Looking back on the Kendal Mountain Festival 2021

My first festival as a speaker.

The Kendal Mountain Festival last weekend was a lot of fun. I was there as a speaker this year – my first time speaking at Kendal – but, as always, the best part of the event was bumping into and chatting with so many people I know. Kendal brings far-flung friends and colleagues together like no other event, and in a business like ours, where most organisations have been remote for a while and people working on the same project can live at opposite corners of the planet, this is an important thing.

Last year, of course, Kendal didn’t happen due to the pandemic, but I missed 2019 as well. I was last there in 2018, representing TGO magazine. A lot has changed since then, though (new jobs, new books, new connections) and I certainly enjoyed myself more this time. I went to a couple of film screenings, too – The Last Mountain and Torn, both of which were spectacular.

The purpose of my talk was to chat a bit about my new book out with gestalten, Wanderlust Alps. I’d originally been negotiating with the festival organisers to speak about The Farthest Shore as well, but for various reasons this didn’t happen. Still, I was only too happy for the opportunity to waffle on about Alpine adventures and misadventures for a while – and I have a lot of tales to tell from my misspent youth in the mountains! One thing to note was that the book actually sold out at the festival bookshop before I even arrived, which meant that I wasn’t able to sign copies for audience members.

This talk went very smoothly. In the past I’ve sometimes found public speaking a bit stressful, and have probably made things difficult for myself by relying too much on presenter notes. This time, however, the slideshow was being presented by the festival’s own hardware, not my laptop – all I had were a microphone and clicker to advance the slides. This meant no presenter notes in Keynote. Aware that this would be the case, I made the decision not to use presenter notes at all. This worked out well! Instead of learning a speech point by point, I learned the overall shape of what I wanted to talk about, and then just dived in. I think that this resulted in a much more fluid talk.

Special thanks go to my friend (and Sidetracked contributing editor) Jenny Tough for her encouragement and support. A friendly face in the audience can do wonders, and she also started questions off with an intelligent one! Afterwards she told me that I was a very natural speaker, which is good to hear, as I don’t always feel like a particularly natural speaker. She has far more experience doing this kind of thing than I do, so this is encouraging! (Images of me speaking on this page provided by Jenny.)

After the talk, I was really pleased to chat with Lynn Robinson, former BMC president. We first met a few years ago after I came to do a talk about lightweight backpacking for the BMC Peak District area. Lynn found herself inspired by that talk and asked loads of questions afterwards. We’ve corresponded a bit since then, and she’s gone on to hike the TGO Challenge, Pennine Way, and other long-distance trails. Lynn is a very warm and genuine person and I’m delighted that my example has helped her to discover a new way of enjoying the outdoors.

Anyway, that’s my calendar of speaking engagements done for the year. I have a couple of online talks booked in for January and February (more about these in due course), but otherwise my attention is starting to turn to future book projects. Again, more about these later! I have an exciting year ahead, and I can’t wait to return to Kendal in 2022.

I have a limited number of copies of both The Farthest Shore and Wanderlust Alps that I can provide signed and personalised within the UK. Please email me if you’d like one!

By Alex Roddie

Award-winning outdoor and nature writer, editor, author, and photographer.

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