Kendal - artists, fashion retailers and foodies
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 January 2014 | UPDATED: 23:45 23 October 2015
Artists, fashion retailers and foodies have got a firm foothold in the Gateway to the Lakes, as Sue Riley discovers
The story of the macaron, the French confectionery currently all the rage, doesn’t play a big part in Kendal’s history; mint cake is still the sweet commonly associated with the town the world over.
Yet Kendal’s most recent – and smallest - shop tells the story of the Lakeland town as it is now.
Macaron Hideway might be located at the end of one of the town’s narrowest and most historic Yards but it is run by a young entrepreneur whose business is aimed at the town’s affluent residents and visitors. For Kendal is an up-and-coming place – judging by the number of trendy clothes shops in the town like Joules, East, Phase Eight – although it retains its credentials as the Gateway to the Lakes. The outdoor market on Wednesday and Saturdays is full of established stallholders alongside young foodies selling their wares, including experienced chef Al Strong who had a stall this summer.
Al, 31, part of the original team who achieved a Michelin star at The Samling, went on to open his macaron shop in Yard 46 with his partner Hannah Fleming in November. ‘I thought I would bring macarons north. The stall was going from strength to strength but we thought we would come indoors as it was getting so wild out there,’ he said. He has given the tiny shop a fun, French look and sells macarons with flavours including salted caramel, orange and lemon marshmallow during the day, making them the night before in the kitchen at St Thomas School. ‘What I pay for the kitchen goes into giving children good school dinners,’ he said. He chose macarons (suitable for vegetarians and gluten free) as they are quite tricky to make at home. ‘There’s a science to getting them right, crunchy like eggshells on the outside, chewy with a burst of flavour. Fresh is definitely best.’
He is the latest entrepreneur to open in Kendal, many others are in the Kirkland area which is quickly becoming known as the arty area of town. In the summer Belgian artist Thuline de Cock, whose paintings of cows and other animals are well known in the area, opened her gallery as she was running out of room in the Kendal home she shares with her husband and two growing sons. After making the decision it took just two weeks to open Thuline gallery where she works most days. ‘It’s lovely when people look in and smile and enjoy the work. It’s good for the ego as well! It’s happy art. I get quite a few commissions of dogs, farmers who want their prize cows done… I did a turkey once, a pet turkey.’
Thuline moved to Kendal 17 years ago after meeting her husband on holiday and said she found the town very friendly from the start. ‘It has a lovely arts community and this end of town is getting more art,’ she said. Her shop is directly opposite the Brewery Arts Centre with its cinema, theatre, music and eateries and just along from Abbot Hall Art Gallery which puts on nationally recognised exhibitions. There is also a host of small independents shops selling art supplies, galleries, a stained glass maker, photographer and a wool shop specialising in natural fibres. Adrienne Williams is the knitter who set up Williams Wools four years ago with its cosy sofas and knitting clubs creating the atmosphere of a friendly meeting place rather than a shop. ‘I was just a housewife and passionate knitter, I come from a long line of makers,’ she said. She had no plans to open a shop but when she spotted the empty unit she saw its potential. Now it’s full of natural wools, many from the UK including Lancashire and Yorkshire yarns.
‘People pop in and knit and chat, it’s very sociable…that’s the joy of it. I think knitting is about taking it back to its roots, to a family setting. My grandma and mother were always knitting and you pass skills on. I think knitting groups are about that, you share your skills,’ said Adrienne. She puts on regular workshops and has also been involved in the ‘yarn bombing’ of Kendal for the past two years where trees and railings were covered in knitting and woollen sheep heads erected around the town. ‘We had emails and messages from people about how it had cheered them up,’ she said. Another person wanting to put a smile on people’s faces is Rachel Zivkovic and her partner Stuart Bottomley of Kendal Upholstery whose most recent business idea is Humpties – large, colourful floor cushions made using natural fibres from the region.
Despite the new independent shops, thousands of visitors will always associate Kendal with hiking, biking and climbing; in the middle of the town there’s a sign declaring that Kendal is 4662 miles from Mount Everest, the peak ascended by Sir Edmund Hillary with the help of Kendal Mint Cake.
The town still has plenty of outdoor shops; there’s even a Yard named after walker and writer Alfred Wainwright and the popular Mountain Festival is one of the biggest events in Kendal’s calendar.
Jan Moffat bought the Backpackers’ Hostel two years ago and has transformed the grand Georgian town house into a comfortable place for walkers and other visitors to stay. A country girl at heart – she comes from a family of Ulverston farmers - she recently commissioned Kendal artist Zoe Baker to paint a mural depicting the course of the River Kent. ‘I am a real country person and would love this place to be in the Howgills so I thought how can I bring the countryside in?’ she said.
So she decided a mural of the countryside she loves so much would help. But, of course, if she really wants to get a blast of the country - and escape from the town’s myriad of festivals which attract thousands of visitors every year - then a short drive or bus ride will take her to some of the best scenery in England….the glorious Lake District.
Still life in Kendal
More than 30 paintings and prints by Patrick Caulfield CBE go on display at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery from January 17-March 29. Many of the pictures have been loaned from the Tate which held an exhibition of his work in London last summer. The Kendal show features work from Caulfield taking inspiration from modern masters to his new way of looking at interiors and still life. The pieces include Coloured Still Life, 1967, Pottery, 1969 and Hemmingway Never Ate Here, 1999.
The vivid works by the British artist who died in 2005 will be displayed alongside celebrated artists who inspired his work; Georges Braque, Glass and Plate of Apples, 1925, Juan Gris, Still Life with a Guitar, 1924, and Fernand Léger, Still Life with a Beer Mug, 1921-2.
The gallery is open from Monday to Saturday, 10.30am–4pm.