A Make-Weight’s View of the Mega Grid.
I set off for the Portsmouth weekend excited at the show I was expecting to see. I don’t know if it was so obvious to some of the non-Brits but here in the UK there was defiantly a feeling that something big was going to happen and I had volunteered for ground crew so that one day I could say I had been part of it. The original plan was for the established teams to fly the grid and a then if time allowed, something much simpler but more inclusive was pencilled in for the Sunday.
Conditions that weekend were excellent, the teams flew the grid on the Saturday (I believe for the first time in a public arena) and flushed with their success decided to up the anti on Sunday. I was asked to step in to help to bring the numbers up. I didn’t believe I was up to it but Stephen did and told me my country needed me. What could a man do?
We were very lucky that year at Portsmouth, there were three festival arenas, the main display arena, a single-line arena and a dedicated Revolution Arena that served as, base camp, practice arena and marshalling area. The dedicated arena was invaluable. Those who have not seen the grid in action in real life may find it difficult to appreciate the scale of the exercise, fitting a 6x8 grid of fliers into an arena and still having room left for their kites, all on 120ft lines was not going to be easy, I’m sure glad it wasn’t my problem to solve.
Normally, at a festival teams will either, fly their kites into the arena or they will have them setup somewhere around the arena rope and then move to the centre to do their display. Either way time between one team’s display and the next is usually minimal. With a mega grid of this scale, let alone the 100+ that we are aiming for, this is never going to happen. That afternoon we built the grid in the Rev Arena, to be honest I’m not sure if it was the full grid, but certainly a very large chunk of it. Then we wrapped our lines around our handles and set off past the Single-Line Arena to the main Display Arena. Evan as we walked to the main arena passers by were starting to sense something was going on, after all it’s not every day you see near on 50 peeps with kites bigger than they are, plus wives, girlfriends, significant others and kids all walking in the same direction.
When I arrived at the display arena there was a duel line display in progress and some of the earlier arrivals had started to set out their kites along the sides of the arena. There may have been one or two minor adjustments in the main arena but the majority of us had already been assigned grid positions in the practice arena. Because I was so nervous, Stephen had placed me in the bottom row, front of the grid on the ground between two very experienced fliers Jeanette (Too Much Fun) on my right and Simon (Flying Squad) on my left. Simon had been asked to keep an eye on me and to relay instructions if I went wrong or got lost. Although, clearly not all if any of the teams were six strong, as a general rule of thumb, the top teams formed their own columns, so there was a Flying Squad column, a Decorator’s column, an iQuad column and so on.
Getting all those kites set up and into the sky, was a major logistical exercise that probably took longer than the actual display, but that was probably not a bad thing, the compares
were doing a great job bigging us up and creating a sense of anticipation and there was quite an audience building up along the arena rope. As I remember it, columns at or near the centre were positioned first then other columns were launched and added to the sides to build the grid in the sky. However I also remember being one of the last to get my kite set up. As I was at the bottom of column six, near the centre of the grid these two memories appear to contradict each other. The apparent contradiction can be cleared up in this video
, I wouldn’t recommend it for watching the mega-fly, but for those that haven’t actually seen the grid in action, the first 2-3 mins, though edited, is the best example I can find of the grid being built.
On the field Stephen was running the show and there was a chain of command running out through the established teams. Somewhere behind me JB was ushering people and kites into position and I was a little worried he was going to want me to move, Simon had gone to sort something out with Stephen and I didn’t want to do anything without Stephen or Simon’s say so. At or around the 1:20 mark in the build video you can see the last few kites join the bottom of the grid, (I’m in there) and one kite, I believe that’s Stephen’s slide up between columns 2&3 to take his place at the top of column 3.
At the start of the mega-fly proper, around the 2:40 mark we are better closing that video and opening this one
, it is I believe the best video I have seen of the actual mega-fly.
The first thing you will notice is that Stephen moves the rows individually, top row slide left, 2 slide right, 3 slide left and so on. By the time we got to “6 right, Go” two thoughts spring to mind, first, “Oh Shit! I’m in here, doing it, this is way past the point of no return”, there may also have been a short prayer in there as well, and then, “Row 6, Column 6, that’s Evens, Evens.” It may not be obvious unless you have actually flown in a grid but what Stephen did was to make sure that everybody knew what row they were in without having to think about it, a call of “odds left, evens right” would have had many of us counting. At the 0:40 you will notice the vertical threads are done en mass, individual column moves were not necessary as the grid had, more or less, been built by column so we already knew what column we were in.
Beyond that, to be honest, most of the actual mega-fly is pretty much a blur of adrenalin, intense concentration and “OMG, if this does all goes pear shaped and ends up as a big ball of spaghetti, please god don’t’ let it be my fault”. Though there is one thing I remember. I made a mistake and what’s more, I know of at least two others (names withheld to protect the guilty) who totally independently made exactly the same mistake. For me it happened about a third of the way through the display, for a moment, a split second, I took my eye off my kite to take a look at the bigger picture. Trust me on this one, I know it is tempting, but DON’T D IT,
wait for the video on You Tube.
What I do remember is the very end of the display, two columns at a time, starting with the two end columns, turned to face out, then radared down to the ground. By the time we got to columns 3&6 arena space was at a premium and we had to land our kites over the lines of those that had already landed and the celebrations were already well underway. As I bent to put my handles over my ground stake, I paused for maybe half a second, I was a little reluctant to stand up again, I was aware I had a smile on my face, nothing wrong with that you may say, the trouble is, this was no ordinary smile this was the sort of smile normally only found on the face of a window licker
. I reckon it took at least three days to wipe that smile of my face.