Finding ‘happiness’ on the North Norfolk coast
Jason Borthwick has returned to Deepdale Farm having leased it out for 10 years. Along with Chris Hancock, the pair have created a series of events which complement the site’s facilities, including March’s inaugural Deepdale Hygge. We talk to Jason about running public events from the farm, which is home to a celebrated campsite and backpackers hostel.
Describe your event and how many people it attracts
We have four key events, taking place on three different weekends: Deepdale Hygge and Deepdale Spring Market at the end of March; Deepdale Festival at the end of September; and Deepdale Christmas Market at the beginning of December.
2017 was the inaugural Hygge, our celebration of the things our crew love here on the North Norfolk Coast, including the great outdoors, live music, barbecue, fire pits, food, drink, cycling, walking, running, big skies, and star gazing… Over 200 people joined us for the first Hygge at the end of March, most of them staying on our campsite and in our backpackers hostel.
The festival is new this year and plans are being developed. We are likely to have two stages, one fully amped and another acoustic.
The Christmas Market is in its 9th year and now attracts over 15,000 visitors in three days, and over 120 stall holders. It’s grown massively from the first year with 10 stalls, which mostly blew away on the Saturday night. We now have marquees, a huge regular following and massive interest from stall holders.
What made you decide to run events at Deepdale?
When Chris and I took back the tourism facilities at Deepdale in October, we wanted to make a major step change from the tenants who’d been the running the place previously. Deepdale is now about finding your ‘Hygge’ (a Danish word roughly translated as happiness), and our team enjoys helping everyone find their particular North Norfolk coast Hygge. Our event was all about showing people some of the great aspects of the local area. We put on our favourite thing – live music – and took people on guided cycle rides, walks, runs, scavenger hunts and did some star gazing.
The Christmas Market has been around longer, but it is now lovely to have the tourism accommodation working with the shops and stalls for the market, something that sadly hasn’t happened in the past.
How did you find applying for permission to run the event?
We’ve run events before, and simply apply for an event licence from the local council. It’s a simple process and pretty painless.
How have you planned the layout of the event and what structures do you use?
We develop our events around the buildings and spaces we already have, and year on year we add extra bits. We have a good local marquee company who are happy to develop events with us.
How did you research and source your marquees, bars, other infrastructure etc?
We’ve built up relationships with a wide group of local businesses who believe in what we are doing and are happy to experiment with us. I’m a great believer in cooperative working, as it benefits everyone in the long run and makes it possible to develop ideas and projects.
What entertainment do you offer and how did you choose and source it?
Chris is heavily involved in the local music scene, and knows many bands and artists. We all suggest other acts we have seen, from meeting buskers to gigs we’ve been to, so it’s a lovely cooperative effort. Some of the best performers are guys that play on the streets in Norwich and the like.
What provisions do you make for power, lights and sound?
We have our very own in-house hero, called Tim, who is a sparky and electronic engineer. He loves nothing more than playing with sound, lights and the like. We make him a lot of cups of tea, feed him cake and generally tell him a lot how much we love him, and he seems to enjoy providing the most incredible sound. Everyone needs a Tim!
How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
For the Hygge, visitor safety is not really any different from when people are staying generally; if it’s safe for someone staying then it’s safe for someone visiting for a gig or other event. The team manage the door, but we like to keep it pretty low key. For the Deepdale Hygge we went for wrist bands, partly as a collector’s item, partly as security and tickets.
What ground protection do you use for cars and footfall?
Being a farm, we have quite a few hard-standing areas, so don’t worry too much about ground protection. However, we do note what others do in case of very inclement weather. We make sure that one of the team is available to tow cars out if there are any issues, which is a lot cheaper than hiring acres of temporary road ways.
How do you publicise the event?
Facebook and Twitter are massively important to us. The interaction from customers, performers and local businesses really helps too. Our own website is vital and we use other specific websites depending on the nature of the event, eg. gig guides for gigs, craft sites for our markets, etc.
What challenges have you faced?
Being at the end of a road, we have to draw people to us, so have to make ourselves a destination. One of the biggest issues though is with our county council highways department. They say no to most signage, won’t cone for busy events and generally are hugely obstructive, which makes planning and running the events so much harder. Bearing in mind the huge positive impact we have on the local businesses, bringing in hundreds and thousands of extra visitors, I would have expected the council to be supportive, but the officers are just obstructive all the way.
What are your plans for next year?
The Christmas Market will be a little bigger, but with new traffic management. The Hygge will be established and begin to grow, and the festival will hopefully find its place in the calendar and become something major. We have a whole series of gigs planned and there are other ideas up our sleeve.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
We offer camping for tents, campervans and motorhomes, a backpackers hostel with private en-suite rooms and dorms, and a groups hostel. We offer bike hire too, and often guided walks and cycle rides.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the outdoor event industry?
Think carefully about customer flow; don’t make it too easy, but likewise don’t obstruct. You want people to discover and explore.
Ask yourself, is the event adding to your existing facilities or is it a detriment? I am a great believer that all events, unless they are hugely profitable in themselves, should work in harmony with existing facilities.
Abacus Marquees – 01328 701331 / www.abacusmarquees.co.uk
Abacus Marquees (as above)
Heat and Power
In house (Tim Murrell)
Sound and Stage
In house (Tim Murrell)
Bars and Catering
Wide and varied depending on event – Norfolk Brewhouse, Hushwing Café, Travelling Bluebird, Proper Pizza Co, Pie Central, Duck Truck, Squilla & Squidge
Yapsody – www.yapsody.com
NFU Mutual – www.nfumutual.co.uk
Deepdale Farm, Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk, PE31 8DD