If you are fortunate to sit on a significant piece of land then the opportunities for outdoor events are boundless but before you start planning your very own Glastonbury Festival there are a few considerations you must make.
As with any new business venture it pays to do your homework and make a PLAN! Planning a public event is definitely not for the feint-hearted but it is a lot of fun and the euphoria at the end of a successful event is hard to beat. Do not underestimate the amount of work that goes into planning any size of event. Administration, sales, marketing, coordination, operations, security, health and safety, legal liability, infrastructure etc. The larger the event the bigger the workload but smaller outdoor events do still require plenty of planning, particularly if you have not hosted a public event before. How much involvement will you make? Do you have the capacity to take on an event yourself or should you consider hiring a professional event organiser? Should you consider simply renting your land to an event organiser?
1. Choose your business model.
Before you start you need decide on your business model. Renting your land to an events organiser is certainly the most simple route and will be preferable if you are already very busy and are just looking for a straightforward income supplement. The income you achieve from renting your land for outdoor events will be determined by a number of factors. The size and type of event, the attractiveness of your event site, the location, what existing facilities you can offer and the competition. Before you enter into any discussion with an event organiser, decide how much you need to derive from each event to make it worth your while. Speak to other local landowners about their experience and find out their hire rate. You will still carry some liability for public safety but essentially you are simply the host and the event organiser is responsible for everything else. Agree a hire fee for the use of your land and consider adding a refundable damage deposit.
If you are hosting and organising the event yourself then you may achieve a better income; however, with this comes increased investment in both time and money. It also brings increased risk. Outdoor events are notoriously high risk. The British weather is increasingly unpredictable and it can often take several years for new events to turn a significant profit.
You may want to consider profit share with the event organiser though this partnership also carries similar risks.
If you are entering into a contract with a third party, find out as much as you can about the event organiser beforehand. As the landowner you still carry liability and duty of care over members of the public visiting your land. It is also your name attached to the property and your reputation as a future events holder that you need to protect. Who are they? What experience do they have? Where have they worked previously? Do they have all the correct licences, insurances, policies etc? Don’t be afraid to ask for a reference from another landowner. If you are already in possession of a Premises Licence then it may also be wise to ask the event organiser to make their own licensing arrangements. You do not want your future license jeopardised by the activities of another event organiser.
Before entering into any formal arrangement, I strongly advise seeking legal advice and asking a lawyer to help you to draw up a Licence To Occupy. This is a contract for an events organiser to use your land for a set period and purpose under specific terms and conditions. Make sure your contract defines limits of liability and obligations of responsibility relating to health and safety. It should also specify required insurances, indemnities and recovery of costs in case anything goes wrong.
2. Business interruption
Outdoor events are seasonal; spring, summer, early autumn and Christmas. Will the event interrupt any other business activities such as weddings or holiday letting? Will your other business activities have an impact on the success of the event?
Are you farming the land? How long can you feasibly set-aside land? No-one wants to be dancing in cow-pats or sitting on stubble! A freshly mown, soft, grassy, dry meadow is ideal!
How can you partition your land or premises to ensure that one activity does not infringe upon the other? How can they operate in tandem? Can you temporarily cease one activity to allow for another? Do you have the acreage to isolate activities from one another? Consider health and safety as well as simply the enjoyment of visitors and guests.
3. Field fit for a festival.
Assess the suitability of your land. Does it have a steep gradient? Though hilltops can supply amazing vistas, they are not always ideal for building temporary structures. What happens when it rains? Does the field turn into a lake or do you have good drainage? What is going on overhead? Trees and overhead power lines are not helpful for large temporary structures. Likewise, underground utilities need to be avoided. A plan of your land showing the location of the event site in relation to power lines, trees and any water pipes is vital.
What existing infrastructure do you have in place for outdoor events? Do you have access to mains water? If not, then you will likely need to hire additional fresh water. It is also likely that you will require an additional temporary power supply from a generator. You will need to speak to everyone involved and calculate their power requirements in advance to gauge the power supply needed. You will also likely require a contractor to remove excess waste.
If you are intending to promote a ‘green’ event then you will also need to look at ways to minimise waste, discouraging the use of plastic and looking at ways to separate materials for recycling or composting.
Conduct a site risk assessment. Are there any hazards that could impact the safety and wellbeing of visitors, event staff or suppliers?
4. Play to your event audience.
Who is your audience? What’s their demographic? Where are they coming from? How long will they be on site at the event? What will they need whilst they are on site? Answers to these questions will impact the facilities you will need to provide.
If visitors are coming from far away then they may bring a car and will require parking. Do you have good road access? How close are you to public transport? Can you offer adequate car parking space? Can you offer on-site accommodation? Camping, holiday cottages, glamping, hotel, bed and breakfast? You will certainly need toilets and drinking water.
You should also consider the type and timing of the event. Daytime events are a different animal to night-time events. Daytime events are more family friendly and attract a broader demographic. They are less likely to attract the risk of alcohol related incidents. Night-time events are less sociable for your close neighbours, particularly if there is loud music involved. They also require additional infrastructure in terms of lighting after dark.
5. Outdoor events admin.
Organising public events requires plenty of administration in terms of licences, insurances, assessments, plans and preparation. Make a detailed plan early on. Include what the event is, what will be needed to organise the event successfully, who will be attending, who will be involved in delivering the event, when the event will take place and any other deadlines, where will the event take place including a detailed site plan, how you will deliver the event including any actions that you will need to take to prepare the site or your business for interruption and impact.
It is a good idea to speak to your Local Authority early at least six months before the event to check what permissions and licences you will need. Depending on the nature of your event, you may or may not need a Premises Licence. A Premises Licence is required for all licensable activities including the sale of alcohol, live and recorded music, the performance of a play, film screenings and indoor sport.
If the event is a one-off, you can apply for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN). This allows you to temporarily conduct licenced activities for up to 499 people including the sale of alcohol. Please note that you can only apply for a limited number of TENs each year. More information can be found on your local council website.
Other licences you may need, depending on the nature of the event, are an Entertainments Licence which allows you to play live or recorded music, Single Title Screening Licence which allows you to screen films and an alcohol licence for the sale of alcohol.
Before granting licences, the Local Authority may want to know about your event. What activities you have planned, what Emergency Planning is in place, your Health & Safety Plan, Risk Assessments and Insurances.
All events and activities involving members of the public will require some form of Public Liability Insurance. If you are directly employing staff, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, you will also require Employers Liability Insurance.
It is good practise to notify the emergency services of your event in advance and also provide Advance Notice to the public. If you are intending to stage fireworks then you will also need to make an application to the Fire Service.
6. Event legacy.
If you are planning on holding successive events then make sure your neighbours enjoyed the first one! How close is your nearest neighbour? What impact will the event have on them? Are there any covenants on your land which may preclude the Local Authority granting permission or give your neighbours cause to frustrate the event. It is wise to keep an open dialogue with your neighbours from the beginning. Listen to and acknowledge their concerns. What measures can you put in place to mitigate their disturbance or inconvenience? They have the right to object if the event is deemed a nuisance and this could cause the council to limit the scope of the event or even revoke your licence in the future.
Who else could the event impact? High traffic volume in an otherwise quiet part of the countryside can cause immense problems to all road users. Plan how visitors will access the event site. You certainly don’t want frustrated visitors arriving (or not arriving!!). If narrow roads surround your property, can you put in place a one-way system to avoid congestion? Is there good access to public transport? Can you encourage people to walk or cycle to your event?
How will the event impact your land? Is there risk of damage to good pasture or arable soil? What environmental impact could it have on waterways and other fragile ecosystems?
7. Tell them and they will come.
Last but not least, sales and marketing. An event is nothing without a crowd of people, small or large. Amidst all the planning and preparation you will also need to be talking about the amazing outdoor events you are planning. How are people going to hear about your event? How will they book tickets? Having an event website is a good idea as it gives credibility and authenticity to your event. It is also a great communication device for answering questions, providing information and helping people find you. Social media is also very powerful at helping to tell the World about your event. Choose a platform suitable for the audience you are trying to attract and focus your attention here. Make sure you set aside the resources to manage sales and marketing, whether this is your time or anothers, it is fundamental to the success of the event.
Equally if you have decided to go down the route of hiring your land to other event organisers don’t expect the phone to start ringing as soon as you have made a decision to do it. You will need to go out to market and tell people. Build a website, add photos of your event site, highlighting all its attractions and virtues. Communicate what types of events are best suited for the site, give people an idea of the cost of hire, explain if there are any specific hire conditions eg. no fireworks. Also, use social media targeting the audience you are looking to attract eg. festival organisers. It is also worth reaching out directly to events organisers and inviting them to visit your site. The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) is a great resource for finding festival and event organisers and also seeking advice and support.
As you can see, there is plenty to consider when deciding to open up your land for events but there are certainly rewards. The first event is always the hardest but like most businesses, once you have a good system and process in place then it will become easier. You will also encounter unexpected problems which are usually solved with a supportive team around you, calm, patience and good humour.
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