"By the people, for the people"
Established in 1970 by the Kendal and District Tourist & Publicity Association, the Kendal Torchlight Procession was the main event in the Kendal Gathering. It was set up in response to the opening of the M6 and the Kendal Bypass, to help define Kendal as a destination and good place to be in its own right, as it was no longer on the west coast arterial route to Scotland or the actual ‘gateway to the Lakes’.
The Association was re-named some years later as the Kendal Events Association and then in 2002 as Kendal Torchlight Procession Limited (a company limited by guarantee, registered no. 4583995). The Torchlight Procession changed its brand name to the Torchlight Carnival in the 1980s.
In 2019, recognising that the event was more than a Carnival and in recognition of 50 years since the original Kendal Gathering the event took on the name of Kendal Torchlight Gathering.
However people have known the event in the past, “Torchlight” has always been an event for the town regardless of age or interest. It is open to all to attend or to take part in.
The procession is created by the community, through schools, businesses, community groups and sporting clubs. As well as visiting artists, Kendal College and other creative groups.
HISTORY OF TORCHLIGHT
Originally Kendal Torchlight was an evening event and was held annually on the Friday immediately following the Westmorland County Agricultural Show, the second or third Friday in September, the venue being the main streets and other areas within the town. In 2016 a Saturday Street Festival was started that increased the range of organisations involved and the range of activities.
In 2019 the event moved to the last weekend of September to enable greater participation from local schools and colleges. Throughout its 52-year history the event has maintained a very good safety record and the crowds have been very responsible.
Historically, Kendal Torchlight has been made up of vintage vehicles, marching bands, carnival arts groups, vehicle floats and other displays. The procession wound through the streets of Kendal, taking approximately 2.5 – 3.5 hours to make its way from Kendal Leisure Centre, north, along the side of the river Kent, back through the centre of town, to return to the Leisure Centre.
In 2019 approximately 1600 people took part in the Friday Procession and Saturday Street Festival from 75+ organisations, with spectators in the region of 25-30,000.
In 2020 because of safety concerns due to Covid-19, to ensure safety throughout the preparations and ensure there were no crowds forming during the events, the event was very successfully run but in a very different format.
Our evaluation and reflection from organising the 2020 Torchlight events during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the 50-year history of the event, have been used in shaping the current Event Management Plan.
This year the event will resurrect the Town Centre procession but without any vehicle participation. We hope to make the event as impressive as previous years and maintain the accessibility for all to enter.
Over the past 52 years Torchlight has changed significantly and it will change more in the next 50, but we hope to keep the tradition of Kendal Torchlight alive!
Looking to the future
The Directors of the Company and the Torchlight Organising Group, who manage all the Kendal Torchlight events, are all unpaid volunteer members of the local community.
The Torchlight Organising Group has contracted, since 2016, key roles to local community artists to enhance community engagement and creative content of the Carnival and Gathering and as well as security and first aid roles.
It is difficult to run a truly voluntary group and pull off what it is attempting to do for the town and district. If it disappears or does not evolve to cope with the changing environment, open access to the arts and culture for many communities, will be much diminished. There will be a huge sense of loss if Torchlight is not here for the community.
Torchlight continues to drive Kendal’s imagination, creativity and ability to make an event which allows us to celebrate who we are and the area we live in, through art, dance, music and good old fashioned fun. We hope that we can create a model for Torchlight what will be sustainable for the future.
Please help us!