Martin Lester lives in Cornwall and is one of the top soft kitemakers in the world.Martin started making kites in 1973 whilst at art college. The hobby grew into a job when he started working in Europe's first kite shop in Bristol in 1976. He swapped the cash register for the sewing machine and set up his own business in 1982, designing and producing my own range of kites. Martin was one of the founders of the Bristol Kite Festival in 1985 along with his good friends Avril Baker and John Payton (now sadly deceased).
He lived and ran his kite business from Bristol for many years before moving to Cornwall.
The famous Martin Lester's Legs kite began as a joke by the Kite Store. In 1988 a spoof advert appeared on the back of the 'Kite Flier' magazine: Martin Lester's New Kite - his legs, as seen all over the world. Mark Cottrell had drawn this very simple flying pair of legs, which looked more like a flat kite with two streamers coming off the bottom. Martin had done a couple of festivals in Singapore and Italy, and somebody had given me some very bright painted silk shorts. If you're going to run around in a hot country, then you want to wear a pair of shorts. So these became a bit of a signature in a way.
The Kite Store did get a lot of people ringing up saying "I want Martin's kite", and they had to admit that yes, it was actually a joke!. But then that was quite nice, because it then started a tradition of Kite Store adverts on the back page of the newsletter that were always a spoof. It was a good, fun thing to do.
Martin saw the spoof advert and thought, "what a brilliant idea for a kite!". He had made inflatable kites before- the Shark, Space Shuttle and various birds. They were soft kites but they all had a frame to hold them in shape. He thought "what a great idea for a totally soft kite", because you've got a parafoil with two tubes coming off the back!
He was firstly seen flying in at Blackheath in Easter 1988. At the time the kite didn't fly particularly well but he developed further and went on to fly it for the Queen's birthday in Denmark, and then the next time in Chicago where it won the 'People's Choice' award. It was the beginning of a long story; a joke that turned into good business!
He soon after started talking about getting the full body done but it actually took him around 10 years to finish. He has made over 5000 sets of legs in all shapes and sizes and has claimed that he cut them all out and bridled them. Martin estimates that he has sold around 50 sets of the 32ft long 8 ft wide legs and 4 or 5 of the 65ft legs. When he started a 32 ft kite was sonsidered big wheras now it is considered small! Peter Lynn is responsible for that, the escalation of kite sizes! It's amazing how people's perceptions have changed.. His latest creation is the 70 ft spirit.