A one a kind, this ‘Sporting Glastonbury’ attracts over 30,000 sport and music fans every May
With 1,500 sporting fixtures and a festival over 15 arenas, this unique event is the brainchild of Roger and Fleur Woodall, who also run a sports branding and promotion company. We talk to them about what it takes to pull off a sell-out event, now in its 11th year, with visitors from around the world.
Describe your event and how many people it attracts?
Bournemouth 7s Festival is the largest sport and music festival of its kind in the world welcoming 400 teams annually who compete across rugby, netball, hockey, dodgeball and volleyball. Overall, Bournemouth 7s attracts 30,000 people who attend to play or watch the sporting action during the day, before enjoying 15 beautifully themed music arenas. It really is a celebration of sport and music over the late May bank holiday weekend.
The festival attracts people from around the world and we were delighted to welcome teams and players from Dubai, France, Jamaica and Switzerland in 2018. Not only this, but we see a large selection of sporting celebrities in attendance annually, making the most of our most exclusive area on site, the Legends Lounge which enjoys views over our Elite National Cup Pitch.
Explain a bit about your venue and its history
The festival is held at Bournemouth Sports Club and has been ever since it was established in 2008. It is perfectly situated next to Bournemouth Airport, which is ideal for those travelling from around Europe to either compete or spectate. The festival uses all 65 acres, primarily to host the 1,500 fixtures that take place across the weekend, as well as providing the opportunity to create a main festival area for the evening entertainment.
What is the event’s history?
Bournemouth 7s Festival was set up in 2008 and is still privately owned. With a background in elite sport and promotion, the owners used their knowledge and contacts to create what is now considered as the ‘Sporting Glastonbury’.
The response in year one was incredible and the festival has grown on an annual basis, creating a very loyal fan base but also attracting new guests every year.
How does the relationship work with the venue you hold the event at?
We have a very strong relationship with the venue and currently have a long-term agreement to host the festival there.
How have you planned the layout of the event?
We use a compressive CAD system to lay the festival out each year, liaising with suppliers, contractors and health and safety officials to ensure all regulations are covered and ultimately our festival guests are in safe hands. The structures are hired included things such as big top dance tents, container structures, large marquees, bespoke sponsor activations and platform stages. Each year we freshen up the offering and look to take this to the next level.
How did you research and source your marquees, flooring, bars etc?
We have long standing relationships with a number of suppliers but like to attend outdoor shows to gather new ideas and also build new relationships with other suppliers and contractors. The overall look and feel of the festival is the most important factor and we work all year to ensure the structures, bars, flooring and interior design are spot on.
What entertainment do you offer and how did you choose and source it?
We have a range of arenas on site, each offering something different in terms of genres such as dance, urban, garage, bassline and cheese/karaoke. We were also delighted to welcome our biggest act to date, Example, who performed on the Saturday night, out of the Carlsberg beer tent; our biggest structure stretching 65 meters.
In addition to this, the sponsors and partners that we work with run experiential activations and competitions to engage with our sporting audience; many of which have a competitive feel to them due to the nature of our audience and event.
We also like to welcome entertainment acts such as stilt walkers, fire performers and roaming acts to engage with our audience and get them involved across the weekend.
Every year we introduce a new fancy dress theme to add to an already amazing atmosphere. All our guests are like-minded and really make a huge effort, making the whole site feel colourful and vibrant, especially as this year’s theme was Glitter & Glow. We always welcome suggestions and listen to what our audience wants as it is important they feel comfortable with the overall theme for that year!
What provisions do you make for power, lights and sound?
The whole site has power through temporary generators that provide plenty of light and sound across the weekend. As part of this process, we work with our health and safety team to ensure that the impact on the local area is minimal and all regulations are adhered to.
How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
We have a strong relationship with Eventbrite who we use for all of our ticketing, and due to the festival selling out over the last four years, no tickets are available on the door.
In addition to this, we work with Showsec who provide all our security over the weekend including 24 hour security in areas such as the campsites, main festival arena and control hub. We also operate CCTV across the festival site, which allows us to be extremely reactive to anything that needs to be addressed.
We also work with ETC who manage all parking provisions at the festival as well as ensuring all relevant signage is in place, making the arrival/departure process as simple as possible.
What ground protection do you use for cars and footfall?
We use aluminium trackway for vehicle routes in and around the festival site however the whole site drains extremely well. We also have some hard standing areas at the venue that are used for a number of caterers, traders and sponsors.
How do you publicise the event?
We use social media a lot as our following is quite significant on these platforms. In addition to this, we have a number of media partners such as Rugby World, Wave 105 and Fire Radio, all of whom assist in the promotion of the festival and are a pleasure to work with. We are very lucky that we have a loyal following and see teams, spectators and festival-goers return annually.
What challenges have you faced?
With any event, you are very much relying on the weather and in 2014 we faced a weekend of rain and strong winds. The site held up extremely well and the provisions we had put in place to ensure the safety of our guests worked extremely well too. Every year we plan for all types of scenarios and will continue to do so to ensure the impact on the weekend is minimal and ultimately everyone still has the best time.
What are your plans for next year?
The plan is to go bigger and better! Every year we improve the overall festival offering, however it is important that the atmosphere remains the same because it has such a great feel to it.
We will be looking at new structures, the festival layout and also the sports offering to see if we can increase the participation. Once our new website launches on 1 September, we will ensure that any announcements are made in line with this.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the outdoor event industry?
Ensure that the relevant research has been completed and you have everything mapped out well in advance. I think some people underestimate the detail that event organisers have to go to in order for the event to happen, so this must be taken into consideration.
Build strong local/national relationships with brands, authorities and companies that can promote to your target audience and support your vision. This additional support helps spread the word and will be extremely beneficial in the long run.
Finally, build a strong team that is capable of delivering your event; Bournemouth 7s wouldn’t be what it is today without the commitment and dedication of our team. There are quite a few long days and late nights as we get closer to the festival but the end goal is worth it!
25-27 May 2019
Bournemouth Sports Club
Christchurch BH23 6BD