Using TANKFEST 2019 to illustrate, Rosanna Dean gives a comprehensive overview of her role as events manager at The Tank Museum, Dorset.
No two days are the same in the position of the events manager at The Tank Museum. Beyond hosting one of the largest collection of tanks in the world (300 and counting), the museum is also Dorset’s largest indoor visitor attraction.
We offer a diverse programme of indoor and outdoor public events, plus spaces for venue hire which have hosted events from boxing matches and conferences to award ceremony dinners and cycling events.
My role in all of this is to work with all departments in the museum to bring each of these projects together whilst simultaneously seeking and developing new opportunities for the museum within the events format. Of course, I do not do this alone and owe a lot to two top notch event executives who support with the demanding workload.
While there really is no set format to each day in the office, for the sake of this feature I have decided to focus on TANKFEST, our flagship event of the year. The event attracted a record breaking 23,000 people in 2019 and also won Gold at the Dorset Tourism Awards for Best Festival/Event of the Year and International Visitor Experience of the Year.
TANKFEST does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s a festival of tanks – the biggest display of moving armour in the world. It’s a history festival with a difference; it’s noisy and dusty, and it’s a stunning and fascinating spectacle. It has a huge international following – 25 per cent of our visitors are from overseas. This is partly due to the presence of event sponsors Wargaming.net. Their onsite gaming centre allows ticket holders to play World of Tanks live from the event site, and allow others in their global online community to access the event from the comfort of their own sofas.
Outside of the arena, where we display our unique collection of historic tanks in action, visitors can explore living history encampments, enjoy talks, live music, and explore the many trade, catering and exhibitors’ stalls.
You don’t have to be a tank nut or history enthusiast to enjoy this event, but if you are and want a more ‘VIP’ experience, we have corporate packages available too.
The lead up to this event (just like any other) is primarily administration focused. Numerous spreadsheets are developed and fed with various event schedules, staffing matrix’s and briefings, graphic design planning from signage to staff lanyards, production schedules, catering requirements, booking and negotiating suppliers, risk assessments, traffic management plans, event management plans, chairing Safety Advisory Groups for the local authorities and MOD police, designing site maps, running table top exercises to practise safety measures, contracting traders, exhibitors and entertainment, negotiating sponsorship deals/requirements for the events… and of course working with key internal departments to make sure the curation and overall operational plans of the event complement each other to ensure for a successful event.
It’s a year-round project that is managed simultaneously with all of our other events throughout the year. And when it comes to the week of TANKFEST itself, it’s less likely you’ll find me at my desk and more likely you’ll find me running round making sure that the set up schedule is running to plan. It’s a very hands-on role.
As for the event weekend itself, a typical TANKFEST for me starts at 5:00am. It’s an early start but necessary to fit in the 45 minute commute to the site. I’m usually the first in to unlock the museum and be on site to welcome contractors to show them where they need to be. It also pays to be the first one in to get ahead and be ready to hit the ground running for when the wider team arrive.
Prior to gates opening, my key responsibility is to check in with each zone manager via Event Control and ensure they are ready to open. The car parks are key as naturally these are the first operational areas to get hit in the morning, with early birds who want to make sure they get in to the show as quickly as possible.
Once gates have opened, my role becomes the trouble shooter. Outside of ensuring the parachute display team for the arena show have a swift and smooth entrance/exit, I have no designated tasks which ensures I am free to deal with issues swiftly and efficiently as they arise.
It sounds fairly calm but, particularly on the first day of a major event like this, there tend to be a lot of teething problems with unfamiliar setups and temporary staff adjusting to their duties.
Outside of any general operational issues and enquiries, I am also responsible for keeping an eye on crowd flow throughout the site and being ready to be the first on scene or to respond if there is an incident to deal with.
I also spend my time checking in with our external contractors to ensure everything is running smoothly and acting as their main point of contact should they have any issues.
It’s an exhausting day – step count easily makes its way past 20km by 18:00 when we close. Once we have successfully swept each zone clear of ticket holders, I’m busy leading the team to make sure we are reset ready for another early start. A quick operations meeting examines any minor changes we may consider making in time for opening up the next day. By the time this is done, I tend to finish around 8pm and make my way back home to start fresh tomorrow.
Once the event has concluded, it’s straight into ‘wash up mode’, breaking down the site, sending out evaluation questionnaires and debriefing on how was can make improvements for the following year while it’s fresh in our minds. This is crucial and has been key to the success in progressing the event over the past 20 years. The first event in 2000 attracted just under 1,000 visitors – so it has come a long way.
Of course, with the busy schedule we have, it’s normal for us to already be preparing for the next event alongside delivering TANKFEST. It’s not uncommon for us to have a corporate hire booking to accommodate amongst the breakdown period – which is equally busy as we return the site to its normal state.
The summers are particularly busy here, but the diversity in programme and creative opportunities we’re able to facilitate is what I love about my role at The Tank Museum. Having only been here a couple of years, I feel very privileged to have been able to develop the events programme so much already with the support of the wider team, while also expanding to bring in new projects including Keep on Track, the museum’s first wellbeing event and, even more recently, weddings!
Of course though, it’s important to note that things have changed quite dramatically in the past few months as to how we can operate events (and the museum in general) due to Covid-19. Despite months of facing the unimaginable, we’ve so far managed to successfully complete one Covid-secure, profitable event since lockdown has eased – and are hosting two more in two weeks’ time.
The success of this is primarily due to careful crowd management, programming and admissions procedures. As a result of this success, it’s evident my role for the next year will be primarily focused on re-developing our existing events to fit the continuously developing government guidance, while bringing in new projects that can safely operate within the confines of these boundaries.
For more information on The Tank Museum’s events and venue hire, visit www.tankmuseum.org