16 September 2011 (Friday) - Teston Kite Festivals

It’s no secret that the kite festivals at Teston feature very highly in my annual calendar. Since the last kite festival at Teston I’ve spent time in communication with various people who are involved with the running of the kite festivals at Teston. There have been all sorts of rumours that Kent County Council wants to cut back the current two festivals each year down to only one. And if that’s not bad enough, there have been rumours that there won’t be any future kite festivals at all at Teston Bridge Picnic Site. The reason -  because the kite festivals cost too much to put on.
Or perhaps “cost too much” isn’t the right phrase. “Generate enough profit” might be more descriptive.

There was a big meeting about the matter yesterday. Kent County Council have decreed that Teston Kite Festival is not cost effective in its current form.
Kent Kite Flyers are going to be approached regarding the running of the kite making workshop (told to do it?), thereby enabling Kent County Council to reduce staffing and therefore costs. And volunteers are to be sought (conscripted?) to help on the day with parking issues and directing the traffic. More trade stands will also be drummed up to gain more income.
The (paid) site warden’s job will be to stand at the front gate collecting parking monies
Only after this has all been done, and a serious profit has been raked in, will “the management” consider whether the event will be allowed to continue.

In the past it has been suggested that Kent County Council wash their hands of the festival, and pass it onto someone else to run…
In theory the last four kite festivals at Teston have been run by the Kent Kite Fliers. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but at the last four Teston festivals, the Kent Kite Fliers have arrived two days after me, and then huddled in a corner of the field far away from everyone else. And made a point of keeping themselves to themselves.
I may well be very wrong, but from what I can see, their input to the Teston kite festivals of 2010 and 2011 has been minimal at best. I’m told they advertise the event (I wonder where), and that they organise height clearance with the C.A.A. (which isn’t difficult).
It speaks volumes that at the last weekend when we were there, when a new warden wanted to appoint one of the campers to hold the car park key overnight, other wardens advised him to ask for me by name. It’s pretty obvious that the Kent Kite Fliers have had their chance to do something with the festival, and (in the opinion of Kent County Council) not lived up to expectations.

So what of the future of Teston Kite Festival?
In June 2009 I was told that Ron Dell was stepping down as the organiser of Teston Kite Festival, and that another organiser was being sought. In August 2009 I was approached by several prominent kite fliers to ask if I’d consider taking on the running of future festivals at Teston. At the time I said that if no one else would do it, I’d do it. After all, how difficult could it be to run a gentle weekend at a Kent picnic site? I could do that. What costs are there?
Any costs might well be offset by the use of volunteers. There may well be the need for extra litter clearances. Anyone could go round with a dustbin. Up till now the children’s kite making workshop has been staffed by Kent County Council staff. This could be run by volunteers. Car parking might be an issue – but could it really be that difficult to arrange the use of some of the back field? – It’s been done before.

But then, could I conscript any volunteers? Do people really want to give up their holiday time to shift dustbins and organise car parking and generally dogsbody about purely because the council is too mean to pay their staff to do the job?
I don’t mind volunteering to do a volunteer’s job, but I must admit I’m not keen to volunteer to do a job that until now has been done by a paid employee.

And then there’s the whole sorry tale of public liability insurance. Taking on the festival would make me legally liable for everything and anything (no matter how ridiculous). There is always some prat who wants to sue because I hadn’t adequately protected him from his own stupidity. Such public liability insurance isn’t cheap. I’m reliably informed that other kite festivals pay over a thousand pounds for such cover.

However, after a bit of research, my main objection to taking on Teston kite festival would be the cost of the hire of the field. As well as running a kite festival for the council, were I to take it on, I’d be expected to pay the council (about) five hundred quid in hard cash for the use of the field.
A field which is just sitting there and would have been used for the kite festival anyway.

In the cold light of day I remembered something that I posted on June 15 2009 when I was considering taking on the running of Teston kite festival: “…there would be all the petty triviality of the day. Chasing the power kites and stunt kites into the area provided for them. Stopping the one-liners from getting in the way of the steerable stuff. Asking the normal people not to play football right in the middle of a kite festival. Stopping the pikeys from having a major rave in a corner of the field. ….smoothing the ruffled feathers of the chap whose kite-flying teddy bear was kidnapped for a bit of a laugh. And then appeasing the chap whose kite was stolen by someone who wrongly thought that he was the chap who’d nicked his kite flying teddy bear. Or telling senior citizens that they can’t use a drainpipe bazooka to fire potatoes across the field. Or politely asking people playing didgeridoos at 1am to shut up. “

I think the bottom line is that I need to ask myself one question. “Do I enjoy the Teston kite festival?
I like camping at Teston. I like that very much. I like flying kites there, and I like watching others fly kites there. But the actual kite festival bit….
On reflection, when at the Teston Kite Festivals, I spend most of the Saturdays and Sundays whinging on about how I prefer the Friday at Teston before the kite festival because the normal people aren’t actually there. On 10 August 2009 I blogged: “I can’t help but wonder if invading the picnic site twice a year is the best thing to do. Once a year we camp on a friend’s farm. There’s no one there but us. A lot of the kiting people do something similar at a camp site in Sussex – they book a whole area for themselves and so can do their own thing. Joining them is looking more and more attractive.

It would be a shame to lose the Teston Kite Festival, but at the moment the opinion of “those in the know” is that the June festival is in danger of being lost in 2013 if they cannot create lots of profit in 2012.
If you feel strongly about saving the Kite Festival click here to make your views and ideas known. But be prepared to volunteer to do a lot of work which (up till now) paid staff have done.

I shall end today with the observation that when we camp at Brighton Kite Festival we make a point of setting up camp up a hill well away from the crowds of normal people. Last September I went up to Sumner’s Ponds for a weekend. I preferred there not being any “normal people” about. Take the kite festivals in Margate, Berck or Dieppe. They are “kite” events – no one there would dream of trying to set up a game of football or rounders or a barbecue right in the middle of the kite flying.
There are too many “normal people” infesting Teston Kite Festivals. If we could have the site for the kiters and the campers I might be interested in taking it on. But I’m not interested in putting on a show for the public who clearly aren’t interested, and see us as being in their way on their picnic site.
Perhaps the Teston Bridge Kite Festivals have run their course? On reflection I would rather drive further and go to where the normal people are either absent or are there as audience rather than being in my way…


  1. I think you would be way better off camping with your mates and flying a few kites whenever you have a free weekend. I have learned not to get too officially involved in running events.
    Speaking of which I have recently been asked to be on another committee ......sigh.

  2. Whilst I enjoy Teston, it has always been neither one thing nor the other. Its not a formal kite festival as there are no organised arenas and displays like Brighton, Margate, Portsmouth etc which makes it a relaxing weekend for kite flyers, but it isn't a kite flyer’s weekend like the Jolly Ups, or the Kite Weekenders events at Sumners because normal people are allowed in and without designated arenas they disrupt the kite flyers on Saturday and Sunday by playing football and picnicking in the flying area.

    Unfortunately putting on a festival costs money, and formal festivals cost a lot of money as invited flyers will want payment and accommodation, then you have the PA to pay for etc. With the KCC deciding they need to spend less on Teston, I sadly see it going the way of the Suffolk Kite Festival which despite charging exorbitant entry fees didn’t make money for the land owner.

    The other problem that the arises is the cost of camping, whilst I have no problems with coughing a few quid for a kite flyers weekend to cover costs or at events that are in aid of charity like Exmouth Kite Festival, I refuse to pay at formal events where we are augmenting the spectacle for free and I don't see why we should pay for the privilege particularly when 'Invited Flyers' are paid expenses and are provided with accommodation. As a result we don’t attend events like Swindon and Bristol and won't do so until we are 'invited' to do so.