Love is in the air at this summer’s Midlands Air Festival in Alcester – thanks to local entrepreneurs who have agreed to suspend their annual harvest, insisting ‘the show must go on.’
It will be all eyes to the skies for the Queen’s Jubilee in June – but only after William and Kelsey Seymour agreed to halt the harvesting of their award-winning elderflower liqueur brand St Maur midway through a short elder blossoms picking season.
Between the end of May and early June each year William and Kelsey, The Earl and Countess of Yarmouth, can be found, along with family and friends, feverishly collecting the blossoms in the Ragley Woodlands, which surround the Ragley Hall parkland in Alcester, where the Air Festival is taking place.
But this year the couple will be allowing for an uncharacteristic interruption to the work following a safety request by show organisers to clear the festival display area during the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend, of June 2nd-4th.
Trevor Graham, the Director of Aviation for the Midlands Air Festival, said: “The Festival is a very exciting but complex event and public safety is our primary concern. Being able to have safe, designated low flying areas within the Ragley Estate is an important element of the show.
“We are grateful for the continued co-operation shown to us from the Earl and Countess of Yarmouth and St Maur who allow us access to their picking forest, which ensures we can continue to stage this stunning event for the people of the Midlands.”
William, who is the eldest son of the Marquess of Hertford, and grew up at Ragley Hall, the family’s seat since the 18th Century, said: “At St Maur we are absolutely delighted to be able to support and facilitate another local success story and a great show, with the Midlands Air Festival, even if it does interrupt our busiest time of year.”
Described as ‘a little drop of England’s heart,’ St Maur Elderflower Liqueur has already earned its proud producers four prestigious industry awards.
It’s a fitting chapter in the love story of the couple who first produced the drink uniquely for their wedding guests at Ragley Hall in Alcester three years ago.
The festival’s fast jets display area takes place directly over the woodland where the wild elderflowers are harvested, the coordinates of which can be found on the bottle’s labels and logo.
“When the Red Arrows fly part of their display has been to draw a heart in the sky with vapour trails. So, what better way to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend than to have a heart drawn in the sky directly above the coordinates that appear on our bottles of St Maur?” added William.
“We describe our drink as ‘a little drop of England’s heart’, and we want as many people as possible to share and enjoy that, and so a display like this really will mark a special moment in time.”
Kelsey added: “Having this event taking place at Ragley would inevitably disrupt our business, but watching this and other different events going on makes you realise how important they are for our local economy and for everyone to be able to enjoy and share the experience.”
“Wild elderflowers are only in bloom for a very short period of time where you can pick good quantities. This is a really important time for us to collect them and process them and make sure we have a good stock of elder-flavoured syrup that we can produce our drink from for the rest of the year. They are best picked early in the morning just as they open which is when they’re at their most fragrant.”
But the couple is also careful to give back to the environment, including a commitment to pick no more than 30% of the wild elderflower blossom each season.
The fourth year of The Midlands Air Festival will see the return of a host of day and night-time air displays across the three days, from helicopters and warbirds to aerial ballet and fast jets, including RAF Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows. Making its first appearance at the Midlands Air Festival this year, is the mighty Avro Lancaster four engined bomber of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Plus, there will be more than 200 hot air balloons and airships in spectacular displays above Ragley Hall, culminating in the atmospheric balloon Nightglow event and fireworks show.
Celebrating the Jubilee theme this year, there will also be aircraft of the period, classical music used at the Coronation and local 1950’s band, the legendary Uproars.
More about St Maur
St Maur is a small batch premium elderflower liqueur handcrafted in Alcester, Warwickshire, from responsibly sourced ingredients, with elderflowers gathered in ancient family-owned woodlands.
St Maur is the creation of The Earl and Countess of Yarmouth, William and Kelsey Seymour who first produced it uniquely for their wedding guests at Ragley Hall in Alcester three years ago before deciding to turn it into a full-time family business at the start of lockdown.
William is the eldest son of the Marquess of Hertford, and grew up at Ragley Hall, his family’s seat since the 18th century. But St Maur signals an exciting new direction for the Earl who is driven by his vision to build not just a livelihood, but a ‘new legacy’ to be proud of for his two sons.