25 January 2013 (Friday) - Reflections on Teston

Yesterday evening and this morning social media in my world was alight with news, concerns and worries about this year's kite festivals at Teston Bridge picnic site. There was no festival there in June last year, and at the August festival last year there was a meeting of "interested parties" to discuss the future of these festivals. The organiser was also invited, and he made it quite clear that he was the organiser, and he would organise future events. So I for one took him at his word... Perhaps we all should?

Recently all manner of scare stories and misinformation has been bandied about concerning the kiting weekends in Teston. The festival in August this year is apparently going ahead, with the organiser expecting to make a loss on the deal. There now seems to be an on-line ad-hoc campaign being launched to support a possible festival in June. A year ago I would have been one of the leading lights in keeping this festival going. Five months ago I was on the point of taking on the organisation of the event. But what do I think now?

The financial outlay required for the event is unclear (to say the least). It's certain that Kent County Council want a fee for the use of the field. However the required cost varies between two hundred and fifty quid and five hundred quid depending on which person you speak to. (And this is from people "in the know", not just random guesses). But what do we get for that fee? Absolutely nothing! I would have thought that having paid for hiring a field we would be given exclusive use of it. But this is not the case. The "normal people" still get to use the site as they do at any other weekend. We get to pay money to be in the same field which the general public are using for free. It's just a nice little earner for the council.

The apparent cost of the public liability insurance varies between two hundred and fifty quid and five hundred quid depending on which person you speak to. I was personally quoted nearly five hundred quid from a specialist insurance agency. A local kite club insist they have been quoted far cheaper for the same cover. And what liability is there anyway? Any kite-caused damage is covered by the flier's personal household liability. I can't see how anyone can be held liable for anything that the general public get up to as the council have said that the public can be there anyway. If they hurt themselves then their issue must be with the council like it would be at any other weekend.

First aiders want a couple of hundred quid just to turn up. Hiring first aiders a prerequisite for hiring the field. First aiders! I don't want any first aider anywhere near me or anyone I hold dear - I know the damage they can do. I've left written instructions for first aiders not to be allowed near my children in the past. If a plaster can't fix the injury, there is a hospital not five minutes up the road. I don't doubt that there are some first aiders who do sterling jobs. However the ones of my experience are those who watch "Casualty" on the telly, believe it, and get silly ideas from it. But first aiders are compulsory, and are another drain on the limited finances.

(Stops and takes a breath. Teston kite festival has always been one of the high points of my year. This rant is all rather negative...)

So we are now in the position that what was once free is now costing about a thousand pounds. And having shelled out all this money what do we get? Most kite festivals take place in designated areas as "kite festivals".
That's what they are. You go there for the kites.
The events at Teston are very different. They are weekends of trying to fly kites in a picnic site where many people are very accustomed to having picnics, walking dogs, playing football, and generally doing their own thing every weekend. It's made quite clear by these people that the kites are very much in their way. The swarms of normal people do not like having the kiters around. I've had my tent ripped open in the past by the locals, and other friends have had children's bikes stolen.

The consensus of everyone I've spoken with is that the Teston weekend is good from when we set up our camp on the Thursday until the Saturday morning when the swarms arrive. We then wait for the swarms to go home before we then enjoy the evening, and then they come back again on the Sunday morning to spoil it. Sunday evening is good, and we then pack up and go home on Monday morning

However it would seem that there is a feeling from the establishment that camping is to be curtailed. We can only camp from the Friday until (possibly) the Sunday evening. We get to lose the bit we actually enjoy. And talking of the camping brings me on to something which boils my piss. Every year on the Sunday morning a collection is made from the campers to contribute to any expenses of the event. In the past I've bunged in ten or twenty quid, and others camping with us have done the same. On the basis of this I would expect the collection to raise in the region of two to three hundred quid. It (apparently) raises less than one hundred quid. What's that all about?

And now to add insult to injury the consensus view is that future Teston weekends will be largely financed by stinging those who camp. The implication has been made that we should pay our way. I rather resent that implication. We've been paying our way all along. If the event is paying the council for the hire of the field, then the cost of the event should be passed on to anyone using the field for that weekend. Charge a camping fee by all means, but surely it makes sense to charge an admission fee to anyone at the kite festival as well?

It has been suggested that traders and caterers be invited and charged for their pitches to offset the costs. Leaving aside the fact that the council have said they won't allow caterers, we've had traders in the past. They don't make enough money to make it with their while to turn up.

We've been told that we may lose the Teston kite festivals. Much as I've enjoyed them over the years, I'm not feeling as positive about the idea as I might be. Regular readers of this drivel may recall my witterings from last June when the planned Teston weekend was cancelled and a group of us did our own thing. We went camping on private land which cost one thousand pounds less than a weekend at Teston would have cost, and we were away from the normal people.

Everyone who went to this alternative event enjoyed it immensely. Personally I'm wondering if I wouldn't rather do my own thing again.

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