History

"By the people, for the people"
Torchlight History.

Kendal Torchlight Carnival started in 1970 and has almost always been held on the Friday following the Westmorland County Show in September.

Torchlight content has varied over the years from just 30 float entries in the beginning to over 130 floats, bands, carnival and dance troupes and other processionists at it’s peak, and has always been a gathering for the people of Kendal and surrounding areas, for our visitors and guests – “A gathering for the town, for the surrounding areas, for everyone – people entertaining people, “by the people, for the people”.

The Torchlight Organisation

Torchlight is mainly run from voluntary gifts of time and money. Its events have now been
professionalised to a degree, with a part time Production Manager. Now with Arts Council England Project grants Torchlight has been able to collaborate with Rag Tag Arts to employ a team of professional local community artists.

Back in 2015 other institutional partners were approached to help sustain Torchlight’s role, bringing all sectors of the town and district together, in a celebration of our cultural life and ensuring access to the arts for everyone. Finding an institutional collaborator at that time was not successful. Torchlight retained strong support from local councils and business
and pushed on alone as a volunteer run group.

Over the past 45 years Torchlight has changed significantly and it will change more in the next 40, but two things will remain constant; these are our constitutional objectives:

To promote Kendal and its surrounding districts for the benefit of local residents, tourists, businesses and industry by organising events, shows, exhibitions and carnivals including and in particular the Kendal Torchlight Procession. To encourage participation in such events, making them accessible to all members of the community without exception.

Looking to the Future

It is difficultto 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, to empower and inspire Kendal and show we are still ‘famed for trade and useful arts’.


Torchlight continues to empower Kendal’s imagination, self-organisation and ability to make the most of its own heritage and culture. We hope that in moving to the Abbot Hall Park for Torchlight’s main event, we can build a strong sustainable model for the future.

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