The story behind the St Annes Kite Festival

St Annes Kite Festival is by Lancashire Life artist Nick Oliver. See more of his work at www.smilecr

St Annes Kite Festival is by Lancashire Life artist Nick Oliver. See more of his work at or contact him at 01257 427465. - Credit: Archant

People in this lovely coastal town are looking to the skies for inspiration, as Emma Mayoh discovered

St Annes Kite Festival

St Annes Kite Festival - Credit: Archant

When Patrick May has an idea, it really takes flight. It took just one visit to Catch the Wind festival in Morecambe for him to be bitten by the kite flying bug. But rather than just enjoy it, he took it one step further and decided the launch his own event. The St Annes Kite Festival had been run in the town previously but it was primary school teacher Patrick and his wife Jenny who decided to resurrect it 2012. They did it with international kite flyers and designers SmileFactor 10 based in the Lake District and Warrington based DH Kites. It was an immediate hit and it has gone from strength to strength with hundreds of people visiting the seaside town during the two-day event.

He said: ‘After going to Morecambe I just thought it would be a fantastic thing to do. Why not? I tried really hard to get it off the ground with help from my friends and it’s really been worth it.

‘Seeing all of the kites flying really is an incredible site and we’re really lucky that people enjoy it and want to come back year after year.’

Professional kite flyers from around the world come to St Annes to take part in the festival and the skies are filled with everything from gigantic teddy bears, hippos, birds and dragons. Plans are now being made to make this year’s event, being held on July 25th and 26th, even bigger. As well as the kite displays, there will be kite making workshops, kites to buy, family fun and entertainment. In previous years original music from local bands has been performed on the bandstand, near the beach. But this year, there will be a stage on the beach near to the pier. The festival, which attracts thousands of people, is supported by local businesses including The Pier Café as well as St Annes Town Council and Fylde Borough Council

Patrick May, founder and organiser of the St Annes Kite Festival

Patrick May, founder and organiser of the St Annes Kite Festival - Credit: Archant

Patrick, a member of The Northern Kite Group said: ‘We are really excited. The festival takes a lot of planning and organising but for us it is about bringing a smile to people’s faces.

‘We can’t wait to see the beach filled with people, colour, those smiles and plenty of kites.’

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Guy Pople, owner of St Annes Music, organises the acts that perform at the festival. The 43-year-old, originally from Durban in South Africa, thinks the festival is a great way of entertaining visitors but also puts local talent in the spotlight.

He said: ‘Thousands of people come here. There will be 1,000 people just on the pier and many more on the beach. For new and original bands to have this many people to play for is an incredible opportunity.

Tim Seed, Eddie Sloane and Ian Dibdin

Tim Seed, Eddie Sloane and Ian Dibdin - Credit: Archant

‘But it’s also amazing that the people who visit the festival get to experience this totally original music from very talented musicians. It takes a lot to bring everything together but it really is worth every second. I’m excited - the music will be down on the beach in the heart of the action.’

There is going to be activity on the beach as well as in the skies above it, too. There was a time when St Annes was once internationally renowned for its excellent sand yachting – it was considered the home of the sport. But sand yachting and other associated sports were banned after mother-of-two Carole Cruz died after a collision with a craft on the sands in 2002.

Now, a permanent return of the sport to its spiritual home is looking more likely. It is local enthusiast, Ian Dibdin, who has been campaigning to start up sand yachting again . The 70-year-old, himself a sand yacht enthusiast, was encouraged by his father, Eddie, the founder of the first sand yacht club at St Annes in 1951. It was established with the support of Violet Clifton, a member of the Lytham family that once owned nearby Georgian property Lytham Hall.

He said: ‘My dad introduced me to it and I’ve been absolutely hooked ever since. It’s a fantastic sport and I have wanted it to come back here for a long time.

John Coombes in front of the Spitfire Memorial at Fairhaven Lake

John Coombes in front of the Spitfire Memorial at Fairhaven Lake - Credit: Archant

‘St Annes was the home of sand yachting. European and World Championships were held here. Sand yachters from all over the world came as well as thousands of people who watched it. There would be 100 yachts on the beach. It was a spectacular site. The conditions are perfect and participants used to say St Annes was the best place in the world to compete.’

Regattas showcasing the sport were held last October and March, with the support of the British Landsailing Association. It is hoped interest will now be high enough to establish a local club and then re-position St Annes at the centre of the sport. It is thought the club will operate out of Trax Windsports, owned by Eddie Sloane. It could also bring more money into the local economy.

Ian said: ‘I would really like it if a club got going and St Annes got its reputation back again. It deserves it. My dad would be pleased that it is still going and I would be so thrilled if it took off again.

‘It would be special to see sand yachts on the beach in St Annes once more. We hope that people are going to take an interest and even give it a try themselves so we can get the club up and running.’

Local aviation enthusiast and specialist John Coombes is also working to get plans for a new aviation museum off the ground. The Lytham St Annes Spitfire Display Team, of which John is a member, wants to set up the Fylde Coast Museum of Aviation and Aircraft Manufacturing in celebration and recognition of the area’s flying heritage.

The museum will tell the story of the Fylde’s contribution to aviation, which includes bases such as RAF Squires Gate, RAF Lytham, RAF Freckleton, the Stanley Park Aerodrome and the Warton Aerodrome – once operated by the United States Army Air Forces.

John said: ‘We want to make more people aware of the significance of the area. Wellington Bombers used to be made up at Squires Gate during the war.

‘Many people don’t realise that. There have been things even we, as enthusiasts, have discovered. We want to pass this information on and let people know how integral this area was for aviation and the war effort.’

The group, are all volunteers and previously ran a campaign to construct a Spitfire Memorial at nearby Fairhaven Lake, need to raise £30,000 to get a building and get things started. They are currently looking at sites in several places, including St Annes. The project will be funded from money the group raise through campaigning for help from the public. John is confident it will happen and hopes to have it open by late summer.

He said: ‘We will definitely do it because we are doing it all off our own steam. We won’t stop until we have managed it. There is a definite demand for it as we get enquiries all of the time.

‘Aviation is in the DNA of this area. All you have to do is look up into the sky to see a Typhoon flying past. We want to put down permanent roots. We want to get the public and schools into the museum and use it to celebrate the past history of the Fylde coast.’

To donate to the Fylde Coast Museum of Aviation and Aircraft Manufacturing fund visit and type in Fylde Coast Museum of Aviation.

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