Basingstoke kite festival

7th June 2008

I used to have a kite when I was a kid. It was a square one with a picture of a Dalek on it. My Grandad tied it to the back of his deckchair on the beach & it came loose & drifted away. I miss my kite.

Basingstoke in Hampshire has hosted a kite festival for 16 years now. I’ve been vaguely aware of it as I used to walk past the Down Grange Sports Field where it’s held on my Postal delivery, but never visited before. This year however, Tanya & I had a few hours spare on the Saturday afternoon & thought, Why not.
The local newspaper, the Basingstoke Gazette, sponsors the event & entry is completely free. Obviously the majority of the show goers were parents with small children, which made for a very happy, friendly atmosphere, almost carnival like. Glorious, warm sunshine with a slight breeze across the field gave perfect flying conditions. The sports complex is home to Basingstoke rugby club so there was lots of open space for excitable youngsters to run off their excess energy & hone their kite flying skills. Among the little ‘uns though, there were plenty of serious enthusiasts.
The two day event was organised by the Loddon Valley Kite Flyers & attracted clubs from all over Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, France & the former Eastern bloc nations. The French Les Ailes du Desir kite team performed a synchronised aerial “dance” routine to music, as did several other clubs. A British team flew a whole flock of “Angels”, their kites wafting on the breeze to a soothing, ethereal soundtrack. A strangely beautiful sight. They’ve been booked to appear at this year’s Glastonbury rock festival.
In a more frenetic vein, there was also a display of Japanese Rokkaku fighting kites. These use a normal cotton string for flying, with a section of heavier cord just below the kite, used to slice through the flight string of your opponent, leading to dramatic aerial dogfights, complicated by the need to avoid getting tangled up in each others’ strings as the kites swoop & twist around the skies.
In partnership with local schools, the Gazette had organised a children’s’ Design a Kite competition in advance of the show & the Mayor of Basingstoke presented the prizes. This year's theme was The Jungle, with first prize going to a Tiger & runner up being a Monkey. Each winner was given a kite made for them from their design. A nice touch. Everyone was free to bring their own kites along, but various craft tents & workshops were onsite to give youngsters the chance to make & decorate their own flyer, as well as trade stalls selling ready-made ones, from basic polythene kids’ kites to beautiful, hand painted silk creations. A host of bouncy castles, food stalls & a bar for the grown ups kept the crowds happy, but most seemed content to sit in the sunshine & enjoy the spectacle of so many kites in the air at one time. Our tiny digital camera struggled to capture the scale of it all, but it really was quite impressive to watch. With a coffee & a ½ pound lamb burger to munch on, we wandered the showfield for several hours. It was just a spur of the moment decision to go along to this festival, but we both agreed, it was a very pleasant way to while away a sunny Saturday afternoon. A good old fashioned family day out.
No sign of my Dalek kite though.