‘Dreams of Flight’ at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry

Earlier this year, Nick Forder, Curator for the Air & Space Hall at The Manchester Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI), invited the BBM&L, through Caroline and Andrew Gibson, to take part in their February half term ‘Dreams of Flight’ programme of events. The event was to be part of a free programme of family activities during 14 – 22 February, 2009.

Caroline and Andrew, both Council members of the BBM&L, also fly one of the Museum’s tailored balloons, G-ODAY, and were more than willing to tether it to commemorate such an event, right in the middle of Manchester

MOSI wanted the tethered balloon to be used in a re-enactment of the first balloon flight over Manchester. A flight which took place in 1785 by James Sadler, taking off from what is now known as Balloon Street.

In October 1784 he became the first Englishman to ascend in a hydrogen balloon, and in March 1785 a crowd of 5000 people gathered to watch his flight over Manchester, which started in John Hawarth’s back garden in Long Millgate. The balloon was filled with hydrogen, produced by adding iron filings to a vat of sulphuric acid, and was airborne for around one hour and 45 minutes. It landed in a sandbed between Blacow Ridge and Radcliffe.

The balloon used during the week of the MOSI celebrations was a hot-air balloon, rather than a gas balloon. G-ODAY, was piloted by two Council members of the British Balloon Museum & Library, Andrew and Caroline Gibson.

The first Saturday of the ten day event saw Caroline inflating G-ODAY on three occasions throughout the day in the cobbled Museum car park. Caroline’s crew for the day were Andrew Gibson, Sue and David Campion, and David Kinsey. David is also the Press Officer for the BBM&L, and whilst the balloon hovered over the car park, David was answering children’s’ questions and handing out stickers and leaflets.

Weather determined that there was to be only one other tether during the whole event and that was the following Saturday. This time, Ian Comely, another BBM&L council member, and also the Editor of the Museum’s journal, Trailrope, was the pilot in charge of the James Sadler actors in the basket. His crew were, Andrew and Caroline Gibson, David Kinsey and Steve Smith

MOSI had got two actors to help them with the James Sadler roles. Gareth Redston and Lee Wolstenholme had specially developed the costumed character of James Sadler, telling the story of Manchester’s first balloon flight to MOSI visitors, and ascending in the balloon.

Gareth Redston, who played one of the James Sadlers at MOSI said: “James Sadler was one of the first pioneers of flight, and he held several demonstrations of ballooning in Manchester, which must have been incredibly exciting back in 1785.”

When the weather meant no ballooning, visitors in the Air and Space Hall, listened to curator Nick Forder, suitably attired for the late 18th Century, telling stories of James Sadler and lighter than air adventures. Visitors learned about humans’ dreams of flight in a range of fun events, including a live demonstration of birds of prey, the making and flying paper aeroplanes, helicopters and balloons. They were also able to have free tours of MOSI’s Air and Space Hall. Free balloons were given out to visitors during the week to commemorate James Sadler’s historic achievement.

Dreams of Flight events are FREE (except Funcopter & Planetarium) and link to celebrations throughout 2009 to mark 100 years since the first all-British flight by AV Roe in July 1909. More details on special events connected to his achievement will be on www.mosi.org.uk