THE MEN behind bringing the airshow back to Southend in time for September 2014 talk to the Echo.

JOHN Delaney turned his back on a career in aviation when he failed a medical to become an RAF pilot.

For him, nothing else would do.

He turned his attention to other things, but he never lost a lifelong love of planes.

Mr Delaney, 53, of Chesterfield Crescent, Eastwood, said: “I always wanted to be a pilot. I would build Airfix models and write to plane makers asking for posters before finally joining the Air Training Corps at the age of 11.

“When I was turned down for the RAF because my sight and hearing wasn’t
good enough it was a blow, but I didn’t want to do anything else. If I couldn’t be a pilot, I didn’t want to be an engineer or anything like that.”

At 17, Mr Delaney became a DJ by night and a market trader by day. Later, he owned an off licence before opening a wine bar in Croydon. He went on to become a manager at international insurance company AON, leaving in 2005 to set up a lingerie company.

He has lived in Southend for 12 years. His varied career has endowed Mr Delaney with great organisational skills which he is now putting to good use to bring back his  beloved airshow.

He said: “When I moved to Southend and saw the airshow I just thought: ‘Wow –
what a fantastic event’. I made sure friends came to visit during the airshow weekend.

“The number of people it attracted to the town gave it a real buzz and the planes were fantastic to watch. It really put Southend on the map.”

News the council could no longer afford to run the show came as a huge blow.

Mr Delaney said: “I was absolutely devastated when I heard they were cancelling it. I was really angry and thought it ridiculous. I immediately started a Facebook campaign. In fact, Tom and I had launched our campaigns within an hour of each

“When I saw we were getting a good response, I contacted Tom and said: ‘Let’s get together’. We had never met before, but we have become close friends.”

Mr Delaney’s partner, Erica, seems not to mind the eight hours a day he puts in to the new airshow on top of his own work. She fields calls while he sleeps in the
day, having been up most of the night, and acts as his secretary.
It is hoped local volunteers and sponsors will join up to help lighten their load.

Mr Delaney said: “If enough people get behind it, we have every chance of doing it.
“It’s our show, not the council’s, not the Government’s. It’s the community getting together for the good of the town.”

TOM Curtis, has fond memories of sitting on the cliffs watching the Southend airshow with his family.

When he heard Southend Council could no longer afford the £130,000 cost of the show, he was determined to do something about it.

Mr Curtis, 29, of Honiton Road, Southend, said: “I saw on the Echo Twitter account the council intended to cancel the airshow and I just really felt very sad because this was an iconic show in Southend that had been running for 27 years. It was a tradition.

“I kept thinking about it more and more. From my point of view it didn’t make sense to cancel something that brings in more than £10million in revenue for the town.

“I didn’t want to be one of those people who say: ‘It’s a shame’, but then don’t do anything about it so I set up a Facebook account to save it.

John did the same thing. We had two campaigns going, so we joined forces.”

The Facebook campaign is nearing 20,000 likes, proving just how popular the event is.

Mr Curtis, a marketing consultant, said: “The airshow is a fantastic spectacle. I have lived in Southend all my life and it was something I looked forward to every year.

“I have had an interest in aircraft all my life. My dad is obsessed with planes. He loves them. We used to go to watch the show as a family.”

Mr Curtis has already put in many hours for the show, focusing on press and communications and contacting sponsors and fundraisers. He hopes by Christmas the campaign will have raised the £150,000 needed to ensure the show becomes a reality.

He said: “We are working hard to make it happen. We are ready to talk to any community interest groups and companies who are interested in working with us.

“It is a huge advertising opportunity for companies and will be fantastic for the community. It is also great that it will be in time for the First World War centenary and a chance for us to pay tribute to those who have gone before us.”