VISIONARY plans to breathe new life into an outdoor spectacular that draws thousands of people into a South Lakeland town every year have been drawn up by the event’s new director.

The Kendal Torchlight Festival is set to become bigger and better under the leadership of Craig Russell, 54, who this week unveiled his ideas to give the parade a make-over.

But to make it happen entrepreneurs from 150 businesses in the town are being asked to contribute £20,000 towards the improvement costs or he will be forced to scale back his plans.

On top of that around 200 volunteers will also need to be recruited to ensure the event runs smoothly.

“I want to make the Torchlight Festival more awe-inspiring, more amazing,” he said.

“My aim is to make it the biggest and most successful festival in Cumbria.

“We will achieve that through adding new spectacular things and new innovative ideas.

“While trying to entice new visitors and spectators to the festival you have to make it more spectacular than ever.”

One of his plans is to run a series of public workshops in the Westmorland Shopping Centre, Kendal, this summer which will help participants come up with ideas for more flamboyant and fantastical floats.

He also has plans to enlist the help of a number of professional artists to enhance the festival with music, dance and visual art.

“The local community always has wonderful ideas for the festival, and we want those ideas to be brought forward,” he said.

“The workshops are there to see how can we help the schools, community groups and businesses.”

Part of Mr Russell’s vision is also to bring along a new generation of festival organisers.

The festival team is looking to start recruiting 17 to 25-year-olds interested in carnival arts, performance and technical production from schools and colleges in South Lakeland to take part in a new creative leaders programme.

Mr Russell, who has a background in urban regeneration in Greater Manchester, has previously organised successful festivals in Hulme and Moss Side.

He was born and raised at Kendal Green and has taken part in the September festival since he was a child.

“The Torchlight Festival is in my blood, it’s in my DNA,” he said.

“It’s a great way of having fun but also bringing the community together with people arriving from outside the area.”

Last year’s festival attracted approximately 33,000 visitors and saw a £1.5 million injection into the local economy.

The theme for this year’s festival, which takes place on September 15, is to be decided by local schoolchildren and will be announced next month.

Volunteers are sought for the administration and logistics teams.

For more information contact Mr Russell at

Visit Kendal Torchlight Festival website at