By Iram Sarwar
Originally planned for earlier this year, Streatham Kite Day was rained off due to the waterlogged common, but fortunately for kite enthusiasts not even Mother Nature will stop the kites taking over this weekend.
Now in its fifteenth year, Kite Day began on a windy day in March 1998, started by the then newly-formed Friends of Streatham Common. Now it has grown to feature impressive national and even national kite displays from stars such as Brighton Kite Flyers, Team Spectrum and Cascade Kite Display.
“It’s a day for people to get outside, fly their kites and see experts fly enormous kites up to 100ft,” says organiser Bob Colover. “Everybody can get involved, whether you’re seven-years-old or 70. It’s a day for the community to celebrate Streatham Common and get some fresh air.”
But behind the scenes the world of competitive kite-flying is far from a walk in the park. Former competitive kite flyer and kite day organiser Roy Reed compares it to ice-skating, saying professionals often practise complex routines for up to 40 hours a week For competitions flyers prepare three different routines where they have to create figures in the sky, perform a freestyle routine for over two minutes and prepare choreographed routines as either individuals or in teams. “Perfect synchronism is particularly impressive to watch,” Roy says.
But unlike the often aggressive world of ice-skating, the kite community is actually very friendly. “At an international level it can be a bit more edgy but generally it’s good natured,” says Roy.
Though it is not without intrigue.The Clapham North resident – who trained 35 hours a week for seven years – made a somewhat dramatic exit from the sport ten years ago after being banned for life from flying kites in any Lambeth park. A council security guard at Clapham Common accused Roy of flying a kite too dangerously, a fact he disputes. “I fly by the rules of the competition; if anyone walks into your field you land the kite or fly as high as you can so it’s in the top of the sky. This whole thing was ridiculous. That was the reason I stopped organising the kite festival – I wanted an apology but I didn’t get one.”
Roy also notes that in the last decade London’s kite community has “almost died” with less than ten competitive kite flyers left in the whole of the UK, compared to around 100 ten years ago.
Streatham Kite Day will be held on Sunday June 16 between 11am – 5pm on Streatham Common, Streatham High Road, SW16 3BT. http://www.streathamkiteday.org.uk