The Decorators' History

1988 saw the formation of The Decorators to compete in the UK Team Rokkaku championships organised by The Kite Society of Great Britain. Felix Mottram and Jacob Twyford co-opted Romney Johnstone into the team at Easter Blackheath. Third place was gained in an extremely close finish at The Bristol Kite Festival.

1989 started with a new interest in two-line kites. The Decorators flew at a large number of British festivals including Blackheath, Brighton, Birmingham, Washington, Glasgow and Bristol. Winning The Kite Society of Great Britain National Team Ballet competition was a major achievement. At Washington Tyne and Wear, the visit by several long established American teams proved to be a valuable experience for The Decorators in an international setting. Towards the end of the year the team was invited to attend the 6th International Kite Festival of Berlin at Lübars. Jørgen Møller Hansen introduced himself to the team at this event.

1990 was the first year for regular travel abroad. The Decorators attended festivals in Europe, visiting France for the French National Open in Le Touquet and festivals in Berck Plage and Dieppe, to Oostdunkirke in Belgium and to Berlin and Damp in Germany. British Festivals included Doncaster, Manchester, Gateshead, Washington and Glasgow in the north, Poole and Bristol in the southwest and The European Cup on Blackheath, London where the team won The Kite Society National Championships and the STACK European Cup. The Decorators qualified for the 1990 World Cup but were unable to accept the invitation to Oregon.

1991 was an exciting and hectic year. The Decorators visited Malaysia in January sponsored by Malaysian Airlines, attending a festival in the north and spending time coaching the new Malaysian Airlines team MASK. In April the team went to Vienna and once again took part at Berck Plage and Le Touquet in France. The British Nationals on Blackheath brought success for the second year running and The Decorators remained overall British Team Champions. Tim Paget, who had joined the team in 1990 left mid season and the team slipped to 3rd place at the European Cup at Montpelier. The Decorators represented Britain at The World Cup in Bristol, finishing 8th overall and rounded off the season with visits to Damp and Goslar in Germany and also to Kolding in Denmark.

1992 was another busy year. Johnny Claffey had joined The Decorators, now recognised as one of the top Revolution teams in the world. Plans for the year included a return visit to Vienna and a collaboration with leading Danish kite-maker Jørgen Møller Hansen at the American Kite Association convention in Texas in the autumn. The team traveled to Barcelona in May to take part in the pre-Olympic celebrations and this event proved to be a turning point. Apart from being an excellent venue, which inspired the kite flying, the team arrived at the decision not to pursue competitive flying for the rest of the season. In June the visit to Scheveningen ended with the team being awarded the prize for the best team presentation of the event. The team had stayed well clear of the competition field flying Revolutions in the single line arena throughout the weekend! Other memorable festivals in 1992 included Monmouth in Wales and Dublin in Ireland. Taking part in the Festival in Denver at the Invitation of Scott Skinner and Human Services Inc. was successful though hard work due to lack of wind. In December American Kite published an article titled "Over The Top." Included with this was a piece by Sarah Kent titled "The Decorators Start The European Revolution."

1993 Once again the team looked to contribute to the European Kite Festivals as well as those in the UK. The return visit to Scheveningen proved to be as successful as the visit in 1992 and featured a 7 person Rev display. Commitments in 1992 prevented the team from visiting Goslar, Damp and Berlin in Germany. In 1993 the Berlin event was cancelled but Damp and Goslar went ahead with mixed conditions over both weekends. Quand-Plage was a new event in France to complement the long established event at Berck. At Berck the team was repeatedly put through its paces by the organisers; a hard working event! Two of the team also visited Italy, firmly recommending follow-up visits by the whole team.

Drachen Design, in conjunction with the World Kite Museum in Long Beach, invited the team to participate in the 1993 Kite Pin Invitational and 1993 Fifth Anniversary Kite Exhibit. This invitation was based on the theme: "What's New, Who's New in Kiting." The resulting pin was available from the team and Drachen Design retail and mail order outlets at the time.

During the summer the team decided to ask Chris Matheson and Andy Preston to help ensure that the team was always able to present a four person line-up. The possibility of flying with a larger team could also be realised.

1994 A provisional agenda was in place before the end of November 1993. None of the team could have anticipated how the year developed. A trip to Israel before the Easter weekend was the first unexpected addition. Washington State International Kite Festival in August was the next addition and finally the team were invited to an event in Johannesburg in South Africa. These events were in addition to the European events which included a trip to Norway and a serious effort to introduce the team to the Italian festival circuit.

1995 The previous years successes in Italy were followed by return trips to Ferrara and Ostia with a firm invitation back to Castiglione in 1996. Early in the year Chris Matheson left the team. Damon Meheux was invited to fly with the team at Ostia and it was obvious that he was a very competent replacement. The season was dominated by the realisation that the event at Bristol in September really would be the 100th festival that the team had attended. A commemorative T-shirt was produced and a page was placed on the World Wide Web by Simo Salane at the Kite Fliers Site. A new set of of sails designed by Jørgen arrived the day before the event and they required a six person team to do them full justice. Mark Eustace was invited to join the team in an effort to realise this ambition in 1996.

1996 The season started with the team attending the first weekend of the Berck Plage event in France. The feeling was that the team should try and attend the whole event in 1997! Easter Blackheath was followed by another wintry event in Vienna. A second visit to France followed at the end of April. Dunkirk, a new festival, provided perfect conditions in every respect. Following this, most of the team flew to Italy for the last two mid-week days of the Castiglione event. They were joined by the rest of the team the following weekend for the Ostia festival. As in previous years the conditions were perfect. The team's visit to Brasilien in Germany was another success but all the team were saddened by news of the death of Boje Nickelsen a few weeks later. East London, a local event at which the team agreed to support fundraising for Amnesty International was followed by a slightly informal attendance of the event in Scheveningen, Holland at which John Mitchell kindly assisted the team. Washington and Monmouth followed at the beginning of July. At the beginning of August the team were invited to Knokke in Belgium. This event was a great success and the team expects to return in 1997. At this point in the season Romney announced his retirement from the team. His last appearances were at Fredrikstad in Norway and Bristol, England. The two events in Germany, Berlin and Goslar, concluded the season's activities.

From this point on the emphasis is based on a more personal account.

1997. We didn't manage to organise ourselves for the complete Berck-Plage festival but we did arrive on Friday 28th and leave on Monday 31st of March. "I don't drink, I don't smoke, I just fly kites" was the ironic introduction to the season. Cervia and Ostia are on the east and west coasts of Italy respectively. The first week was in Cervia, the second weekend in Ostia. Driving from Rome to Cervia there was still snow on the ground beside the road in the mountains. Our driver showed signs of falling asleep at the wheel as we came down from the mountain passes over viaducts and through tunnels! In Cervia we spent the first two nights in a building that had not warmed up after the recent snow but the hospitality at the Bar Paradiso soon made up for the chilly first nights. The daily routine was quickly established around a traditional midday meal. It was worth getting out on the beach early just to work up an appetite! In the middle of the week the weather tuned wet and a little more windy so we had the chance to try out the 1.5 vented Revs that had recently been sent to us. Ostia was, as in previous years a great festival to attend. Even after a whole week of flying the team still had the energy to enjoy the near perfect breezes. Vaughan Livingstone had joined the team to cover for Jacob's absence at these events and managed to cope with the conditions very well indeed. Logistical confusion and late arrival did nothing to spoil our second year at Dunkirk. As in 1996 the organisation of the festival was first rate. Brasilien followed it's well established pattern. Fridolins Flying Circus rev team flew with us, slightly chaotically, for a while! Basingstoke was windy. Andy used a single vented Rev 1.5 to power a buggy around the field very effectively. Tom Greenfield was seen flying his Revs in an accomplished manner! The vented kites were essential for team flying.

I can remember working around a field with variable conditions underfoot at Verdun. There were moments for some sublime light wind flying, face to the sky only. The night flight was an exercise in patience followed by a concentrated effort. The event ended with an abrupt downpour on the Sunday afternoon. Romney had very kindly helped fill a gap in our usual line-up. I took the weekend off so missed Brighton this year. Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and Tom Greenfield introduced himself to the rest of the team. Knokke provided an opportunity for those who had missed it in 1996 to appreciate the enthusiasm of the organiser Anne de Roy in establishing this new festival. The local authority seems to have taken note of the event. A dramatic image of the team kites, shot from a tower appeared in one of the kite magazines during the autumn. East London is a very local event which continues to establish it's particular flavour.

Jammerbugten in Denmark was an opportunity to catch up with Jørgen. Unfortunately the set of Rev 1.5 kites in his latest graphic did not get sent to us in time for this event. The extensive flying areas available at this new event were a real treat. We never had to look over our shoulders to check that there was free space. Danish television took note of the event and we were told that footage shot really was broadcast!

We did go to Bristol and took our usual corner. I think that this tradition is firmly established and we will be back again next year whatever we say in the meantime! Black ribbons tied to the kites on Saturday marked the passing away of a member of the British Aristocracy. The season ended with a visit to the sun, in Marseille. After a press shoot on the Friday we were given a guided tour of the city. A rare occurrence on a kiting excursion. The flying site was great and the response from the audience reflected the weather, very warm. A real treat to end the year and we certainly hope to go back in 1998.

Finally, Tom Greenfield who we met at Basingstoke flew with the team later in the season and will be with us in 1998. Damon Meheux announced that he was retiring from the team on 30th January 1997.

1998. Hmm...!? After ten years of travelling to kite festivals it does begin to be difficult to remember precisely what happened at which event in the most recent year. Anyway, it is not difficult to remember that Nic Boothby (ex Airkraft) started to fly with the team in 1998. As with previous new fliers he was expected to cope with flying the team routines straight away. There is no bag carrying apprenticeship in The Decorators! Nic quickly found that his experience with Airkraft could be put to good use in The Decorators and he managed to keep us organised at Berck and Cap d'Agde even if he did have trouble with the strong winds at the Mediterranean resort when it came to team flying.

The team traveled to Vienna after having missed the event in 1997. Helmut Georgi was our host and he certainly deserves our special thank for his support for the team over the years.

The younger section of the team visited Sardinia. Neither Jacob or I could escape heavy work schedules at the time but it sounded as if the boys did get their act together even if they weren't completely happy with the results!

Rain affected both Scheveningen in Holland and Hackney in East London. By the end of the season this appeared to have become a bit of a trend.

Washington in Tyne and Wear, England was not rained off this year as it was in 1997 so the team were able to get up north (thanks to Malcolm Goodman again)

I missed Knokke in Belgium this year but the team evidently enjoyed the event again. This one is definitely becoming a fixture on the team's calendar and we hope to be back again in 1999.

Bristol is a fixture. This year, on the Sunday we experienced the most fickle breezes ever. Flying Revs in the lee of trees or buildings just does not work; and it rained. Never mind, there is always next year.

The final event of the season was also wet. Most of the team set out for Dieppe mid week to take advantage of this week long festival. I was only able to attend at the weekend and almost missed the boat on Friday night. Newhaven can be a long way from London! We did manage to get some flying done on Saturday morning, just in time for one of the French TV crews but the rest of the time rain and strong winds prevailed.

End of season fatigue comes into play when conditions are far from ideal. Our Autumn/Winter hibernation usually does the trick though and I expect the team to be fully charged with enthusiasm when we meet early in January to warm up (if that is the right expression) for our visit to Madison, Wisconsin, USA at the beginning of February to attend Kites on Ice. (12-14/02/1999)

1999 Hmmm!!! It has been some time since I attempted to update this file. (It is now January 2001.) So we went to Madison. Pretty cool event if not a little slippery. (There are some images on the pictures page.) Berck followed and then Cervia and Sardinia which have become the antidote to flying on ice. East London and Washington followed and then Knokke in Belgium with Bristol bringing the season to a close!

2000 We did not take up an invitation to bridge fly in London on 31st December 1999/New Years Eve. It would have been, we anticipated, too much like work; the antithesis of the project! Damon Meheux helped out at Madison this year. Work commitments prevented me from attending! Berck followed once again. Cervia this year turned out to be the last of the series. As noted before, it is quite something team flying for a whole week! Sardinia seems to be well established but it rained on the Friday and was grey on the Saturday! The London event saw an unusual effort by the team to fly kites other than the Revolution. Johnny Claffey had a hand in the organisation which may explain this. Logistical problems resulted in my turning up at Washington without a team. Oh well, it was bound to happen sometime. Bristol once again was the final event of the season.

2001. The team is set to fly to Madison, this year assisted by James Robertshaw. Once again I cannot attend due to work commitments.....

2009. Link to blog