The Alpkit slacklining team.


After meeting the Alpkit team for ‘double chocolate cake and ideas’ in the Spring, they asked us to come and ‘adventurise’ the café at their infamous Big Shakeout Festival. Back for its third year at Thornbridge Outdoors Centre in the Peak District, the festival aims to inspire and develop a sense of adventure in a relaxed and humorous environment, inline with the Alpkit ethos of  ‘getting you nice places and doing good things’. And it was very nice indeed. Nice activities, from pole lathery to yoga via kayaking, nice food (though veggies were in for a ‘treat’ – even the rather hardcore Ella Kirkpatrick was weeping after the Piquant Paella), and nice range of Blue Monkey Brewery beer and cider (to wash down the chili flakes) nice music, extraordinarily nice people, really nice weather (how did they do it!), oh, and some nice films!

The festival kicked off on Friday night in the SteepEdge Café, with specially designed boulder-mat cinema chairs (make these at home!) and a SteepEdge taster menu. To set the mood for the weekend we introduced a few films we thought would most tantalise the adventure hungry ‘Shakers’. (Really, that’s what they’re called. Festival volunteers are ‘Shaker-Makers’, said with a straight face… Mostly.)

First up was Push It, Jen Randal’s smashing debut film about women’s climbing and her own dream of climbing El Capitan in Yosemite, and Driven to Despair, Ian Burton’s ‘debacle documentary’; when a climbing expedition begins to bottom out before you’ve even got on the plane. Next up, for budding Alpinists, the first filmed ascent of the Eiger; Leo Dickinson’s fascinating 70’s relic Out of the Shadow’s, in to the Sun, and Terry Abraham’s The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend, a stunning film which has surely inspired a new generation of winter wild campers and walkers since its release this spring. Judging from the ‘oohs’, ‘aahs’ and occasional gripped silence (between mouthfuls of good cake from the River Legacy!) the crowd’s favourite must have been between the alley cat racing Line of Sight  (we challenge you to watch this and not duck…), Dragon’s Back Race, a meditative insight into ultra running, and 40 Days at Base Camp, Dianne Whelan’s exploration of the world’s highest tourist destination. It was grand seeing the crowd settle down to such a diverse range of adventures, next year we expect to see them back with GoPros at the ready!

Totally friendly at all times, the Alpkit crew are adept at putting people at ease, whether it’s help setting up a tent for the first time, or discovering the next GB bouldering team (there were contenders!). No one element of the festival claims precedent over another, so pockets of adventure developed seemingly ad hoc around Thornbridge. On Saturday night Ron Fawcett regaled the crowd in the SteepEdge Café while families tracked badgers behind the high ropes and a group of ‘kids’ munched marshmallows in the storytelling yurt. After hours the festival really was a full-on festival with shaking of booty from pretty much everyone involved (SteepEdge and BMC reps included, though Ron appeared to have legged it).


Ron Fawcett in the SteepEdge Cafe, with Emily Penn and Joe Beaumont.


Alpkit took a risk, though clearly a calculated one, in creating a range of outdoor kit with a no frills, down to earth but effective design, sold at a competitive price to a market clearly in need of something straightforward and with a sense of humour. The Big Shakeout Festival is made in the same mould. There are no rock stars here (ok, Ron is a rock star, but a giggly one), everyone mucks in and it’s worth every single penny. The cost is upfront so you rarely have to put your hand in your pocket, key for the many families who enjoyed the weekend. A huge amount of effort is put into making Thornbridge ‘Shaker ready’: bike racks, beanbags, ingenious battery-powered flowers, bunting. It was beautiful.

Our highlight was meeting four young people who are using adventure to raise awareness for very different projects with sincerity and damn hard work. Meet Joe Beaumont, Emily PennDave Cornthwaite and Alastair Humphreys.

This is a film about Dave’s recent project Swim100,

and here you can see an introduction to Joe’s project In the Frame.

See you at the Big Shakeout next year.

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