Blog post

The key ingredients to running a successful UK music festival

It’s safe to say – summer is here and festival season is in full swing. The UK will see more than 200 festivals taking place between April and September this year.

21 July 2017

Ben Sams, Lecturer in Media Technology at the University of Derby, says planning and meticulous attention to detail are essential for success.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Recent events at Fyre Festival – the luxury music festival in the Bahamas – has highlighted that it isn’t easy to arrange and produce a music festival. In the industry, it’s fairly normal for large festivals such as Y Not, Download or Glastonbury to have a planning time of a year or more.

Insiders at Fyre Festival suggest that the planning time was hugely underestimated and this had a knock on effect to what attendees class as the festival essentials food, security, luggage management, travel and camp sites, were all lacking.

Festival organisers have a duty of care to all attendees at their events, so they must have contingency plans in place and account for all types of scenarios from varying conditions such as changeable weather or terrorist attack. Sadly, recent events such as Manchester has brought the threat of attack on music festivals to a new level.

Plans cannot be written on the back of a crisp packet the day before the festival. The organisation and planning stages requires the input of multiple agencies from an early stage, particularly health and safety, and the emergency services such as police, local authority NHS, fire and rescue, and security.

Take the classic festival stage – usually with multi-level elevated platforms and an array of musical instruments. At large festivals this is not a simple bit of scaffolding work. It needs months of structural modelling with engineers ensuring the structure can take the required weight, as well as contingencies for the force of wind, rain and even snow.

Why small festivals need to raise the bar

While the large well known festivals in the UK such as Glastonbury and Download are clearly well planned with great emphasis on behind the scenes safety, recently we have seen an explosion of the smaller ‘boutique’ festivals – usually involving a gourmet burger and a range of fruity craft ciders.

The problem for any small festival is balancing the costs of having to bring in huge amounts of infrastructure to what is essentially an empty field, and ensuring there is enough for attendees to do and enjoy while still making a profit.

In my personal experience, many of the newer, boutique festivals struggle to get this balance right. Simple requirements, such as having more than one entry/ exit points to the festival, can be forgotten. But it is these finer details where the planning and multi-agency support is vital, to ensure a flawless customer experience for the festival goer and a repeat purchase the next year.

The festival industry in the UK prides itself on delivering safe, well planned, events for attendees to enjoy.

Have patience over the summer as there will be likely to be more bag searches and stringent security checks which will result in longer queues to enter these festivals, but these are all for your safety.

Four of the best UK festivals

  • Secret Garden Party, (Mill Hill Field, Cambridgeshire: 20-23 Jul 2017 – the last ever one)
  • Y Not, (Pikehall, Derbyshire, 27-30 July 2017)
  • Green Man Festival, (Brecon Beacons, Wales: 17-20 Aug 2017)
  • Bestival, (Lulworth Castle, Dorset: 7-10 Sep 2017)

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