The unappreciated kite-flier

If you are a “serious” kite-flier – by which I mean someone with a collection of kites that you enjoy using in a display to entertain others – then you may well be asked to take part in various events as part of the entertainment.

It’s wise to be very careful about how you respond to such requests, and you should always check them out carefully. You may well find that the venue is small, ringed with trees, with nearby power lines, and no real space to fly anyway. If you accept an invitation to fly there, you’ll almost certainly regret it, and do nothing to enhance your reputation as an expert flier.

If you accept an invitation, make it very clear to the organisers that your participation is dependent on the weather, and particularly on wind conditions. It’s amazing how many people think you can fly in no wind or a semi-hurricane, and have no idea of the effect swirling winds can have on a kite even on a pleasant day.

The other aspect to consider is whether you’re going to be compensated for your time, or are prepared to do the job for nothing. Strangely, there are many who will consider they’re somehow doing you a favour by inviting you to form part of their event.

In my limited experience, it’s often the small, charitable events, or community-run ones, which offer at least travel expenses or some compensation. This is not necessarily true, however, of events such as kite festivals.

Bigger festivals do pay for “professional” kite-fliers to attend, and I’m talking here of the likes of the Peter Lynn team, and designers such as Robert Brasington, George Peters, and many more. They will often pay expenses, too, for other notable fliers from around the world in order to have a first-class display.

But I am not in that illustrious company, and my beef is with the likes of our local Kite Day, an annual event run by the local council as part of its “Summertimes” series of entertainments to keep the populace amused. This year, Kite Day drew an estimated 7,000 people (I’ve no idea how anyone counted them) and was judged a great success.

Of course, it depended totally on having enough big and attractive kites in the air to draw and keep all these people, and naturally the council doesn’t have a stack of kites it can bring out to do the task. Therefore, it has to have kite-fliers to do the job for it. This year there were six of us.

The council paid a small amount of travelling expenses for two fliers, Peter Clark and Perrin Melchior, to fly down from Auckland, an 80-minute flight. Apparently the reimbursement did not include accommodation, and they depended on having someone offer them (and two people accompanying them, whose fares were not covered) somewhere to stay for the two nights they needed to be here.

Simon Chisnall and his wife Lyndall, part-owners of the Peter Lynn Kites factory, came also, but were able to drive up for the day as the distance from Ashburton is not great.

Peter Dennehy and I were the local fliers in attendance – really just another day for us, as we fly on every possible occasion throughout the year. Like the others, we were paid nothing for our participation, despite the fact that between us all we had many thousands of dollars worth of kites and were giving up our valuable time.

When the council puts on a concert or similar function, it naturally has to have entertainers, and just as naturally, it has to pay them to be there. However, for Kite Day, it somehow assumes that the six “entertainers” will provide their services and their expensive equipment for nothing. What’s more, it doesn’t even provide the hard-working kite-fliers with refreshments during the long event or a thank-you at the end of the day. We don’t necessarily expect payment, but appreciation would certainly be welcome.

Perhaps in this particular event the problem is with the way it is organised. A local kite-seller is the council’s chosen organiser, or liaison person, although as far as we fliers are concerned, we need no organising or liaising – we simply turn up and fly, knowing quite well what we need to do.

This same “organiser” relies on the efforts of the fliers to draw the crowds to the kite stall which she sets up, and where she has probably her biggest sales of the year. No-one really resents that, although the fact is that we are providing unpaid advertising for her.

What did really grate this year, though, was the coverage by the local newspaper.  A very lazy reporter (as most of them are these days) decided to interview the “organiser,” as her kite stall was conveniently located in the car-parking area and the reporter probably didn’t want to venture onto the beach and get sand in her shoes.

Nothing too terrible about that, except that the kite-seller devoted her interview opportunity to total self-promotion of herself and her business, and the lazy reporter wrote 26 lines of copy quoting from her – almost half the entire article. One of the Auckland fliers got a brief mention, but the other five fliers were not mentioned at all.

Anyone reading that would have no idea of who had actually made the event a success. It was not someone selling kites to make money, nor was it the council’s events staff, several of whom wandered around doing nothing and not even bothering to introduce themselves or inquire of the fliers if there was anything they needed.

Nor did the reporter seek any impressions of the attendees, many of whom were probably at their first Kite Day, and maybe having their first introduction to kites. Since participation is a big part of this event, the reactions of some first-time fliers would have made for interesting reading.

After struggling to fly their expensive kites for hours in very tricky wind conditions – and sometimes no wind at all – the principal fliers surely deserve a little more consideration, although payment is clearly too much to ask. (The council has to keep its money to pay the more legitimate “entertainers,” since kite-flying is clearly not worthy of any reward.)

Oh, the “organiser” did mention at the end of the day that the council events staff had told her they were very happy with the way things went.  No doubt they thought she was responsible for all the kites which made it a success!  No-one bothered to thank the fliers directly, of course, although there were so few of them.  And how “successful” would the day have been if those six people had withheld their services?

So if you intend to give your services to any event, just be aware that, regardless of how good a display you put on, you may not get any appreciation for it.  If it’s a success, someone else will probably take the credit.  Naturally, if the wind ruins your efforts or doesn’t allow you to fly at all, that will be your fault.

Kite-flying is perhaps the least-appreciated form of entertainment I can think of. It’s still fun, though!