European Air Gallery

The European Air Gallery is a unique collection of Edo Kites painted by European artists. The collection is now owned by North East Kite Fliers, a kite club based in the North East of England. The collection was a gift to the club in March 1998 from Sunderland City Council, who wanted these unique kites to stay in the North East and continue to be exhibited or flown at Sunderland’s own International Kite Festival held at Washington, Tyne and Wear, UK, at the beginning of July each year. Although the Festival has since been discontinued, the kites can still be flown at other festivals.

The European Air gallery was an innovation promoted by Sunderland City Council early in 1994 when the first phase of the project was launched. The inspiration for the project came from the Hague Air Gallery in Holland where some years ago Gerard van der Loo in collaboration with Els Lubbers initiated a wonderful air gallery of Edo style kites painted by many well known Dutch artists. This original Hague Air Gallery gained an international reputation and was an inspiration to many kite makers and artists alike across the world.

Sunderland City Council with its team of enthusiastic workers from the Department of Education and Community Services found sponsorship for this project and this culminated in the production of 22 of these unique works of art. Gerard van der Loo gave guidance to the team and made the kite sails and frames at his kite shop, Vlieger Op in Holland. The project achieved its full potential during The Year of the Visual Arts in 1996. Sunderland City Council staff took the kites to many European venues to display and fly with the help of locally trained volunteers. In the UK, the kites have been displayed at a number of venues including Newcastle and Stansted airports and in the Civic Centre and Central Library in Sunderland. Each year they were flown at The Sunderland International Kite Festival.

In 1997 Sunderland City Council felt that the Kite Collection had achieved all the objectives set for the project and therefore the council offered the collection to North East Kite Fliers, the present owners of the Kites. North East Kite Fliers accepted the gift and will endeavour to continue to promote the collection and Sunderland’s role in the origination of the collection and the wonderful work done by the original team. The club will display or fly the kite whenever possible.

Basic technical information about the kites:

The kites are based on the Japanese Edo Kite with the sails made in rip-stop nylon.

The frames are made from detachable fibre glass and carbon fibre spars.

The kites are rectangular standing 2.4 metres tall and 1.4 metres wide.

The kites have 17 bridle/flying lines about 30 metres long, arranged in two groups, each terminating in a padded wrist strap, the top group ends in a red strap and when pulled causes the kite to climb, the other strap is yellow and is the handle for descent. The bridle lines all pass through a plastic grid to keep them separated and running free. The ascent and descent of the kites can be controlled using the two handles but very little control can be exerted on any lateral flight. This system of two handle control was devised by the Vlieger Op team in Holland.

The sails have been painted with a special acrylic paint, the brand name of which is Lucite Household Paint. It is available in a range of colours but not in small tins. It is a water-based paint and the suppliers will mix almost any colour. Whilst it is an expensive paint, a little goes a long way.

A picture of most of the kites can be found on John Dobson’s web site.

More details are available from me
John Dobson phone 01434 683657
or email me at