THE summer highlight for many Cumbrians has arrived, with the county's biggest music festival getting getting under way yesterday afternoon, reports Karl Steel.

Around 25,000 people are expected at Kendal Calling over the course of this weekend, with tickets completely sold out once again.

The weather couldn't have been better for those arriving in their droves yesterday – though campers are clearly anticipating the thunderstorms that are predicted for today, with most people dressed in wellies and walking boots.


Yesterday, though, the sun beat down as electronic outfit Lost Colours got the main stage action off to a riveting start. It was clearly a huge honour for the band's Martin Allinson, who hails from Appleby, and for whom this is his home festival.

Their upbeat, uptempo and mesmerising stage show has hopefully set the tone for what will be a four-day party in the wooded surrounds of Lowther Deer Park.

This is the fourth year that Kendal Calling has had a Thursday programme, and each year there appears to be more and more people taking up the offer of a ticket for the opening night.

Only two stages were open – with a further 10 or more in operation from today – but it served as a good 'opening ceremony' and an opportunity to catch up with old friends from previous years.

The Chai Wallah tent provided some shade from the sun, but also great music from world music acts such as Malavita, Kiriki Club and Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu.

As you would expect, the main stage is where the largest crowds gathered: Britain's Got Talent finalist Micky P Kerr was an unusual choice, but people got on board with his musical comedy, and Scottish man-of-the-moment Gerry Cinnamon inspired plenty of dancing as the sun went down.

Red Dwarf and former Coronation Street star Craig Charles is better known for his Funk and Soul Show in these parts, and he provided the warm-up for the night's main event – the Hacienda Classical, comprising the DJs from the legendary night club, and the Manchester Camerata orchestra, as well as various guest vocalists, and a cameo from Bez and his maracas.

The powerful and poignant performance was packed full of dance classics, given a complete overhaul with this magnificent re-working.

Anyone who was sceptical about whether an orchestra could headlining Kendal Calling received the answer loud and clear – a fitting end to the first day.

The crowd will more than double for today, when the whole site opens and bands such as Catfish and the Bottlemen, James and White Lies take to the main stage.

Of course, the big talking point will be Saturday's headliners Run DMC dropping out and being replaced by Plan B, and whether that has actually improved the line-up for many, but if the weather holds, there is no doubt that when The Libertines wrap things up on Sunday night the crowds will go home hailing it as one of the best Kendal Callings yet.