Issue 62: Bristol Kite Festival

In between the Portsmouth and Bristol festivals, a few things happened that bear mentioning before I shift onto the Bristol festival. As Portsmouth had wrapped up on the Sunday and Monday was what the British refer to as a “bank holiday”, early on in the planning of the UK trip, we decided we’d hold one of our Rev clinics on the Portsmouth field with the help of Kiteworld UK. And WHAT a fine time that was! It was easily the largest clinic we have ever held, topping out at over 30 participants, and ranging in skill levels from the newest flyers who had just gotten bitten by the Rev bug to well experienced hands who usually ended up helping others. As we have found with other clinics that we’ve have held in North America, seemingly everyone managed to leave with some new knowledge under their belts and some new friends to fly with. What more could you ask for of a clinic? We even got Joe Hadzicki himself involved in teaching people, to the point where we quite literally had to drag him off the field on Tuesday night in order to go and eat dinner with us. Now that’s keen spirit…Afterwards, we popped back to the Jones Manor for another night’s stay before heading off to Bristol itself, with a quick stop in at Stonehenge. In a perfect world, we would have been able to fly on this site, however, it’s a roped off area so direct access is tough without spending some time dealing with the authorities…

Our first day in Bristol ended up being one of simple relaxation, an actual day off to just wander around the city a little bit, hit an ancient pub and eventually, dinner with Avril and other organizers with the festival. Which made for a pretty fine day in all. It’s one thing that always struck me about the UK that was so different from really anywhere on our side of the ocean, the sheer age of the country. Stonehenge predates the building of the Pyramids in Egypt. Mike and I toured through a church that parts of had been standing since the 12th century. We managed to have a beer in the famous Llndoger Trow, the pub referenced in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Every where you looked, the sense of hundreds of years in every direction was often overwhelming. I’d love to go back and explore all of the UK at some future point.

As I mentioned in the article about our time in Portsmouth, what had initially brought us over to the UK was a two fold reason. First, it was to be a great big birthday party for Revolution, celebrating 20 years of their kite designs, which have easily become the most predominant quad kite ever made, and for that matter, probably the sole 20 year old kite design still used actively in competition. That’s quite the acheivment! But, also, 20 years ago, the iconic and first (to the best of our knowledge so far…) Rev team, The Decorators. While they didn’t initially start as a team flying Revs (their first appearance at Bristol was as a Rok team) by the early 90s, they were on Rev 1s and stayed on them ever since, charting a path for all other quad teams to follow over the years. While they have mostly been quiet over the past few years, they have never missed a Bristol festival and even last year saw them doing a few more events, with more planned for the next year as well. So, two excellent reasons to celebrate! Actually one further reason, it was the 30th anniversary for the festival itself. I think that’s enough reasons to hold a party eh?

One of the really fun aspects of the festival is that most of the invited flyers were all ensconced in one place, The Redwood Lodge, just a short drive down the road from the festival fields. This made for a few great evenings of talk and general merriment around the bar, plus as it was a place that generally hosted weddings on the weekends, you could catch some great entertainment from the invited guests as well! An all around win/win situation. While Thursday was spent on The Downs closer in Bristol itself as a “press event” where the local media attended, shooting video for weather forecasts and interviewing flyers (John and I had done an early morning interview with Avril Baker, the festival organizer, at the BBC), Friday was spent touring around various sites in Bristol itself including a trip to the SS Great Britain,  fascinating look at life on a steam ship in the UK, followed by a visit to the Lord Mayor’s mansion for high tea and a fantastic dinner reception on a barge moored in the Avon River.

The location for the festival is just across the river from the town of Bristol itself, set in a VERY large field area with more room than we could possibly know what to do with! There was a lot of food vendors set up (including the world’s best pies made by Pieminister! YUM!), kids play areas and multiple kite field areas, again including a dedicated Rev play area for all the teams that had made the trip over. The lineup of Rev teams was somewhat adjusted from who had been at Portsmouth. FLIC Crazy Drivers  were unable to attend to due to previous commitments, but, in their places, Team Bolau from Spain and Time Out from The Netherlands made the trip over, keeping the numbers roughly the same for what we had at Portsmouth. With some luck, we might be able to surpass the record that eluded us in Portsmouth…

The running of the festival was handled a little differently but, again, the organizers managed to show off a vast array of kites and flying styles, this time with the inclusion of the UK dual line team, The Scratch Bunnies, doing a few demos each day. Also, as this is Martin Lester’s home field, the sky was usually filled with a great assortment of Martin’s trousers, a site which is really quite indescribable for me, but it sure was amusing. Also of particular note was a monstrous kite made by Carl Robertshaw and his team at The Kite Studio. The pictures do not do it justice at all but, essentially Carl designed this kite by taking a bunch of cubes within a 3d design program and colliding them. Once he settled on a collision, he then built the kite. I have no idea how many rods nor how many metres of fabric went into this beast, but, I’m here to say that in fact DID fly quite nicely and had there been  bit more of a breeze on either day, I feel certain it would have quite happily sat up in the sky for a while. Truly an amazing feat that took hours to put together with its three separate sections. Everywhere you looked at this festival, there were more great kites to be seen, both up in the air and sitting waiting for their moment in the sky.

With the experiences gained the previous weekend, the megaflys were expected to be pretty straightforward but, as is to be expected, Murphy himself was definitely a kite flyer and his appearance at the festival was through the “magic” of fairly low winds. Not unflyably low but, certainly of a low enough range that it began to whittle down the list who felt comfortable working at the level of wind. But, we still managed to put up great displays ranging from 36 to 42 groups of kites at any given time, much to the audience’s enthusiastic response. At one point, we did manage to deal with 54 kites for a short period of time but, I’m pretty sure that people are STILL debating whether or not this truly went past the existing Japanese record, but for many of the flyers involved, this was never really the point anyways. For the record, I feel we managed to have over 49 for a good period of time. 😉

The festival had also put together a birthday cake for Revolution to celebrate their “birthday”  in proper style. Represented by Ben D’Antonio and Joe Hadzicki and his family, rousing cheers rang out as Joe blew out the candles and all of us indulged in a pretty damn yummy cake. From my vantage point, Joe looked really touched by the outpouring of love he must have felt across both weekends from the UK Rev flyers, I’m sure it’s an experience he won’t soon forget, so, just in case he does, should we begin planning a 25th anniversary now? (It’s worth mentioning at this point that indeed, plans are underway to have some manner of large “Rev” festival somewhere in the world once a year. The experience of getting to hang around with 50+ other rev flyers over a pair of weekends was truly a fine time and something everyone seems to be anxious to do again. Keep your eyes on the Revolution forum for further information as this plan develops).

Bristol is also the home to Aardman Animations, producers of the Wallace and Gromit films and Sunday found them down on the festival grounds itself. And, it seemed to be a weekend for birthdays, as a famous group of entertainers called “Blue Peter” also celebrated a 50th anniversary as part of the festival. Often it seemed like any corner you turned around, somebody was celebrating something! A long running show in the UK called “Scrapheap Challenge” also filmed an episode during the Sunday, at one point hauling iQuad out for some shots with their show’s host. Apparently this will air sometime next year so , if we manage to hear when that will happen, we’ll drop a note into the Rev forum so UK viewers can have a chuckle at our expense.

Much like any large festival, the Saturday evening again brought a dinner plus auction but in this one, there was some real prizes up for grabs including one of the new Decorator’s kites and the very first Martin Lester designed Revolution kite. It was one of those evenings when I truly had brought more money with me as I would have loved to come back to Canada with a Decorators kite but, alas, it was not to be for me that evening.

Sunday’s weather didn’t start out as promising as the fields were covered with a thick mist that looked likely to turn into rain later in the day, but, it would seem we managed to bring JUST enough sunshine with us in our travel case as the rain never really arrived. We did hear that after we left much of the UK was then promptly drowned in near monsoon like rains for days afterwards so, next time we head over your way, we promise to ring along a little extra to leave with you all when we return.

Of course, the two trips would not have been possible without a lot of help from an awful lot of people, so I’d like to thank as many as possible, starting with the Revolution, The Drachen Foundation, Kiteworld UK and Avril Baker and the Bristol Festival organizers. But, just as important a part of the trip is the kite flyers we flew with and hung out with over the 12 days in the UK. We were treated like best friends or family by every single person we ran across during our trip and that alone will make it a memorable event for all of iQuad for the rest of our lives, you have our true and sincere thanks for the times we had over there and hopefully, we can return the favour over on our side of the pond sometime in the near future.

Until the next time we’re across the ocean,

David Hathaway