TENS of thousands of people around the world watched Airbourne live after it was broadcast on the internet.
As usual, the much-loved annual event attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the Sunshine Coast but for the first time those unable to make it along were treated to a live online stream – meaning they could follow the fun from the comfort of their own homes.
A host of websites carried links to the fledgling Airbourne TV and according to organisers, the online audience over the four-day event topped 60,000 – with viewers from as far afield as India, the US, Thailand, the Philippines and Brazil logging on.
This year’s Airbourne is expected to generate upwards of £30million for the local economy and thousands for the Eastbourne RNLI, which will be given 30 per cent of all bucket donations, with the rest going towards a warchest for funding future events.
And Eastbourne Borough Council’s head of tourism, Councillor Neil Stanley, was delighted with the way the event went - reserving special excitement for the new use of the internet.
He told the Herald, “Airbourne TV was a great addition this year meaning that we could raise awareness of Eastbourne across the globe with the live stream and it also offered visitors to the event the chance to watch exclusive interviews with pilots and display crews for the first time.
“This year’s event really did surpass all expectations and despite a bad start with the weather on Thursday, the rest of the weekend showed Eastbourne to be back on form with bright sunshine and blue skies.”
That bad weather saw all but one of the opening day’s displays cancelled as rain and fog threatened to ruin the fun.
Thankfully though, clear skies on Friday held firm over the weekend, and the crowds were treated to displays from the Red Arrows, a pair of wingwalkers, The Blades and a host of other aircraft.
“The seafront was absolutely packed with visitors,” continued Cllr Stanley, “and it was a fantastic sight to see so many people enjoying themselves.
“Airbourne is a magnificent event for Eastbourne; not only does it bring new visitors to the town spending in local businesses but it also raises the profile of the destination.”
And there was plenty to enjoy on terra firma, with Royal Marine commandos showing off their combat skills, the Essex Dogs Display Team jumping through hoops and balancing on bars and a stack of stalls littering the seafront.
Coaches from Brighton and Hove Albion were also on hand to offer football tips while 1970s classic film Grease was shown on a big screen at the Western Lawns.
Elsewhere staff from Icon Stylists offered people the chance to have their hair cut by celebrity hairdresser Jal Clarke in return for a donation toward the event, with scores of people taking advantage of the deal.
The only other slight drama came on Friday afternoon when a small helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing near Beachy Head after it was hit by a gull mid flight. There were no injuries.
Anyone who enjoyed Airbourne but missed the bucket collectors on the day can still donate either in person at the Tourist Information Centre or online via www.visiteastbourne.com.
And anyone already suffering withdrawal symptoms fear not, organisers have already started planning next year’s event, which will take place from August 9 until 12 and mark the festival’s 20th anniversary.