A Q&A with Rik Haines of Tarren Production on how to critique the viability of a site for an outdoor event, and how to create a site plan
Be it a festival, country show or charity event, most outdoor events of any notable size are likely be to be held on land not designed to host them. As part of their early planning, event organisers need to identify a location for their event that fulfils their aspirations. There is much to consider in assessing a site’s suitability for a particular event and then planning how best to configure it.
Open Air Business asked for some advice from Rik Haines, the senior event producer at Tarren Production.
Why is venue assessment imperative when planning an outdoor event?
The main purpose of a venue assessment is to understand how suitable a particular site is for a particular event. We would look at the size of the site, its location, any existing infrastructure and its natural features (woodland, gradients, water etc.). The feasibility study also considers the best use of the space for positioning of infrastructure (stages / bars / markets etc.) and how suppliers and contractors can access the site with minimal disruption to land or neighbours.
These early findings would inform whether a particular site would work for the event. After these initial considerations we would look at how guests would get to the event (proximity to train stations / major roads etc.) as well as working out the amount of space available for parking. Ideally we would do this without having to get in additional trackway as these costs would then push up the overall budget for the event. If camping is required we would look at how much space was available for this and how we could split each camp section up (crew / family / general camping etc.).
Why are site plans so important and who uses them?
If the feasibility study declares that a site be deemed suitable for an event, a site plan is drawn up to work out how the event would be laid out to realise its maximum potential. The positioning of areas is determined by a range of factors; stages or arenas creating considerable noise would be positioned for minimal impact to local residents. For example, putting them as far away from noise sensitive properties as possible, in a wooded area or facing away from properties – this would be a start anyway. If required, camping areas would also be marked on to ascertain that there were enough camping spaces for the expected number of guests
Site plans would be agreed by venue owners and also by the local council. Versions would be agreed by contractors and suppliers alike way before the event. Market traders would be marked on the plan so they know which area they are in. A more easy to read site map is usually created for the public to use during the event.
What should be included on a site plan?
Each plan would feature each arena or stage, camping areas, market areas, parking etc, and also water points, access / egress, and any significant gradients and natural geography that might minimise the amount of usable space on the site. If there are overhead pylons or underground cables these are marked onto the plan to ensure that everyone knows where they are, and that they must be kept well away from.
As a general rule of thumb, what should be put where?
Generally your main infrastructure should be as close to a usable road as possible. Given the weight of such items you don’t want them to have to travel too far across the site as metal trackway is expensive and you want to minimise damage to the site, so not to damage the ground and annoy the venue owner! Each market area and smaller venues and bar should also have access to the rear of them so that vehicles can easily get access for putting in technical equipment and for replenishing stock. This also minimises damage to the entrances of a venue, which might cause issues once the event opens.
Why is it advisable to use a professional to produce a feasibility study and site plan?
Production companies and freelance site managers have many years’ experience in producing outdoor events. The initial outlay might be an additional cost, but it will save an organiser £1,000’s if not more further along the line if mistakes are made by someone lacking the experience and knowledge to assess a site properly. The council will also want to see that the site has been designed by someone who knows what they are doing.
About the author
Rik Haines is senior event producer at Tarren Production, a full service live event production company. Having worked for 20 years on outdoor events and festivals, the team has huge expertise in turning green field sites into successful outdoor event venues, with safety as paramount. Tarren Production’s outdoor event services include producing site plans required for license applications, licensing and local authority liaison, venue design and feasibility studies, budget control, full production and technical stage services management, health and safety management, planning and support, and security, stewarding and crowd management. www.tarrenproduction.co.uk / 01242 806778.