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Rising costs threaten future of Herne Bay air show

By Marijke Hall

Organisers of the hugely popular Herne Bay air show say red tape and spiralling costs are making the event harder to put on each year.

This year's extravaganza attracted a record 100,000 visitors, with crowds treated to displays of aviation acrobatics above the town.

But behind the scenes, the BayPromoTeam, which has run the show for the last five years, says it is facing big hurdles, including increased costs for first-aid provision, uncertainty over availability of aircraft and assessments by different authorities.

Action from this year's air show. Picture: Adrian Bennett
Action from this year's air show. Picture: Adrian Bennett

The show costs £100,000 to put on, with funds coming from advertising, sponsors, donations and programme costs.

This year, just 10 days before the show on Saturday, August 19, the team was still £9,000 shy of its target and had to appeal to members of the public to buy the programme to cover the final costs.

Senior organiser, Gerald McCarthy, said it is a big decision every year whether or not to go ahead with the show and they are still mulling over for 2018.

“It’s a year-long thing to put on an event of this size,” he said.

“If we’re to go ahead next year we will need to start work now, getting together the £100,000 we need, which involves meeting advertisers, sponsors and the authorities.

A record 100,000 visitors attended this year's show. Picture: Barry Duffield
A record 100,000 visitors attended this year's show. Picture: Barry Duffield

“We have to find out the availability of the aircraft – the Red Arrows, the memorial flights, etc.

"We don’t find out until February if we have been successful in getting them and then we have to see what availability there is for other aircraft.

“Then we need to speak to local authorities, the Civil Aviation Authority, counter terrorist and emergency services.

“It’s a real battle.”

Mr McCarthy says first-aid costs have gone up by 400% every year, the equivalent of finding an additional £10,000.

Gerald McCarthy, senior organiser of the Herne Bay air show
Gerald McCarthy, senior organiser of the Herne Bay air show

“Overall the costs are spiralling and it’s difficult to manage that,” he said.

“We could get to the point where we won’t be able to buy in the display events to watch but we’ll be able to put on a great medical team on the ground.”

He admits the red tape seems to have got worse, too.

“We have a very well-scrutinised event management plan, which involves multi agencies and they are pleased with it,” he said.

“But next year they might not be and it might not meet medical and safety requirements.

“Unlike other events, where they do one plan and that can be used as a template each year, with air shows it is constantly evolving.

"It’s quite a different thing to putting on a fireworks display.”

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