There’s something about seeing a kite flying high in the sky that makes you feel happy. That liberated bit of material on the end of a line, pulling away and soaring up into the blue sky promotes a feeling of optimism and it’s easy to stand there and wonder what it feels like to be that kite, wheeling wildly over the heads of the people below.
Now if one kite can make you feel good – imagine what several thousand kites can make you feel like! My first visit to the World Kite Festival in France two years ago has left me with a vivid memory. I drove along the long boulevard into Berck-sur-Mer, a sleepy seaside resort on the beautiful Opal Coast about 45 minutes from Calais. The long straight road was lined with pleached lime trees with no leaves (early in the year), a scattering of shops – boulangeries, cafés, bars and patisseries. Very pretty, very French… and then suddenly into view came the astounding vision of 20,000 kites floating in the sky above the golden sandy beach. All colours and all sizes – from tiny kites no bigger than a handkerchief to one of the biggest kites in the world at an astonishing 1250 m². Witches, an octopus, a giant Homer Simpson and an enormous lobster – kites of every description spriralling, plummeting, wheeling and circling, whilst on the beach thousands of enthusiasts watched enthralled.
It is impossible not to be moved by the sight of this magnificent aerial display at this, one of the biggest kite festivals in the world as hundreds of thousands of kite enthusiasts meet to enjoy the spectacle and the competition. And it’s all FREE.
The Kite festival takes place annually and every two years (even numbers) Berk-sur-Mer plays host to the International Kite Championships of the World. Over nine days from April 12 to April 21 2014 there will be 16 international teams, the best in the world, participating in this airborne event and putting their kites through their paces in displays of precision in set pieces. Creating aerial shapes requires total teamwork and an enormous amount of practice because being able to create a moving figure “Arc de Triomphe” on a windy beach without getting your lines tangled up in a 4 man team effort takes some doing!
The teams will also conduct highly choreographed kite ballet exhibitions in the sky, set to music and a most impressive sight – hoping to impress the judges as well as the crowds with their airborne skills.
The teams: Air Rex (Japan); all-female Les Mademoiz’ailes (France), Air Zone Flight Team from the US; The Dealers (Lithuania), Cream Team from France, Win Sky Shanghai from China, Team Silat (Malaysia), Red Alert (Russia), Team CV Folie (France), Team Atemoc from Colombia, Team Pan’Am Air (France), Team Evidence from the US, Team Flame (UK) , Team Bogota 2600 from Colombia, Team Start Air from France and the current world champions Scratch Bunnies from the UK.
Meanwhile on the beach there is an opportunity for visitors to learn how to construct a kite or how to fly a kite, enjoy demonstrations from kite flying professionals, visit the jardin du vent (wind garden) with all its weird and whacky inventions and watch Japanese Rokkkaku kite fighting displays (an ancient form of military combat by air). There will be aerial photography workshops, lots of exhibitors, stalls, bands, entertainment like puppet shows and face painting for the children. As Gérard Clément, one of the organisers of this wonderful event and Founding President of the French Kite Flying Federation says “The wind is free…Let’s take advantage of this! Come on, it’s a kite… Come on, it’s more than just a kite!”
The fun starts at 10.00h daily, the competitions take place in the afternoons and there are night time flying demonstrations and fabulous firework displays.
The Berck-sur-Mer Kite festival really is an exuberant event, great for everyone from families to couples and its free – like the wind!
By car via the A16 motorway, exit 25
This is a very popular event and parking will be signposted throughout the nine day festival (more details in the links below). Caravan spaces will be available but do check in advance to be sure of a space
Full details of accommodation, times for the displays and the full event programme from: Tourist Office of Berck sur Mer, 5 Avenue Francis Tattegrain, 62600 Berck sur Mer, www.berck-tourisme.com; website for the kite festival Berck sur Mer: cerf-volant.com
Read our interview with David Morley, member of World Champion kite flying team Scratch Bunnies