End of an era!

Just over a year ago I designed a poster to celebrate the affiliation with the town of Helston in Cornwall, to the soon to be decommissioned 771 Naval Air Squadron and it's red and grey Sea King helicopters. I and many other people found the impending demise of the squadron to be a very sad thing. The Squadron's work to save lives around the South West coast of the United Kingdom has earned it a very special place in the hearts of the Cornish people and those of the mariners and seafarers who pass that way in their various craft. Many have taken solace in the fact that 771 will come if things should go wrong.

Two days ago a ceremony was held at RNAS Culdrose to officially decommission the Squadron and the helicopters have been sent elsewhere to be scrapped, sold off or turned into interesting sheds. All that is, except one.

XV673 or number (8)27 has been cleaned up and repainted and now sits tethered to the ground at the north western side of the Culdrose airfield as a guardian and fitting memorial to the squadron and the brave personnel who saved the lives of perhaps 2,000 people over 40 years, often putting their own lives in peril.

As from the 23rd March 2016 there will rightly be a perpetual memorial to this great squadron and from this date my Visit Helston poster will have the number 27 on the helicopter to make it relevant to the memorial and the town.

The original poster had the number 17 on it and when I flew with the 771 boys this February, 17 was the number of the cab I flew in. Number 27 was the number on the poster I produced for Culdrose Air Day 2015 and was the cab which performed on the day. It is nice to see these things tie up so neatly.

So, if you buy one of my Visit Helston Posters from my online shop now, it will have the number 27 on it and if you do visit Helston, there she will be. Forever Relevant.

Non Nobis Solum - Not unto us alone.

That was the Week! That was.

It's now November and after a few very busy months I've finally managed to sit down and write a bit about what turned out to be probably the best week of 2015 so far. However, the week of this years' Culdrose Air Day did not look good at first.

We arranged for our family holiday to start on the previous Saturday and travelled down to Cornwall with a rather dull weather forecast for the whole week.

On the Sunday we had booked in to the Kneehigh Theatre's Asylum to watch 946, a play based on the book Adolphus Tips by Michael Morprurgo. The play was, as expected of the fantastic Kneehigh, superb. Inventive, funny, informative and beautifully staged in their tent at the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

From the moment the show began I was an emotional wreck, the story is about a little girl who lost her cat when she and her family was moved from their home near Slapton Sands during the 2nd World War. Her loss pulls you into the tragic story of Operation Tiger during which 946 US and British servicemen lost their lives, many from their own guns. During the performance the weather made itself known by throwing an enormous squally shower down on to the tent, adding to the magic.

At the end of the show we realised that Michael Morpurgo himself was in the audience and at the end we met him. Having read many of his books, including Adolphus Tips to my kids, it really was an honour and he was kind and friendly and shook both my children's hands. Despite the downpours the day was a very memorable one.

Press Article in the West Briton

The Challenge Coin

I watched the weather forecasts incessantly and felt that it was not going to clear up for Air Day. The Thursday weather was still looking very dodgy, rain and low cloud. On the Monday I went into Culdrose to make a presentation to the Captain, Commander Sea King and the Commanding Officer of 771 Search and Rescue Squadron, of my Air Day 2015 poster and my Special Edition Farewell Flight Poster. I had a look around the SAR Sea Kings and the Control Tower and Base Commander, Captain Orchard OBE presented me with a Challenge Coin for my good work, which was a very nice surprise and something I will treasure. The sun came out briefly and Captain Orchard, my dad and myself were photographed for the inevitable press release.

The Air Day Special Edition with a dated stamp.

The Air Day Special Edition with a dated stamp.

Tuesday I received a text from my neighbour with a photo of a bus stop in a very dull Padstow with the Air Day poster on the side. whoopie! fame at last. I felt like a million dollars. We had a game in the car on our travels to spot the posters about the place and saw one on a rather smart bus stop in Hayle which I wanted to go back and photograph for my records. By the time we went back on the Wednesday, it had been replaced by one for Paradise Park or some such local attraction - the hard world of prime spot poster sites.

I was still worried that the weather wouldn't live up to my poster on the Thursday and, for some bizarre reason felt that people would blame the poster for misleading them as it certainly wasn't going to be 'like the picture'. On the day however, it was sunny but there was a lot of cloud about and as we sat in the traffic I kept everything crossed for the cloud to clear.

When we arrived at Culdrose I noticed how many people were carrying the souvenir brochures. I had placed an advert in the brochure for my Special Air Day Edition Farewell Flight Poster with an access code only available through the advert (as you'll see). My helicopter pilot cousin appeared from Wales and we marvelled at the crazy Pitts Special display and the brilliant Breitling Wingwalkers.

As the morning went on and the early air displays followed each other, the cloud started to disperse and by early afternoon the sky was a beautiful blue with just a few woolly white clouds here and there.

The icing on the cake for me was the late afternoon flying sequence. The Mig 29 had done its bit, setting off the car alarms; the Chinook had mesmerised me, as always and sporting a very good paint job. The balbo had passed majestically with the 771 Sea Kings leading and the Hawks flying high. Then it was the turn of the individual 771 rescue helicopter showing why it is so well respected - number 27 on the front - the same as the poster! The awesome Swiss F/A-18 display followed with not a cloud in the sky. I spent so long when designing the poster to try and get this aircraft right and there it was, dancing in front of me in a perfect sky. I'm still not sure it was ever perfect and I'd left out the number on the nose which I think would have added significantly to the likeness. Then the Seafire took off and filled the air with that fantastic Rolls Royce Merlin engine sound. The three main protagonists in my poster had followed each other in the sun. To me it couldn't have been a more perfect show.

Poster sales began in earnest that evening and through the next couple of days orders came flooding in. Another fantastic result of this most excellent day.

Batch 1

Batch 1

On the following Monday I went in to Culdrose again and spent some time with Commander Air in the control tower and it seemed that the day had been a great success. Later, various air show reviewers rated it as one of the best shows of the year. All good for maybe a bit more of the air show poster work in future. (all enquiries welcome!)

My return to Bristol meant a lot of work in fulfilling the Farewell Flight orders and I was still getting them well into September. There are still some of these available and the non-Air Day edition is available here.

The week of 30th July 2015 has to be one of the best weeks ever for me. If you read the I've been hooked by the Royal Navy article, you'll realise that this has been a very happy and welcome departure from my usual work and one that has surprised and delighted me as it has continued. With the date announced for the next Culdrose Air Day - Thursday 28th July 2016 I hope that just may be I'll be called again.



I've been hooked by the Royal Navy!

It all goes back to the poster of a Search and Rescue helicopter I produced to sort of mark the loss from Helston of the Naval Air Squadron which has been saving lives on the Cornish coast for 50 years. I felt that someone needed to make a connection with the town and so I created my poster.

I took it to my Dad's old frame shop in Helston to see if the chap who took it over might want to sell a couple and he agreed, framed one and promptly tweeted it's existence. For a few days it seemed from my point of view that all hell had broken loose and within hours a few had been sold and the air station at Culdrose had expressed an interest in at least making it work as their Air Day poster 2015.

Wow! Said I. An air show poster! This is probably my dream job. Lets not get this out of proportion. I've been brought up with air shows, my Dad was in the Fleet Air Arm, he ran the air show when I was a kid, I worked in the Fleet Air Arm shop selling etched copper clocks with helicopters on them and that's why we lived there at all.

There's nothing better than seeing your work out in the real world. It has happened a couple of times before, Lotus Sport I see occasionally, Invest Bridgwater I see often on large billboards off the M5 and at Bristol Airport, surprisingly, but an air show poster? Everyone sees those!

It is funny how things go. I only did the Visit Helston poster as a lean times experiment to see if I could produce something which looked authentic and the next thing to happen, it's gone viral in the local area and I've got my dream job.

I have to say that I'm sad that the SAR squadron is leaving Helston, It's been there all of my life and when the Helicopter goes out with it's distinctive urgent Sea King whine I always wondered to what it might be going. ship adrift, yacht in trouble, surfing accident, cow down shaft etc. Would the people be OK? would the cow get out?

I could almost say that 771 has saved me too as the airshow poster has really put the spring back in my step, something which has been waning of late. So good luck to all those who've been involved with the Red and Greys and I'll miss you terribly.

And I must thank Guy at Pictures and Things in Helston and Bob Sharples, photographer and social media meister for getting the 771 poster out there and the PR team at Culdrose for trusting me with their poster, I'm extremely proud of it and I hope it fulfills it's role and brings in the crowds, it'll be a great show and I can't wait to see it.