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No Herne Bay air show in 2019

By Jack Dyson

Herne Bay's spectacular air show is unlikely to return for a number of years as the cost of holding such large-scale events continues to spiral.

The BayPromoTeam attracted crowds of up to 100,000 people to the town as it held three air shows between 2015 and 2017.

But the tireless organisers - who took a break this year - say a 2019 event will not happen and do not foresee one in the immediate future.

The Red Arrows thrill the crowds at the Herne Bay air show - but will they return?
The Red Arrows thrill the crowds at the Herne Bay air show - but will they return?

The group's lead organiser, Gerald McCarthy, said: “At the moment, the event is simply beyond us.

"It’s just too much for us as a team to find the £100,000 or so annually to pay for it.

"A huge amount of help is needed to put on this event.

"It’s even hard to pin down staff as they all want to watch it with their families

"We may come back; we have managed a U-turn before.

"But in terms of the time, money and responsibility that lie with the volunteers, it’s just so difficult to do year on year.”

The air shows are funded through council grants, sponsorship from local businesses, donations from residents and the proceeds from the BayPromoTeam’s annual Sci-Fi by the Sea event.

The air show’s attract thousands to Herne Bay
The air show’s attract thousands to Herne Bay

Despite this, a last-minute cash injection of £12,500 from Quinn Estates was required to help it go ahead last year.

In April, Mr McCarthy feared costs could rise by as much as 50%.

“We were resigned to the fact that it could be a minimum of £100,000, but it could be more,” he said.

“The price has gone up in huge chunks. There are challenges from the emergency services for us to provide more infrastructure, security and medical provision.

"The medical cover is as much as getting the Red Arrows team itself – about £13,000.

“We are appreciative of why this needs to be in place, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is difficult to fund each year.”

Following the Shoreham air show crash in 2015, the Civil Aviation Authority increased its fees to hold an event.

Organiser Gerald McCarthy
Organiser Gerald McCarthy

This means the BayPromoTeam would have to pay two fees totalling £14,507 if it was to have between 25 and 30 performances.

“The CAA increases have been staggered, so they’re not as favourable as they used to be from an organisational perspective,” Mr McCarthy continued.

“That was one of the killer aspects.

“We would want to do it to the scale that we did before, which put it on a par with some of the largest airshows in the UK.

"We wouldn’t be happy just doing two displays.”

The organiser has called for “a three-pronged approach” to secure the air show’s future.

This would involve the local authority, businesses and community groups working together to fund and run it.

"It's just too much for us as a team to find the £100,000 or so annually to pay for it" - Gerald McCarthy

“The local authority may also have to look at the Eastbourne model for this event in the future – which is largely council and business-run and funded,” he said.

“In our view, the air show has helped transform Herne Bay enormously, bringing many more repeat visits from thousands of people - and the economic boost has run into several millions of pounds too.

"The local authority must know the benefits to the town; it’s just a question as to whether it has the same approach to it as us.”

Council spokesman Rob Davies said: “The days of the council having a large events team and spare cash to organise things like an air show are, sadly, long gone”.

“We simply do not have the staff or money, and that is a situation that’s never going to change..

“Our approach now is to help others to put on events and to make that process as straightforward as possible.

“We have recently appointed a new officer who will be a dedicated point of contact for organisers, and are developing a new, streamlined events policy with lower costs wherever possible.”

Mr Davies said the council has opened a consultation to gauge organisers’ opinions of the process.

To take part, visit www.canterbury.gov.uk/consultations

VIDEO: Herne Bay Air Show grounded

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