There are many good reasons to visit Southport with its gentle Victorian seaside charm. One of them is the annual two-day Southport Air Show which has historically been held every year in September. After last years terrible weather on the Sunday when the show was cancelled, organisers decided to break with tradition and bring it forward in the calendar.
Fine weather and a packed beach suggested that this was a good decision as thousands turned out to see historic and modern planes take to the skies. Southport’s famous sea wall (which only ever seems to get wet twice a month) found a new purpose as it provided a perfect viewpoint across the vast sands from which to see the displays.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary the airshow has gone from strength to strength with something for everyone. From the ground shaking Tornado to the planes of yesteryear. It’s not often that an arrival generates an unprompted and spontaneous applause – but it happened yesterday when the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight approached from the west.
Making stately progress a Lancaster and solitary Spitfire struck a chord with the crowds who clearly understood how these planes and their crews had helped to avert disaster when a bleak future for Europe seemed inevitable. There was also respect for simple fact that these elderly planes were still flying after nearly 70 years.
Just as popular was the arrival of the Vulcan which is only still flying today due to Herculean efforts from a small group of supporters who through the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, have managed to raise enough funds to restore this magnificent plane. Having said that, funds are still perilous and donations are still sought to keep the Vulcan flying so it can be seen at air shows for a few more years at least.
I recall the Vulcan’s first visit to Southport which was probably about 3 years ago. It must have been one of the first outings for the newly restored Vulcan and the Trust had a small promotional tent to sell memorabilia in order to raise funds. A mug and a book was purchased ( I am drinking from the mug as I write) and the book was autographed by one of its pilots.
The participation of the Vulcan was in some doubt due to weather which kept delaying take off. Eventually it arrived and I remember the volunteers closing the tent for a few minutes so they could take in the display and see the results of many years hard work. Returning to the tent was clearly an emotional moment for them.
No air show worth its salt can conclude without the legendary Red Arrows. Forgive a touch of patriotic pride here as I refer to them as the best aero display team in the world. With the weather fine and the sky virtually cloudless, the Arrows were able to perform both low and high level displays.
As I write this with yesterday’s memories still fresh, I can hear the sound of aircraft passing Lancashire overhead. Looking at the programme and recognising the distinctive sound it can only be the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight returning for Sunday’s events. There is more cloud so it is difficult to see them. Hopefully it will not spoil the enjoyment of today’s visitors, who will no doubt give them another splendid welcome to Southport.
The reference to the sea wall only getting wet twice a month refers to Southport’s lack of sea. At most times all that can be seen is miles of sand, however when the sea comes in at high tide it used to flood the coast road and the area where the cinema and bowling alley are sited – making the sea wall very necessary.