Despite the best efforts of the British summer weather, display flying returned to the skies over Folkestone at the beginning of August with displays from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Red Arrows. Folkestone was once host to one of the UK’s most popular seaside airshows which offered some unique clifftop views of the aerial action from The Leas and it was a nostalgic return to the Kent town for the author.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

Throughout the 1990s, Folkestone hosted the wonderful ‘Shepway Airshow.’ Part of a wider festival on green spaces of The Leas 200ft above sea level, the show was quite different from other seaside events with a particular focus on warbirds. This was perhaps no surprise as the show was put together by Duxford Flying Display Director Jeanne Frazer and featured many aircraft from the Fighter Collection fleet. Sadly, the 2000’s saw the show disappear from the calendar as council budgets were stretched though there were two attempts to resurrect the show in 2012 and 2014 which ultimately proved to be unsuccessful. Since then Folkestone and Hythe District Council have managed to host the Red Arrows and a handful of other displays on a number of a occasions for one off displays.

2021 saw Folkestone once again manage to bid successfully for displays from the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight during the annual Folkestone Festival held on the Leas. Though much smaller than the Shepway Festivals in the 90s, it still felt very familiar with various catering outlets and classic cars on show on the cliff-top green spaces. Display day was dubbed the ‘Folkestone Air Display’ and to add to the military displays, the Headcorn based ‘Stampe Formation Team’ were also booked to display. Sadly, the much of the day of the air display was very wet and windy which forced the cancellation of the Stampes. However, the weather did break in time for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Douglas Dakota III to open the flying display in tricky conditions. By the time of the Red Arrows displayed the clouds has also parted allowing the team to perform a full display over the English Channel illuminated by the late afternoon sun.

For the organisers, it was no doubt a great relief that the BBMF and Red Arrows were able to display. It was also great reward for the sizable crowd that had gathered to watch the display despite the foul weather earlier in the day. Hopefully it will not be too long before Folkestone hosts more air displays.