Kite festival soars to new heights

EVERYTHING was sky high at the weekend as some of the world's best kite-flyers performed an array of colourful and stunning tricks during a two-day event.

EVERYTHING was sky high at the weekend as some of the world's best kite-flyers performed an array of colourful and stunning tricks during a two-day event.

Thousands of people made the most of the glorious sunshine to flock to Roughman Kite Festival, at Roughman Airfield, which was sponsored by the EADT and is part of the on-going Bury St Edmunds Festival.

The perfect weather conditions made the annual event one of the best yet and kites of all shapes and sizes were seen darting and dancing across the skies.

The event, now in its seventh year, is considered one of the nation's top kite events and the highlight was an appearance by world, European and British champions Evolver, featuring brothers Karl and James Robertshaw, who stunned the crowds with their flying.

The event was also used to stage the British round of European fighter kite competition, which attracted competitors from all over the continent, including Germany, Belgium, France and Holland.

Other highlights included displays of small Manja kites, which dance in the air to the fliers command, a British stack flying competition where the winners can go onto compete on the world stage and 100ft inflatables that needed to be held to the ground by cars.

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With around 10,000 visitors the event has been hailed as the best yet.

Festival organiser Martin Corrie said: "It has certainly been our best event so far, we have had record crowds, fantastic weather and a display by the world champions. The event is going from strength to strength and it will get even better next year,"

The kite displays were one of the highlights of the opening weekend at Bury St Edmunds Festival, which is now regarded as one of the region's premier arts festivals.

The 17-day event, which offers non-stop entertainment from both local, national and international performers in the fields of music, theatre, film, comedy, art, poetry and dance, got off to a rousing start on Friday night.

Thousands of people gathered on Angel Hill to watch the Coldstream Guards band perform a Beating Retreat Ceremony. The music continued through the evening with a street parade, featuring giant mini-beast puppets made by local school children, which marched into the Abbey Gardens for a night of entertaining comedy and acrobatic displays.

The evening was brought to a thrilling finale when Exponential Theatre group told the story of a diamond heist with a trapeze show between two seven metre high towers.

A whole host of events continued throughout Saturday, which included art exhibitions at the cathedral cloister and hundreds of visitors enjoyed street theatre and comedy acts throughout the day.

The Festival prides itself on featuring new works by contemporary composers and yesterday's Brook St Band concert at the Theatre Royal featured the world premiere of two songs by composer/singer Errollyn Wallen, which attracted interest from BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM.

Festival manager Nick Wells said: "Phew! I made it through the first weekend. It's always a relief once the Festival starts and I see people enjoying the events I've been planning since last year. This year's Festival got off to great start with thousands turning out for the opening night celebrations on Friday night and some hilarious street theatre attracting huge crowds around the town on Saturday."

The events will now continue everyday until May 30. One of the highlights of today's programme will be a performance by renowned Jazz musician Richard Rodney Bennet who will play alongside the Britten Sinfonia at the end of their concert at the cathedral at 7.30pm.

Other highlights over the next fortnight will be the series of Greene King sponsored open-air concerts being held in the Abbey Gardens. Abba, the Bee Gees, Madness and Queen tribute nights will be held and the Dubliners are set to bring the festival to a foot-stomping close ahead of a grand firework finale on May 30.

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