OUT IN THE FIELD: Keep Airbourne festival flying high

Charities benefit from Airbourne bucket collections as well as funding the event
Charities benefit from Airbourne bucket collections as well as funding the event

Love it or hate it, Airbourne 2017 is just two weeks away. But while the finishing touches are being put to the flying programme and displays in the skies, there are rumblings that if the popular and free air festival – financially bolstered by Eastbourne council – doesn’t start generating more cash from spectators in the next couple of years, its future is looking decidedly turbulent.

Hundreds of thousands of people line the seafront to see the magnificent men and women in their flying machines but trying to get them to dig into their pockets and throw a few quid in collection buckets is becoming more and more difficult.

It’s not just the spectators at fault though. Bucket collections on the beach and the prom over the four days are organised by Don Perman, Steve Newman and the Rotary clubs of Sovereign Harbour, Hailsham and Eastbourne, with 30 per cent of the proceeds being donated to three local causes: Memory Lane, Age Concern Eastbourne and the Charles Hunt Centre.

But this year there is a drastic shortage of volunteers and the numbers are very poor. Some collectors have even stated they do not want to have to walk across pebbles. The idea of collecting from the public actually came from Lowestoft where at its peak, its airshow was raising more than £100,000 in just two days.

Eastbourne Airbourne raises just £35,000 over four days which would be laughable if it were not so sad.

Lowestoft’s airshow is no more because of rising costs and there are real fears that Eastbourne could follow suit – especially when you think that government grants to local authorities will disappear completely in 2020 and some events simply will not happen when judged against statutory services the council has to provide.

The actual mechanics of seriously using the sheer size/volume of the numbers visiting the air show to create a real philanthropic bonus for the charities and good causes and to support the show in the future just seem to get missed each and every year.

If a significant number of collectors don’t come forward the opportunity will be missed again. The airshow is big, it is noisy, it does upset some people but it also has a lot of people who love it and it makes them happy. And it does have the capability to raise a ton of cash if the collectors are out there.

There have been 25 airshows so far, so let’s all get together and make sure the event’s future is safeguarded for the next 25. Because unless there is a big cash injection – and the bucket collection scheme is a big part of that – it could crash and burn. To help with collections during the airshow, email donperman@btinternet.com or telephone 479713.

I returned back from my hols to some sad news. Lovely Paul Wilson, a former magistrate, debt counsellor in Eastbourne and stalwart for many years at Heathfield Rugby Club, passed away last week. And former press photographer Jim Redman, who lived in Ocklynge and worked on the Herald, Sussex Express and Hastings Observer, has gone on his last job – to the great darkroom in the sky.