Backstage with Clive Bailey

Backstage With Clive Bailey
Backstage with Clive Bailey

Ever wanted to see things from a fresh perspective? How about a bird’s eye view, thousands of feet above the ground? For more than 25 years, that’s how Clive Bailey of Bailey Balloons has had the pleasure of viewing the world.

Bailey Balloons is a Bristol Balloon company operating all over the South West, run by husband and wife duo Jo and Clive Bailey. Clive is also the weather advisor for the Western Region Balloon Club and the Flight Director at the iconic Bristol International Balloon Fiesta where he is responsible for the launch of over 150 balloons.

Like all businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a pause on balloon flights for the past few months, but from 17 May, passengers from different households will be able to take flight! Email or call 01275 772138 to enquire.

To find out more about life above the clouds, keep reading as we go backstage with Clive Bailey.

You work in a very unique industry that many people have likely never even considered a career in! How do you become a Balloon pilot and director of a Balloon Company?

I started my working career as a commercial diver, initially in civil engineering and then on the oil/gas rigs in the Middle East and the North Sea. My father was a flight test engineer, so my two brothers and I had been brought up with aviation. At the first opportunity, I learnt to fly gliders and loved aerobatics. I moved into the motor industry and met a chap called Mike MacDonald who was learning to fly balloons. He persuaded me to crew for him and it was about two years after that that he finally persuaded me to fly in one. I thought it would be boring, but that first flight changed my life. I then learnt to fly, persuaded Bryan Brothers, the local Ford dealer, to buy a balloon and one thing led to another. We set up Bailey Balloons 26 years ago.

Can you describe the feeling of being a few thousand feet off the ground, looking down at Bristol? Does it make you appreciate the city more?

One of my passengers said it was like an out of body experience, like being on a magic carpet, with no sensation or movement as the ground below slowly unfolds. I have flown over Bristol thousands of times and every time I see something new. It truly is a fabulous city with lots of green spaces, the river, the Suspension Bridge, the docks and beautiful buildings. You need to see it to appreciate the beauty of the area.

View of the Bristol Suspension Bridge. Image courtesy of Bailey Balloons.

Due to COVID restrictions, the International Balloon Fiesta looked a little differently last year, but you still found ways to engage with the public. Can you tell us a bit about the Virtual Night Glow which aired on BBC and what response you got from this?

We have a great PR team, Plaster and REM Events, that manage the fiesta. Between them, the flying committee and of course BBC Radio Bristol, we came up with the virtual night glow idea. The big problem was to make sure we did not attract a crowd, so it was all kept very quiet, not even letting the balloon teams know the location until 7pm on the night. The response from the public was fabulous and I know all the balloonists enjoyed it. Everyone did the event free of charge for which we are very grateful. It also enabled us to try some new things which I hope will return again this year.

Image courtesy of Bailey Balloons.

What can we look forward to at the International Balloon Fiesta this year?

We have a directors meeting at the beginning of April and planning is underway. We are in a much better place compared to last year so we will be able to do more I am sure. Balloon companies can start flying up to 6 passengers from the same household in April and the larger passenger balloons can start from the middle of May. It is still too early to confirm exactly what, but I can promise an excellent spectacle in the skies over Bristol in August. It would be nice to do something from Filton again, the fiesta and the Arena are great Bristol icons.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta launches at the former Filton Airfield. Image by JMP.

What does it mean for you for Bristol to have an arena?

I am passionate about Bristol, and to have a new arena in such a famous and historic location will be a great asset. The Arena will bring much needed visitors into the city, everyone will benefit, and the economy will get a great boost. My father ended his career as a Sales Engineering Director for Concorde and I have great memories of being taken around the Brabazon Hangars in my early teens on many occasions, people will be amazed at the size of the Arena and what a fabulous place to see your favourite artists. Hurry up and get it finished!

First gig, last gig, favourite gig?

My first gig was to Reading Festival, but I can’t remember what artists were playing as it was a long time ago. My last and favourite gig was The Eagles at Wembley about 18 months ago.

Which artist/band/performer would you like to see perform at YTL Arena Bristol (...and why?)

Elton John is a firm favourite and I saw him in Bristol many years ago. His music is great and he is a brilliant entertainer.

Can you name a song that can instantly boost your mood? (and why?)

We Are The Champions by Queen, it’s just a great uplifting energetic song. I am a big Queen fan.

And finally, can you share an all-time favourite song/ a song that means a lot to you so we can add it to our YTL Arena Backstage Pass playlist?

Love Is All Around Us by Wet Wet Wet. It came out the year Jo and I were married (1995) and we had the BBC Band at our evening event. It was the first record they played and the first dance we had as a married couple.

To listen to our Backstage Playlist on Spotify. For exciting updates at YTL Arena Bristol, follow @ytlarenabristol on social media or sign up to our newsletter