside of this is that if an unwelcome boarder does join you it’s very hard to get rid of them. This just leaves hopping over the back of the vat with no explanation. Return later for your beer.

Problem: You are hungry.

Solution: Do your research. Over the Kendal weekend there are various receptions and schmoosing opportunities many of which will lay on food. For example, you could consider writing a book, entering it for the Boardman Tasker award and get shortlisted. If you do, Friday’s award ceremony is free to enter for finalists and there is usually a buffet laid on. Another event is the BMC Press Event at 12.45pm on Saturday. This is where the BMC talk about their year’s work and plans for the year ahead. If you can survive this then you will be rewarded with triangular sandwiches and battered chicken on a stick.

Problem: Sunday morning and you’re a bit shaky on your feet and you need a sit down.

Solution: You probably went to the party the night before, after having sat in the vat drinking our alcohol supply by yourself the previous evening with nothing more than a triangular sandwiches and battered chicken on a stick to line your stomach. It’s all a bit much. Get along to the BMC’s Breakfast Club event at The Box. Here you will see top-qual video clips interspersed with the insulting of the producers of the films in person. Here live renditions of classics such as “In this era the indictments to production are such that to even get a project onto the screen regardless of its quality should be seen as a success. You should be proud of yourself.” See pompous film makers talk on about their work. You will even have Hazel Findlay serve you free Bloody Marys. This starts at 10.30, so perfect timing. See you there.



Join us at Kendal Mountain Festival for a very special event. For one morning only, we’re letting Niall Grimes off the leash and setting him loose on all our latest BMC TV films, personalities and star ambassador climbers.

Features exclusive films, behind-the-scenes footage and plenty of dark humour. Finishes with Operation Moffat, the brand-new BMC TV film about Gwen Moffat.

Book early. With only 120 seats, The Box is Kendal’s most exclusive venue: a brand-new performing arts facility

You’ll also get:

A chunky BMC TV goody bag
Free coffee and pastries
Special cocktails, served by top climber and mixologist Hazel Findlay
Free entry into a seriously good raffle
Spot prizes from BMC, DMM and Lowe Alpine

Where and when?

Sunday 22 November, 10:30 – 12:30
The Box, Kendal

Get booking

BMC TV Breakfast Club is £5 to BMC members and £9.50 to non-members. All bookings are via Kendal Mountain Festival.

Book online now

About the BMC members’ discount
To get the special £5 BMC members-only price for BMC TV Breakfast Club, look out for your offer code, coming soon by email. Or, if you can’t wait then email your membership number to and we'll hook you up. 

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12 Nov, 2015
"Say something so they will look at you in the face and remember you." I can see this easily backfiring.
12 Nov, 2015
Pretty accurate stuff. What he fails to address is how to navigate you way through the hordes of people wearing high performance outdoor clothing in the centrally heated Arts Centre or Himalayan standrad duvets on Kendal High Street when it's raining and 12°C. I've never yet paid for food at Kendal and plan to maintain that clean sheet.
12 Nov, 2015
That's easy - announce using a megaphone that there's a 50% off sale of Rab Expedition clothing in the Retail Tent and watch the waves of Down and Goretex part before you as you swan up to the bar.
14 Nov, 2015
I'm sure it's great fun, but this article makes it sound like an event to be avoided!
14 Nov, 2015
My main concern is its all a little bit too commercialised (it's desperately needed a proper fringe scene for decades). A variety of rich outdoor fashion victims come with that commercial territory (not all of whom are bad). Still I've always found plenty of old pals and new nice people to chat enthusiastically to about the festival, climbing and life in general, especially those involved in the films, books, talks and exhibits. I've seen and read so much wonderful stuff over the years and how often in normal life do you get to say thank you, face-to-face, with the people who produced it.
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