It’s internationally recognised, attracts some of the world’s best known outdoor experts and attracts tens of thousands of people to Cumbria. Now the Kendal Mountain Festival is to be the subject of an innovative PhD study undertaken by a University of Cumbria student which could result in expertise shared around the globe.
Supported by Eco-innovation Cumbria (which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund) the three year PhD aims to improve the environmental sustainability of the event by understanding the impact it has on people and the environment.
Seonaid Lafferty was successfully awarded the post after going through a recruitment process which she described as ‘a meeting of minds.’
“I was completing a masters in sustainability at the University of St Andrews before seeing this advertised and knew it would be an ideal role for me,” Seonaid said. “I was brought up in the Scottish Highlands and began academic study as a mature student after building up experience of organisational development, living and working in the outdoors. I am a regular visitor to outdoor festivals so know the value these events have for organisations, visitors and businesses - connecting with nature is wonderful thing to celebrate."
Spending 51% of her time at the university and 49% embedded with organisers, Seonaid will have a ringside seat during the event and throughout the aftermath. The aim of the project is to improve the environmental sustainability of Kendal Mountain Festival to not only reduce the environmental impact of the event but to extend this focus to include the festival’s influence on visitors, venues, partner organisations and the town. From this, Seonaid and the festival team hope to design a range of tools to be used to measure the effect of the organisation both socially and environmentally. The aim is by planting sustainability at the heart of the festival it will ensure the longevity of the event for future generations to enjoy.
“By including Kendal Mountain Festival’s wider influence, it is hoped that this project will result in a blueprint for sustainability and best practice regarding the development and delivery of an environmentally and economically sustainable event,” Darrell Smith, lecturer in environmental modelling, at the Ambleside-based Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas said. “This research will increase Kendal Mountain Festival’s understanding, credibility and delivery with regard to environmental and economic sustainability issues. Overall the aim is to inform the development of festivals and events globally, with respect to improving their environmental impact. This will include the sustainability of both the event itself and more generally of festival, their audiences and their impact on the local and wider environment.”
The results of the PhD will be shared with other festivals, brands, speakers and towns that deliver festivals. The hope is work in Cumbria will help create best practice in festival hosting and development, both from an immediate environmental impact perspective and through the creation of sustainable initiatives.
Follow Seonaid on Twitter: @KendalMoFestSus and Instagram: kendalmofestsustainability