BKFA History

This section gives an account of the thoughts, discussions and meetings that led to the formation of the BKFA.

Why do we need the British Kite Flying Association?

There has been much discussion amongst those that have attended the three meetings that have been held to consider the possible formation of the BKFA, on the ‘rec.kites’ newsgroup on the Internet, and between flyers meeting on fields over the last few years.

Many feel that there is simply no need for an organisation: BBC represents the interests of the traction community, PKSF is looking at all aspects of power kiting, STACK represents the precision flyers at UK and international level, and KSGB exists for all flyers, although I suspect with an unintended bias toward single line flyers. And that’s before we think about all the local clubs, formal and otherwise.

And therein lies I believe the first real need for a national body, an elected body that could really claim to represent all the diverse aspects of kiteflying. It can provide a common forum for discussion of matters of joint interest. It can draw a balance between what may become increasingly opposing views, the power v. ‘the rest’ debate and is one getting the other a bad name.

For example, a number of flyers expressed concern at the recent Bedford event as to whether having Team Adrenalize display in public was giving the right message. I know that Team Adrenalize felt that they had been denied reasonable access to the arena and as a result lost the wind. BKFA cannot solve that dilemma (nor should it try), but it can provide a forum where there can be informed debate that will then help organisers make better-informed decisions about how they run their events.

Second, there is strength and credibility in numbers. BKFA can lobby at both a national level and can support clubs lobbying at local level. Whether it is getting a ban on buggy’s lifted (or sensible controls agreed) or lifting a total ban on kiteflying on a beach (yes, it has happened on at least one UK beach), an organisation that has been elected by a cross section of UK kitefliers has an improved chance of being accepted as a definitive body – and that is not to deny the sterling work that has been done by KSGB, BBC, PKSF and some local clubs in influencing local opinion – but that there can be more impact from a national body representing a cross-section of UK flyers.

That cross-section and clear lack of vested interest also strengthens credibility when it comes to health and safety concerns. The BKFA can produce codes of practice, guidance for clubs and event organisers and safety promotion material drawing on the entire national experience across all codes. It can make all of these freely available to all clubs and promote safe flying at events, through schools and through local authorities. Clubs who then subscribe to these national codes may find insurance is easier to obtain and that local authorities are more prepared to listen to their views when safety issues arise.

If an accident does occur, the club can rightfully point out that they are following guidelines agreed nationally. And those guidelines can be rapidly reviewed on a national basis in the light of reported incidents. BKFA can monitor accident statistics on a national basis, taking proactive action where a trend becomes apparent.

BKFA can draw upon sponsorship and grant-aid at a national level to promote the enjoyment of kiteflying and safe flying through a variety of media. It can promote education on history and current practice, it can provide material for design study and it can provide a forum for those thinking about public and private displays of kites and kite related materials.

It can introduce people to their local clubs, or a club most suited to their specific interests. It can arrange for interested flyers to attend events at home and abroad. It can respond to media enquiries directing local media to an appropriate club.

It could work with event organisers to assist in the co-ordinated scheduling of events. It could arrange for international guests to be shared between events.

It can respond at a national level to changing circumstances. If (when) there is a change to the Air Navigation Order, it can produce a response co-ordinated across all clubs. By showing that degree of consultation it will carry far more credibility than any club acting in isolation. It can lobby the HSE and other government agencies to ensure, so far as is possible, that new regulations are made fully informed by the views of kitefliers.

It can do whatever clubs want it to do. Its constitution will ensure it is controlled by clubs, for their benefit and for the benefit of all kitefliers in the UK.

In The Beginning

A New National Body for UK Kite Fliers?
April 2003

For many years, various members of the kite flying community have discussed the possibility of, and need for, a representative body for all kiteflyers. There are several excellent organisations speaking for particular groups or providing specific services, such as The Kiteflier magazine from KSGB. But there is not a single body that represents us all, including the more extreme variants of our sport/hobby.

I decided last year that it was time to do something about it. Rather than standing on the sidelines carping about the issues, I felt someone needed to do something positive.

I have discussed this with a number of people, including several clubs and organisations. The response has been generally supportive.
Now it is down to UK kitefliers. If they want it to happen, it will. But they will have to find the people to run it and they will have to find the money to administer it.

Let me stress two things. I started this because I was not prepared to carry on simply talking about it, but I have absolutely no intention of running the organisation – work and kite commitments would not allow that. Second, if this is to succeed it must not be dominated by any one club, organisation or ‘code’. And that includes the club of which I am proud to be secretary, MKF. This is not being promoted in any way by them or any other particular club or society.

Why bother? What’s in it for its members? As individuals, probably not much as it would not be the intention to challenge the way existing clubs support their members. However, with increasing pressures from event organisers, insurers, regulators and the like, I believe there is a need for a body which represents us all and which keeps up the pressure both to promote kite flying, and more importantly to promote the interest of kitefliers.

So with that said, how can it be financed? There are several ways: a per capita levy on clubs, individual membership, club membership. I have suggested in the draft that it should be individual membership. This does not preclude per capita levies or other mechanisms, but I do believe it to be important the body represents the ordinary kite flier and is not dominated by the larger clubs or particularly vociferous interests. We also need to consider how shops, manufacturers and other traders might both support us and be included within the wider group.

And the name – others have been suggested such as Kite Fliers UK.

I would welcome comments and views, and if you want to take this forward, please email or write to me.

Jerry Swift
Howardian View
Great Barugh
Malton
North Yorkshire
YO17 6UZ

Notes on the formation of the BKFA

BKFA Governance Structures

George Webster and I have discussed this at some length and have come to the conclusion that the best way of assuring both (a) some form of representation of the constituent clubs on the executive committee, and (b) an executive committee small enough to work effectively is to have a two-level structure: a large one on which all member clubs are represented (the “Council”) and a smaller one (the “Committee”) elected annually by the Council. As was mentioned at our last meeting (the one in Birmingham) we think it is a good idea for the Committee to choose its own officers, so that Council elections are to the Committee and not to a specific post within the Committee. It is Council, not Committee, which sets overall policy guidelines, chooses auditors and approves accounts, and is ultimately responsible for the Association acting within the law and in accordance with its objectives.

The other main point is the issue of representation on Council. We have come to the conclusion that larger member clubs and associations should have more representation on Council, but should not have undue power within it. We therefore suggest a three-point scale: small clubs (say up to 50 members) can have one representative on Council, medium clubs (say up to 500 members) two representatives, and large clubs three members. The details are up for discussion; whether we have a 3 or 4-point scale and whether the suggestions for the cut off points are sensible, are not important at this stage. What is important is the principle that Committee is elected by those representatives actually attending the Council meeting: one representative one vote with no proxies allowed. We estimate that there are about 30 clubs that are eligible to become members of the association, with the above figures providing a Council of 40 to 45.

The size of the Committee is important. There is much experience that the best size of an effective executive committee is between 7 and 12. We accept the point that co-option to the Committee is an important mechanism to adjust balance or fill gaps, and therefore suggest a Committee size of 8 elected representatives with power to co-opt not more than two additional members. Again the numbers are indicative only. We do, however, suggest that no more than two Committee members may be representatives of the same club (we may have to think about individuals who are members of more than one club: there are quite a few such).

John Dobson
George Webster

2 February 2004

Report into the possible funding of the BKFA

The BKFA working party, as a whole, has already indicated that membership of the BKFA should only be open to organisations and not to individuals. This would tend to suggest that a yearly membership fee should be levied on each local club. Since the BKFA’s administrative charges for each membership would in all likelihood be identical, no matter what size of the member organisation, then a fixed membership charge should be levied per year.

However it is evident, from the completed questionnaires received, that many of the local clubs would also like the BKFA to produce a magazine and also assist in the acquiring of insurance or actually provide insurance. It would also seem that, certainly in the case of the insurance, these are perhaps the most important services the BKFA can provide. The insurance for obvious reasons and the magazine as this is the most visible service to the individual kite fliers. It is the view of the finance sub-group that the charge for these services cannot simply be divided equally between organisations, but must be somehow split up according to, for example the size of the membership of each the local clubs.

In line with the above the finance sub group have drawn up a number of suggestions into the funding of the BKFA, Presuming that the BKFA does offer a magazine and insurance the suggestions below have been split into three categories, Basic Funding, Funding of Insurance, Funding of a Magazine. Please note all or part of the suggestions below may be acted upon if the BKFA does not offer a magazine and/or insurance.

1. Basic funding of the BKFA – The basic funding of the BKFA should be enough to cover the administrative charges in running the BKFA, including the maintenance of a website plus if necessary hiring of meeting places etc. There are two possible sources of income, depending on circumstances.
a. A basic yearly membership fee should be levied on each local club or organisation. This fee will be fixed no matter what size the member club is. The membership fee should be priced at a level, which would cover any associated administrative charges. A fee of £10-£15 would probably be sufficient, depending on how many memberships there are.
b. “Sponsorship” from the kite trade or from companies who use kites as part of their advertising such as HSBC.
c. A combination of a) and b)

2. Insurance – Firstly let it be clear that this should only be offered as an option. Those member organisations who wish to purchase their own insurance should be allowed to, and in actual fact for organisations, who require more specialised insurance, such as the BBC etc. this would probably be the preferable course. If the BKFA did offer insurance, it would almost certainly have to compile a list of individuals who were covered under the insurance “scheme”. This list would also include which organisations the individuals were members of, and from this the BKFA could proportionally split the cost of the insurance between the member organisations.

3. Funding a magazine – Depending on how a magazine would be issued there are two recommendations for this.
a. If the BKFA were to produce a printed magazine, each member organisation would “order” a number of magazines sufficient to fulfil their own memberships requirement. The BKFA would then charge the member organisation appropriately and deliver the magazines to the member who would then distribute them to their own membership alongside their own publications, newsletters etc. Sending the magazines out to organisations rather than to individuals would save the BKFA a lot of administration and cost in sending out to and maintaining a possibly lengthy distribution list.
b. Rather than producing a printed magazine, the BKFA were to produce an electronic “copy” which would be sent to the member organisations for inclusion within their own publications. Very much like BKF and MKF send in their contributions to the “Kiteflier” at the moment. With this idea the administrative charges are further reduced from a) and also rather than BKFA levying a charge on each member organisation for each copy, a flat rate yearly charge could be used instead. Which would be almost certainly lower than the total per copy charge, making it more palatable to the smaller organisations.

The financial sub-group has not looked into the cost of insurance and the production of a magazine as we simply do not have any idea as to how many people the insurance would need to cover or how many copies of a printed magazine would need to be produced. So both of these items would need more investigation before the BKFA were to take on such a financial burden.

Also please note that the amount of basic funding needed may also vary depending on whether or not the BKFA would do things such as cover travelling expenses etc. for BKFA officials. The decision on this particular point is beyond the remit of the finance sub-group.
There are many items that would have an impact of BKFA funding that are not covered in this report. These are things which the BKFA may decide to take on at a later date, however it may be wise to set up a system of funding now which would be flexible to cover such outgoings later, without needing to modify the constitution. Examples of such items are.

1) Promotional material such as literature on safe flying, BKFA banners, badges etc.
2) A BKFA organised festival.

The above does address the funding of the BKFA once it is up and running but the financial sub-group is concerned that the BKFA may need some sort of “start-up” funding. This is especially the case if it does offer services such as a magazine or insurance from the beginning. Where would such funding come from? It would either have to come from donations or sponsorship.

Mark Bowlas
Doug Richardson

May 2004

British Kite Flying Association – An International View

It is my firm belief that Kite flying in Britain is a well-developed and mature activity. It is my belief that British Kite fliers and Kite makers are amongst the best in the world.

Even on a non-competitive basis, British Kite fliers are present at nearly every major Kite festival in the world. And the work of British kite makers is to be seen at most major events worldwide.

At the same time, most Kite-related groups from around the world, and many individual Kite fliers regard it as an honour to receive an invitation to take part in a British event. Our international friends have enthusiastically attended festivals, workshops and residencies for many years.

It is clear, therefore, that Britain has a significant standing in the international Kite Community.

One of the issues that has arisen on many occasions in the past is one of representation on the International scene. Although the Kite Society have been well placed to fulfil this role, it has not been easy for them to do so. The demands of demands of festival organisation, membership subscription and magazine production leave them ineffective to deal with the additional workload.

So we find ourselves in the distressing situation of recognising a huge potential of talent and enthusiasm, but no effective way of coordinating it with respect to our colleagues overseas.
My proposal is that the proposed British Kite Flying Association would be well placed to fulfil this role. As a truly representative body, the BKFA would be able to speak with authority about all aspects of the Kite scene in Britain, in all its many facets.

Enquiries about British events and other activities could be handled by this central body, which would already have such facts to hand. Publicity material would be available to interested parties, press packs sent to enquirers, and individual questions dealt with.

And as a reflection, British Kite Fliers would have the opportunity to enquire locally about overseas events, research venues and establish contacts with like-minded individuals or organisations.

One highly emotive subject that repeatedly comes to the fore is that of invitations to international events. More often than not, invitations are directed at individuals simply because they are the only ones known, not because they are the most suitable or available for a particular event. If an overseas organisation wishes to invite a Kite Flier from Britain, where should they start to make enquiries? To my direct knowledge, far too many “free” invitations have been lost because the right individuals have not been known, or the invitation has not been passed on.

As an additional service to members, the British Kite Flying Association could maintain a voluntary database of individuals and groups who would be willing to accept these very desirable invitations: and the enquirer could then make an informed decision.
As a national body, an effective and efficient outward-facing international representation will enhance the organisation’s credibility as a representative entity. Strong international links are not only a way to communicate with our colleagues; they will ensure a free and rich sharing of ideas and thoughts, and well as the pleasure of simple human contact.

I trust that the proposed British Kite Flying Association will take these matters seriously, and will find a way to deal with the international issues effectively, sensitively, and with vigour and determination.

There are many implications to establishing a representative national body. I believe that there will immediately be many direct benefits for members and groups, in giving and receiving, and that we will see those rewards grow with time.

Derek Kuhn
Derek Kuhn Kite Workshops and Midlands Kite Fliers

May 2004

Our Aims – Q & A

A number of questions have been raised both before and after the meeting. The following Q&A is intended to respond to those issues.

Given that all the meetings have been held in the Midlands area, has this not given a rather Midlands slant to the debate? Why were all the meetings in the Midlands?

The Midlands were chosen, as it is the centre of the country. Interest had been expressed in the North East, on the South Coast and in the North West. No one area was going to be ‘right’ but it did appear that there was greater positive interest north of London. It is possible that MKF members have had more input than others but as can be seen from the attendance list at this meeting and the first, Brighton were as well represented as MKF, with NEKF following fairly close behind. It should be remembered that many MKF members are also members of other clubs.

Why was a vote held only amongst those present? Should the vote take place in the heart of the Brighton or Avon areas the vote might potentially be different. Why was no other method of voting chosen? Surely those who voted were not representative?

It seemed to me that it was only right that those who had been able to attend, many to all three meetings, had earned the right to take that first step, if that is what they wished to do. The constitution ensures that clubs will have a chance to decide both whether they wish to join and indeed whether BKFA continues, as if there is insufficient interest it will not be able to form a committee. I think it is possible that the view would have been different in other areas of the country, but as many who have contributed to developments thus far have come from the Midlands or the North, to move to a southern location and then achieve possibly a lower turnout and not to reflect their wishes, would have seemed rather unfair.

A postal vote could have been organised but it would have raised a number of issues. I do not have a complete list of all clubs. Would it be one vote per club? – rather unfair on larger clubs such as NKG, NEKF, MKF and WHKF for example. Would we invite clubs who had had limited involvement in the debate to vote? It would have been slow – many clubs would feel unable to vote without knowing what it was going to cost them, what the benefits might be and without being able to get agreements from their membership. This way, the BKFA exists and it is now up to clubs to consider a much clearer proposal in a sensible timescale.

Were those who voted representative? I suspect not, as they travelled to the meetings whilst others chose not to. This in itself implies a greater level of interest. Would it be right at this stage to have the interest and even enthusiasm of some dominated by the apathy or antipathy of others?

Why was there no facility for a proxy vote to enable the people who cannot attend to express their opinion? 

The same issues arise as with a postal vote. If the vote was on the basis of membership (the union ‘block’ vote), it is possible that KSGB would have exercised proxies one way whilst MKF exercised them the other, on behalf of the same person. If they had sought the views of their membership I believe they would have received a poor response and it would have taken a long time.

How is this being publicised? Rec.Kites is not very well read – and the last few notices have gone out quite late anyway. 

This has been a problem. Currently, as with everyone organising a kite club, this is done between the ‘day-job’. That has led to delays. I hope that this communication will be seen as rather more prompt. Various media have been used – mail, email, rec.kites, the website and my thanks to KSGB for their assistance through The Kiteflier. Going forward, with more people involved I hope that we can address some of these issues. As a federation of clubs, all communication will be with them, for them to pass on to their members. I am however hopeful that Jon and Gill will be able to let us have some regular space in The Kiteflier. I am also indebted to Julie White for her time in putting material on the website.

Why bother? Why cannot individual kitefliers determine the future? Is an organisation not a contradiction to a pastime that is dedicated to ‘chilling out’? 

I hope that the details in Appendix C give some suggestions on these very valid points.

Is it not just another national body? 

No, I don’t think so. Each of the present national organisations covers a specific area of kiteflying. The exception in my mind is KSGB who come closest to representing all kitefliers. They however would not claim to be representative to the extent that their members can dictate policy to them in the way that the Council is expected to work in the BKFA.

Can we allow time for discussion in clubs and ensure that future votes are not limited to those present? 

The first Council meeting is planned for Sunday 17th October 2004. Clubs have between now and then to consider their positions, although an indication as to whether they will attend is requested earlier so that location can be decided on. The voting at the Council meeting will be in line with the constitution, with each club having votes proportional to its size. I believe the fairest way to deal with this is on this occasion only to allow proxy votes on the day but for the voting to be identified to each club. If at the end they decide not to join, we will re-count the votes for those that decide they want to be involved: it seems unreasonable to me that provided there are at least eight clubs that wish to join (the number required in order to form a committee), others could deny them the opportunity.

Surely this is a way for interfering busybodies in government and authority such as HSE and CAA to get at us? We should be making their lives harder, not easier. What is wrong with the status quo? 

It is certainly one view, but not one I share. What is wrong with the status quo? Nothing. But I believe I am not alone in believing that unless we do something, the status quo will change, and probably for the worse.

How are we funding the steering group and the work so far? 

Those that have attended have generously funded their own costs. As the person that decided I wasn’t prepared to sit on the fence any longer, I have funded the printing and postage costs, some of the meeting costs (others have been contributed to by those who came along) and the costs of the website. Julie White has kindly donated her time to run the website whilst Lawrence Rayment kindly produced the first draft constitution and continues to provide free legal advice.

What does the money buy? Won’t membership cards and printing rapidly soak up the small amounts being talked of from clubs? 

The money buys the running costs of the BKFA. I believe that projects such as kite safety leaflets, display material for events etc, will be subject to separate fundraising. As this is an association of clubs, there will be no membership cards and costs should be low. The principal cost will arise IF the Council decide that Committee members should be paid reasonable expenses.

Is an unincorporated association not a rather risky way to go? Members would have unlimited liability in the event of a claim and all clubs and all their members could be bankrupted. 

The advice is that an unincorporated association presents no problems at present. The Committee, who are trustees in law, keep an eye on the future and take whatever steps are necessary should the association go in a direction that could give rise to liabilities. For example, should they start to sell clothing, kites or other items, a limited trading company would be set up with its memorandum and articles of association requiring the committee to be the directors and all profits to be directed back to the BKFA.

Whilst I hesitate to mention insurance, BKFA would only act as an introducer, not an intermediary or agent. Should the latter be the case, again legal advice would be sought as to the best way to ensure there is no risk to member organisations.

A ‘Company limited by guarantee’ had been suggested. Legal advice is that this an unnecessary expense at this stage, there being no significant liabilities. BKFA will not be organising events, it will have no ‘products’, it will not offer insurance (although it will work with insurers to identify suitable policies for member clubs and seek to obtain discounts on them), and thus no liabilities are likely to arise. The committee would need to consider anything produced eg safety leaflets, and whether it increases risk. If so, it would need to consider legal advice to ensure that BKFA are not creating a liability that cannot be managed.

What about traders and manufacturers? 

Their involvement initially through sponsorship would be very welcome. I will be proposing to Council that a separate group is formed for traders and manufacturers and that group then affiliates to BKFA just like any other club.