Dragon kite and others at Exmouth Kite Festival

Flying high at Exmouth Kite Festival

The Exmouth Kite Festival is an annual celebration of kites in the seaside town of Exmouth. Besides a few failed childhood attempts at kite-flying, we’ve not really delved deeply into the world of kites. In fact, until the kite festival, I think it’s fair to say we were largely unaware that there was a whole world of hardcore kite enthusiasts out there. But we were more than ready for a kite adventure…

Exmouth Kite Festival

Now in it’s tenth year, the Exmouth Kite Festival is organised by the Exmouth Rotary Club. Adult entry was £5, with proceeds going to charity (with the option to choose from three nominated charities). The kite festival takes place at the Imperial Recreation Ground. It’s a great spot, with lovely views over the estuary and a big open space…perfect for kite flying!

Long tailed kites at Exmouth kite festival

Fill the sky!

We arrived just in time for Fill the Sky, when all the feature kites were flying in the main arena. This was the chance for kite owners from all over the country to showcase their biggest and most interesting kites. There was a squid, a turtle, a blue whale, at least three sets of legs, and in the centre of the arena, an enormous dragon. The dragon kite was so large that it had to be anchored to a van to hold it down. These large kites were incredible; colourful, intricately designed and almost resembling mini hot air balloons when in full flight. 

Japanese kite fighting

One of the main events of the day was the Japanese kite fighting. This used a specific type of six-sided kite called a Rokkaku kite. The aim of the fight was to be the last one in the air, having grounded all other kites, or cut through your opponents’ lines. The latter worked by wrapping around a kite line and burning through to sever the line.

Taiko drumming by Taiko Journey

The kite fighters were joined in the arena by Taiko Journey, a Devon-based group of drummers showcasing traditional Japanese drumming. They had a diverse set of drums and really set the atmosphere for the fight with an energetic and dramatic display of drumming.

Taiko Journey at Exmouth Kite Festival

The kite fight

There were a surprising number of fighters ready to do kite battle and the commentator guided us through what was happening. The drumming and kite fighting worked really well together and it ended up being quite a battle with multiple kites wrapping lines and culminating in a two kite battle high up in the sky. It was a little hard to tell who the eventual winner was, as two kites were still flying at the end. But those more experienced in kite fighting than us seemed happy when victory was declared.

Kite display teams 

The afternoon saw a number of kite display teams take to the sky. This was the part of the festival when the experienced display teams took over. First up were the stacked kites, stunt kites with up to 8 kites running on a single set of lines. The display showed huge amounts of control, with kites swirling, bouncing on the ground and forming shapes with one another.

The Airheads

For us, one of the highlights of the day was the display by The Airheads. This team had multicoloured 30m long kite tails attached to their kites that formed giant shapes in the air. It was a little like skywriting as following each kite was an enormous tail of colour forming loops and swirls in the air. Their routine finished with two kites forming a heart whilst a third became Cupid’s arrow flying through.

Exmouth Kite Festival mega team

After the individual display teams had performed they all came together to form a mega stunt team of seven kite flyers. The sight of seven kites moving in synchronicity was incredible and as a layman, it seemed impossible that the lines wouldn’t tangle. But equally impressive was how the kite flyers moved on the ground. One flyer took the lead shouting commands and the other six moved backwards and forwards around them, weaving in amongst one another. 

Kites at Exmouth Kite Festival

Long-tailed kite launch

Our final event of the day was the long-tailed kite launch. This saw the simultaneous launch of all the long-tailed kites into the air at once. Less flashy than the stunt and feature kites, there was a simple elegance to the long tail kites. The launch, in particular, was especially impressive.

Activities for children and families

There was plenty on offer for families (besides the main arena displays) throughout the day. This included a children’s marquee with craft activities, kite kits and a resident storyteller. There were also two sessions in the arena for children to fly their kites.

Programme and entertainment

We really weren’t too sure what to expect from the kite festival. However, there was a really full programme for the day with something different on in the arena roughly every 20 minutes and the changeovers were really quick. This meant that there was always something new of interest. There were also food and drink vendors, as well as vintage cars and charity and local interest stalls. We had a great day, and in the end, found that we were actually much bigger kite fans than we expected! 

Exmouth Kite Festival key information

The 2018 Exmouth Kite Festival was held on 4 and 5 August at the Imperial Recreation Ground in Exmouth and raised over £83,000 for local charities.

The kite festival will return in 2019. Find out more from Exmouth Rotary Club.