Officially, it was the 10th Bristol International Kite Festival, but to
those that had been before, it was recognised as Avril Baker's festival.
She has earned a reputation for putting together one of the best festivals
on the circuit. 1995 was no exception. The press had been primed
and treated to a private photo-session a few days in advance. A special
issue of the local paper had been printed, bookings made with international
kite fliers, local dignitaries, TV personalities. The stage was set for
a successful event.
When the morning came, my heart sank. After one of the hottest, driest
summers on record, it chose the morning of the kite festival to rain.
It wasn't merely wet, but the rain came down vertically - a sign of
a complete lack of wind. We trudged out to the field and wondered what
to do. We needn't have worried - when the official start time came,
the clouds parted, the rain stopped, the sun started to peek out and
the wind began to pick up.
The fliers began to come out and practice their craft.
come all the way from the USA and never seemed to stop working to entertain
the crowd. He flew a beautiful Randy Tom applique'd Rev I through a
dog-stake, balancing the kite on his head or catching it in his mouth.
Later, Dave pulled out a Rev II, with a hook attached to the spar, to play
mischeif with the crowd. He would spy out someone wearing a base-ball cap,
fly silently up behind them and snatch their hat into the air, then tease them
by depositing the cap somewhere high, out of reach.
Also playing with Revolutions were the Decorators,
who were celebrating their
100th festival, flying a new set of kites built by Martin Lester.
They had a numbered set of 100 T-shirts, which were given
to people considered worthy of the honour. They brought to the
festival not only their impecable precision team flying, but also a sense
of fun as they played with the big show kites,
trying to block the vents
in a vain attempt to cause them to deflate.
Bristol is, of course, the home town of
the well known
He was flying a huge torso which he had christened
In celebration of his work, there was a fly-in of his kites, with
a show of all sorts of custom variations of his legs and torsos.
Peter Lynn was also putting on a show of big soft kites. There were
two of his well known octopii,
Sushi the dolphin (do you eat dolphin as sushi?),
Phreddie the Phrog, and Rosie, the long, snake-like animal of dubious
heritage. It is usually Peter who manages to take out a kite or two at
a festival, but this time, it was my turn. I discussed flying the octopus
in the same sky as Malcolm Goodman's huge
Chinese dragon stack. There was no
real danger of a clash, because the octopus flies low and the stack flies
at an impressively high angle. The kites didn't see it this way. The
octopus went up, the dragon went down and they crashed to the ground in a
It wasn't only the big names that had the big kites.
John Turner came to
Bristol last year and saw a 2m diameter spiked Bol. He was impressed and
decided to make one for himself. He came back this year with a beautiful
15m diameter version. Not only was it well made, but he impressed me by his
competence in flying it, single handed, launching it with a slick ease,
without the usual trouble of it folding in and flapping.
The weekend wasn't all for big, over-powering kites, there was plenty to
entertain the children too. Someone left a set of fat inflatable tails
streaming into the public area, and the
kids had fun playing with them as
they snaked around. TV personality
Noel Edmonds and his clowning companion
Mr Blobby fooled around with Martin Lester's kites to the amusement of all.
Noel Edmonds was there with a purpose. He has organised a charity sponsored
by Rover cars and Transax called Airbourne, which gives
to underprivelaged children. They had a fleet of about 4 helicopters, which
spent all day ferrying children around. I believe that they provided around
350 free flights.
For many of us, the child who stole the show was
At the tender age of two, he was flying a 4' flexifoil. His flying wasn't yet
to competition standard, but he was certainly well practiced at flipping it
the right way up after a crash.
The Air Gallery displayed kites
painted by artists
from different countries, but whilst this was a premeditated effort to
place art in the sky,
there were other fliers flying art because this is what
they always do. Three fliers stood out for me in particular. First was
with her peaceful patchwork Happi Coats and their
dancing rope tails.
was also flying Happi Coats,
most subtle of detailed of log cabin patchwork. Finally, Arista
from Australia was flying an
which rivaled the detail and
flow of the brushwork of the painters.
As if this wasn't enough, after dinner and the auction, we were treated to
a performance of night flying, with deltas, Revs and rokakkus illuminated
against the black sky, followed by a spectacular professional firework
display. This year was the 10th festival at Bristol and a credit to Avril
and Martin's hard work. I'm looking forward to next year already.
Andrew Beattie September 1995