MJ Ballooning owner Matthew Joyce enthuses about Cameron Balloons, the annual Balloon Fiesta and why ballooning is such a fantastic hobby

MJ Ballooning owner Matthew Joyce enthuses about Cameron Balloons, the annual Balloon Fiesta and why ballooning is such a fantastic hobby

Posted on: 11 Mar 2015


As you probably already know, hot air ballooning is huge in Bristol. I’m Matt Joyce, a balloon enthusiast, and I own MJ Ballooning which gives you updates about ballooning news.

It all started with Don Cameron coming to Bristol in the 1960s, where himself and friends from his gliding club saw this new type of ballooning that had just been invented in America. Seven members of the club liked the idea of building a hot air balloon, and they did. It's called the Bristol Belle, it was made completely by experimenting and they all learned to fly in this. It was Western Europe’s first modern hot air balloon.


The Bristol Belle was last seen in Bristol in 2012, where it tethered at the Thursday special shapes rodeo.In the pub one evening, they discussed the idea of having a balloon meet in Bristol, and this is how Europe’s largest balloon fiesta began.


In 1979, balloons gathered in the wonderful grounds of the Ashton Court Estate for the first fiesta. It took place between the 7th and 9th of September (it’s now August) and 27 balloons turned up altogether, with some teams travelling from as far as Germany to take part. Over 100 flights took place during those three days and it was a great success.

After this, Don Cameron quit his real job and started international balloon manufacturer, Cameron Balloons. They are very successful and they have made over half of the special shaped balloons around the world.


Bristol has seen some amazing balloons over the years such as the Scottish Piper, Airship & Balloon Company’s the Monster, Phoenix Balloons’ IKEA, Ballooningmedia’s L.E Electrical light bulb, Flying Enterprises’ Stowells Wine Box and the Smurf from Belgium!

Ballooning in Bristol


Cameron Balloons have recently had a new website made, so please take a look - click here. And of course you can’t forget the Minions that we saw visit us in 2013 too (info about the minions is on their website)! All info can be found on our website and and Ballooning Pictures have lots of galleries of past fiestas. 

The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is now in it’s 37th year, and planning for the 2015 event has already started. The dates are Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th August 2015, and mass ascents take place from Friday to Sunday at 6am and6pm. Thursday at 6pm sees a range of your favourite special shapes taking to the skies (weather permitting), and news about this will be on MJ Ballooning. 


The famous Nightglows are also not to be missed as roughly 20 balloons inflate and glow to music. This takes place on Thursday and Saturday night at 9:15pm and it’s the most popular event of the fiesta.


In 2015, some American special shape pilots are hopefully travelling around Europe to fly their balloons, and the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is third on their tour. So we could more than likely see one of the best fiestas yet! We will probably see some balloons new to Bristol too, as last year we saw Miss Daisy from America and Babette from Belgium attend. 


Hopefully some balloons that have attended in the last couple of years will come too, like Exclusive Ballooning’s Ricoh Cube and Scottish Cup alongside the French Cockerel and the Satzenbrau Bottle. Make sure you come and see the balloons at Ashton Court this year! On a good morning or evening at the fiesta, we can easily see 100-120 balloons take off in an hour. And if the wind direction is sending them over the city, you might see a balloon fly past your house.

And remember Ashton Court doesn’t just see balloons flying from there in August, this year they have already started taking off. You can come along and watch them drift into the sky any day that it’s flyable.

Bristol - the home of the hot air balloon


There are many private balloonists in Bristol, so on a nice evening you can walk or drive up to Ashton Court and watch them take off, but maybe double check before. From the mansion house car park, keep walking straight on, following the path until you start seeing balloon teams setting up in front of you. 

Hot air ballooning is a fantastic hobby and generally great to be involved in, especially in Bristol. If you ever want to get involved yourself, people involved are so friendly and it’s so easy.


You can contact us and we will forward you to the right people. As always, follow MJ Ballooning on Twitter, visit our website and like our Facebook page for latest Bristol ballooning news that cannot be found anywhere else online.

365Bristol recommends Bristol Balloons for all of your hot air balloon trips in Bristol and around the South West. For more information please visit:


Website:  www.bristolballoons.co.uk


Tel: 0117 9471030


Email:  sales@balnet.co.uk


Or connect with Bristol Balloons on Facebook and Twitter.


Article by:

James Anderson

Born and raised in the suburbs of Swansea, Jimmy moved to Bristol back in 2004 to attend university. Passionate about live music, sport, science and nature, he can usually be found walking his cocker spaniel Baxter at any number of green spots around the city. Call James on 078 9999 3534 or email Editor@365Bristol.com.