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Is the Herne Bay air show going ahead?

By Jack Dyson

Soaring costs and red tape are threatening the future of Herne Bay’s air show - with organisers fearing the popular event may have to be scrapped two years in a row.

Last year’s event attracted a record 100,000-strong crowd, but the BayPromo team has already decided not to go ahead with it this summer due to an increasing number of hurdles.

It previously cost £100,000 to stage, but now, senior organiser Gerald McCarthy fears next year’s show could also be cancelled amid a 50% rise in charges.

Action from a previous Herne Bay Air Show
Action from a previous Herne Bay Air Show

“A raft of costs has increased, including insurance and medical fees. Medical fees have gone up from £1,000 to last year’s rate of about £12,500,” he said.

“This is an event that attracts tens of thousands of people and we’re dealing with jets, the RAF, vintage war birds and a lot of people on the ground.

“We accept that there’s going to be scrutiny and red tape – that’s fine – but there’s a limit to what volunteers can do to carry on staging it.”

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

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


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

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

“It makes it more difficult to secure funding,” Mr McCarthy added.

“The goalposts are continually being moved financially and in terms of what’s being expected of us from the local authority and emergency services.”

Mr McCarthy believes a “business and council-led enterprise” would be the ideal way for the air show to be run in the future; otherwise it would be “impossible” to keep up with the speed at which costs are increasing.

Senior organiser Gerald McCarthy
Senior organiser Gerald McCarthy

“There’s a question mark over whether we should hold one next year,” he added.

“It’s unsustainable. It’s been difficult enough, in the three years that we’ve been doing it, to raise that funding each year.

“The various elements needed for an air show don’t necessarily go hand in hand with a small voluntary group.

“We realise the economic benefits to the town, but for us it is extremely stressful to stage.”

Mr McCarthy said the BayPromoTeam would come to a decision by September on whether to hold an air show next year.

The BayPromoTeam hosted three air shows in 2015, 2016 and 2017, attracting between 80,000 and 100,000 people.

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