Thrings Meets... Cameron Balloons

Thrings meets Camerons balloons

Thrings Partner Rob Barnes meets Don and Dave Cameron, the Founder and Technical Director of the legendary Cameron Balloons

Rob Barnes: Cameron Balloons has been in Bristol for so long that almost everyone in the city will have heard about you, but how did the company get started?

Don Cameron: As with most ideas, both good and bad, it started at the pub.

I was at the Bristol Aeroplane Company and was involved in the gliding club when we found out about a new type of balloon that had been invented in the States. I formed a small syndicate with some friends after a few drinks to buy one, but after deciding it was too expensive, we opted to build our own – it was only when we finished it that we came to realise the price to order one was quite reasonable!

The final product was the Bristol Belle, our very first balloon! We would take it to shows and eventually people started asking for us to make them a balloon. After seeing the opportunity there was in building balloons commercially, we launched the company in 1971 and since then have made thousands of balloons that are now flying all around the world.

Rob: You’ve been an integral part in making balloons an iconic part of Bristol’s image. What is it about ballooning that makes it so popular?

Dave Cameron: Ballooning is something that anyone can enjoy, whether they are getting the chance to fly one, ride as a passenger or simply see one floating overhead in the sky. It is always lovely to see kids run out of their houses to wave up to balloons when they hear the burners.

We have actually noticed a massive shift in our audiences in recent years, with a big growth in interest amongst younger people, especially on social media.

Though Bristol is a challenging place to fly, with the airport and channel nearby, it's surrounded by green spaces and is beautiful to see from above.

Rob: What’s your favourite balloon you’ve ever made?

Don: The special shapes we make are always a lot of fun because you never know what the next request might be. My favourite is a Tyrannosaurus Rex balloon we made for someone in Canada because back then it was such a novel thing to do and fun to design. When it deflated it would lean forward and you’d see young children running up to its jaws to get their photo taken.

Dave: From a more technical angle, my favourite was a recent partnership with Red Bull where we designed a balloon with a skatepark bowl suspended underneath. We had the famous BMX rider Kriss Kyle performed tricks on it whilst it was 2,000 feet in the air which was amazing!

Rob: What have been the biggest highlights over the past 50 years?

Don: There have been so many, it’s hard to pick! Helping to create the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is definitely one of them. It is such a special event for people in the city that brings so many people together. Every year crowds flock to Ashton Court, the Clifton Observatory and other viewpoints across the city to see the balloons in flight – it really is a spectacle like no other and we are really proud to have played a part in its success.

I also tried to be the first person to fly across the Atlantic in a balloon. I started in Newfoundland and got to within 100 miles of France but had to finish the journey on a fishing boat. I would have given it another go but the Americans actually managed it only a couple of weeks later.

But while I didn’t quite manage that, we have built balloons for plenty of record breakers. Every balloonist that has completed a journey around the world has done so in one of ours which is very special!

Rob: What does 2024 look like for Cameron Balloons?

Dave: In the New Year we’ll be continuing to work on customers’ projects, with innovation and bringing the sport of ballooning forward, being a couple of our big challenges.

We’re also becoming more conscious of the eco-credentials of ballooning, so a focus on sustainability will be a key theme for 2024.

Besides this, we still have lots of orders coming in all the time, so both Bristol and the wider ballooning world will have plenty more colourful balloons and lots of new shapes in the sky through the year for people to enjoy!

To find out more about Cameron Balloons, visit


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