The question ‘why Kendal’ inevitably arises. Once we had
decided to undertake a locality study (for reasons briefly explored below),
we had to select a town. It need not have been Kendal, but for the following
reasons, it was.
First, practicality. The three project organizers are all
employed at Lancaster University, and continued about their normal
teaching and administrative duties throughout the term of the Project.
So the chosen locality had to be within easy reach. It was also an
advantage that we all had some prior knowledge of the town as well
as contacts within it; this helped considerably in planning and executing
Second, size. With its population of just under 28,000 Kendal
was just about the right size to research with the resources at our
disposal. We knew that it had a good number of churches and chapels,
enough to give us a good sense of the variety within this domain.
We also knew that it had some ‘alternative’ forms of spiritual
practice – though we were still suprised by quite how much we
discovered when we started the research.
Third, boundedness. Kendal is a fairly self-contained town.
With the nearest towns being ten to twenty-five miles away (Windermere,
Penrith, Lancaster), we expected that most people would conduct the
most important parts of their religious or spiritual lives within
the town rather than travelling elsewhere (especially where regular
activities like churchgoing were concerned).
Fourth, homogeneity. Kendal has no significant immigrant
communities. Whilst it would have been interesting in its own right
to study a more multi-cultural town, it would also have made things
considerably more complex. Since we were treading new ground as it
was, and since we had limited time and resources, we were happy to
have one less complicating factor.
Fifth, good internal communications. We were anxious from
the start not to treat the people of Kendal as so much ‘research
fodder’. We wanted to work co-operatively, and hoped that people
could feel some sense of ownership and participation in the Project.
In this we were greatly aided by Kendal’s good communications,
not least through its single high-circulation newspaper, The Westmorland
Gazette, as well as its many informal networks of information-exchange.