Presented by David Hassard and Bill Downey, Joint Project Leaders, and Mike French, Treasurer & Volunteer Co-ordinator….
Amazingly, six years into our two-year project we have been as busy as ever. The major event for our project in 2017 was the exhibition at the YMCA Hawker Centre in September celebrating the 75 year history and marking the centenary of the founding of National Aircraft Factory No.2 on Richmond Road. In addition to our portable exhibition, we collected, printed and displayed nearly 200 largely unpublished photographs and maps supplemented by Mike Frain’s guided tours around the site.
All this attracted an almost overwhelming 871 people over the two days, ranging from local residents with no idea about the heritage to ex-employees sharing stories and bringing photographs and memorabilia. Huge thanks must go to our volunteer steering group and stewards, our close colleagues in the Hawker Association and the YMCA for making this such a success.
The number of people who attended our illustrated talks this year on the Sopwith story through WW1 and on the whole history of the aviation industry in Kingston almost exactly matched the number attending the exhibition. 855 people including 119 children attended twenty-one talks taking the total over our six years to 6,935.
Once again audiences ranged from a Primary School to a Dementia
home. We have spoken to industrial history, military history, local
history, family history and scientific societies, church groups, Probus
clubs, U3A groups including the main Kingston U3A, as well as
presenting at one of Richmond’s “Know your place” events. Along the way
we developed a new talk on the Hawker Hurricane and the Battle of
Britain for a local school.
A factor in the popularity of our talks and exhibitions is offering people the attractive and informative “Designed and built in Kingston” brochure to take away and share with friends and family. Over the years we have handed out nearly 8,000 and this year BAE Systems Heritage have generously had many more printed to keep this going.
Research for the weekly e-mailed diary of the Sopwith Aviation Company and its products has become increasingly demanding but with a circulation of almost 700 worldwide it is intended to keep going. With Sopwith aircraft being produced in their thousands there was concern that the research for 1918 could not be completed in time but thanks to voluntary help from Dick Curtis and John O’Dell we now have a day-by-day index to in-service Sopwith aircraft key events throughout 1918. Further research on other less well recorded key events, like first flights and tests of prototype aircraft, will continue throughout the year. This diary can be easily accessed via our website.
The only addition to our website this year has been updating the “100 years ago” section from the weekly newsletters, but thanks to volunteers we have been making better use of social media to advertise events and broaden the ways we share information about Kingston’s aviation heritage. The website has become a source of information for researchers all over the world and we are able to answer many of the enquiries that come in but frustratingly we do not have any personnel records to help with information about people who worked at the factories.
Thanks largely to local Councillors we continue to exploit opportunities to leave lasting reminders of the aviation industry around Kingston. We were pleased to be able to provide information and advice this year for the large Harrier model and information panel in the extension to the public library in Tudor Drive close to the Richmond Road aircraft factory site. We are working on some other ideas.
We expected to dig deep into our limited financial reserves this year for the special exhibition which did cost quite a lot of money. However thanks to donations by exhibition visitors and donations from some of our talks our funds have only reduced by £533, so we are able to continue to fund the website as well as our research and outreach work for the foreseeable future.
With special thanks to our volunteers, we wish all our supporters and readers a very happy New Year.
You can get in touch with us through the website www.kingstonaviation.org or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org