The Essential Checklist For Festival Organisers

festival planning checklist

If you’re organising an event, it pays to be prepared. From essential safety and festival insurance to catering and portaloos, get it right with our essential checklist for festival organisers.

1) Getting started

Decide what you want to achieve with your festival. Is it to bring together like-minded people and have fun or is it all about the bottom line and making cash?

Next, set the date. Make sure you allow enough time to get everything done. Don’t be afraid to delegate work. And regularly look back to check plans are on track.

Things to do today:

  • Create your own master event planning document. Use one of these templates to help you to get started
  • Use your master plan to decide who will be responsible for each job.
  • Make sure your event doesn’t clash with anything big by taking a look at the Visit England event list before setting the date
  • If you’re using the event to raise money for charity, read through the Institute of Fundraising Code of Practice
  • If you’re hiring a venue, double check it is booked for the right date

2) Health & Safety and Risk Management

One of the most important aspects of planning any event is health and safety and risk management. Eliminating risk and complying with the latest legislation can be a complex business. If you’re not sure, use a specialist firm for complete peace of mind this vital aspect is covered. You can also read the Purple Guide, a useful publication from the Events Industry Forum.

Generally you need to consider:

  • Risks that threaten how the event will run safely– eg bad weather or a key member of staff being unavailable
  • Risks that threaten your team – eg risks of slips and trip, food poisoning, fire, noise, and crowd management
  • Risks that threaten the public attending your event – as above
  • Risk of a major incident – eg terrorism

If you’re holding your event in an established venue or it is very small, your planning will be fairly straightforward. For larger, more complex events you’ll need to discuss your plans with the emergency services, such as the police and fire brigade.

Things to do today:

  • If you’re planning a smaller event with only a few hundred attendees, you can get to grips with the health and safety basics using the Purple Guide Lite
  • Bookmark the full legislation Health and Safety Executive here to go through carefully at a later date
  • If you don’t already employ someone to oversee risk, contact a risk management specialist like Peninsula Business Services. Remember, if you’re a Park Insurance customer you’ll benefit from a 10% discount on services from Peninsula Business Services
  • If you’re in Scotland, get in touch with the Police Emergency, Event and Resilience Planning Unit here
  • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you can find contact details for your local Police force here

3) Fire Safety

Use your common sense when planning fire safety. Check things like if there are working fire alarms and what equipment, such as fire extinguishers, you have. You’ll also need to consider if there are enough exits to ensure everyone can leave quickly, including anyone who is disabled.

There are also steps you can take to help limit the risk of fire. These include keeping fire exits clear and making sure any flammable materials are stored appropriately.

Things to do today:

  • Read through this practical guide to fire safety for events

4) Security plan and stewards

You’ll need a robust security plan for your festival, which identifies how you will protect the perimeter of your event and where stewards will be positioned. If you’ll need to employ security, make sure you use a contractor registered with the Security Industry Authority (SIA). If you’re using wristbands for your festival, don’t send them out too early – if you do, it makes it easier for counterfeiters to copy them.

Things to do today:

  • Use this security plan drawn up by Mansfield Council as a starting point for developing your own plan

5) First aid

Consider first aid provision for participants and your employees.

Things to do today:

  • For a smaller event, book your local St John’s Ambulance using their online form
  • Larger events will need to create a plan for first aid with their local NHS Ambulance Service

6) Emergency procedures

Plan out what will happen if there is an emergency, so you are prepared for the unthinkable. Consider the following:

  • How will the alarm be raised?
  • How will an evacuation be handled?
  • How will you contact the emergency services?
  • How will first aid be administered?
  • How will traffic be managed?

Things to do today:

  • Bookmark this toolkit from the HSE to prepare a detailed emergency procedure for your event

7) Evacuation

Evacuation plans will form part of your emergency procedure. Consider:

  • Escape routes and if they need to be clearly signed
  • Where you will evacuate people to
  • How will you provide extra help to people with a disability or for children
  • If you need emergency lighting
  • Are any gates available for immediate use – eg they should be staffed, not locked. They also need to open outwards

Things to do today:

  • Buy signs to clearly mark escape routes, danger areas and the way out

8) Festival insurance

You need to budget carefully to ensure your event is a financial success. But not taking out insurance is not an option. Instead, help to balance the books by looking for the best value deal on your festival insurance.

  • Look for insurance that can be tailored to the specific needs and size of your event. That way you’ll only pay for the things you need, not the things you don’t.
  • Shop around for several quotes to ensure you’re getting the best price. If you don’t have the time or don’t know where to look for specialist festival insurance, use an expert independent insurance broker like Park Insurance. Whilst we act independently, which means we’re free to source insurance from anywhere, we also have preferred broker status with some of the UK’s biggest insurance providers. That gives us great negotiating power, so we can get the best deal for you with no compromise on your cover.

Festival insurance to protect your event from unpredictable weather

Like swallows, festivals signify the start of the summer. And when you’re talking about the British summer, you know that means almost inevitable rain. In the wet summer of 2012, 57 music festivals alone had to be cancelled along with many other outdoor events.

If your festival has to be cancelled you’ll have to refund ticket holders but you’ll still have to pay costs for everything from your acts to your portaloos. Whilst we can’t predict the weather, when you’re organising a festival, comprehensive insurance can help see you through these tough times.

Public liability insurance for festivals

No matter how meticulously you plan your health and safety, mistakes can happen. From slips and trips over trailing sound system wires to food poisoning or allergic reactions to something you serve, our no-win, no-fee culture means festival organisers are at high risk of facing legal action. Public liability insurance is a must. It will cover your legal costs, and any compensation, if anyone member of the public is injured or their property damaged by something to do with your event.

Other insurance to consider

Employer’s liability insurance – If you employ any members of staff, you’ll need to make sure you have appropriate Employer’s liability insurance. This is a legal essential and without it you can be fined. Like public liability insurance, it pays your legal fees if any member of staff is injured by something to do with your event.

Equipment cover – If you use specialist, expensive equipment for your event, it’s worth taking out additional equipment cover. Speak to your broker for more details.

Cheaper festival insurance

The 12% increase in Insurance Premium Tax, introduced in June this year, has seen premiums for all insurance automatically rise. But you can still get a good deal on your festival insurance without compromising on your cover if you shop around. Look to an independent broker with specialist events understanding, like Park Insurance. We’ll tailor your insurance to meet the exact needs of your festival. And we will do the legwork ringing around insurance companies to negotiate a value for money deal for your peace of mind.

Things to do today:

  • Get in touch with Park Insurance to discuss what level of cover you need and to find the best price on your festival insurance

9) Licences

Depending on the type of event you’re planning, you’ll need to apply for different types of licences. These can sometime take some time to be granted, so it’s important to apply as early as possible. Licences include:

Temporary Events Notice –you’ll need this if you are selling alcohol and/or playing music late into the night Temporary Events Notice (TEN). It costs £21 and you apply for it from your local council. Without it you can be fined

Road Closure Permit – if you need to close a road for your event, you should apply to your local council for a Road Closure Permit

Things to do today:

  • Find your local council using this online tool and apply for your licence

10) Budgeting

Whether you’re aiming to make money or are organising an event no for profit, you still need to budget carefully. Work out how much everything you need is going to cost. Then work out how you’re going to cover these costs or even make a profit.

Potential costs:

  • hiring a venue
  • publicity
  • equipment hire
  • decorations
  • entertainers
  • transport
  • phone bills, postage and other administrative costs
  • festival insurance
  • volunteers’ expenses
  • first aid equipment and provision
  • fees for licences and permissions

Potential ways to cover costs:

  • selling tickets
  • looking for sponsorship or grants
  • asking for voluntary donations
  • holding a raffle
  • selling refreshments or charging caterers who attend the event
  • inviting stallholders and charging them for their pitch

Things to do today:

  • Download this template to keep track of your budget

11) Special equipment

Think about what specialist equipment you need for your event, such as sound systems. If you’re holding your festival in a field how will you supply electricity?

Things to do today:

12) Transport and road closures

As well as any possible road closures that may be needed, you also need to think about how people will travel to your event. Do you need to provide parking? Or do you need to arrange for transport?

Things to do today:

13) Accessibility

Consider accessibility of your event for everyone. That could include people with a disability, such as limited mobility or deafness. Depending on your event, you might also want to consider accessibility for people who do not have English as a first language.

Things to do today:

  • Bookmark this guidance on making events accessible from the Social Care Institute for excellence for reading later

14) Toilets

Appropriate provision of toilets is an essential for any successful event. Even if you have toilets at your event, consider if you need to hire extra.

Things to do today:

15) Go greener

Festivals have been criticised for the amount of waste they produce – estimated to be around 10,000 tonnes a year. There are calls for organisers to report the amount sent to landfill, and to do all they can to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Things to do today:

  • Hire recycling bins for your festival to help you separate waste and reduce the amount sent to landfill

16) Wristbands

Wristbands are part of the festival experience. You can also hire smart wristbands that enable cashless payment, which can help increase spending during the event.

Things to do today:

17) Publicity

Letting people know about your event is vital for its success. As well as posters, adverts and flyers, try generating a buzz for your event on social media sites like Facebook. 

Things to do today:

18) Entertainment

Think about how you are going to keep your customers entertained. You may be booking music acts or performers like morris dancers or magicians. Or maybe you want activities like a table tennis table or a bucking bronco. If you’re booking a funfair, make sure they confirm in writing that they operate under the HSG175 Fairgrounds and Amusement Parks – Guidance on Safe Practice.

Things to do today:

19) Food

Selling food can be a great way to generate money. But you need to be sure that all food is cooked and prepared safely and is clearly labelled for any potential allergens. Alternatively you could charge professional caterers to attend your event.

Things to do today:

  • Bookmark the Food Standards Agency’s code of practice and make the time to read it thoroughly if you are planning to sell food you have prepared yourself
  • Find local street food vendors using this online tool

20) Online tickets

Selling tickets for your festival online is convenient and simple. There are plenty of companies offering this service, giving your customers instant access to buying tickets and providing you with regular reports on sales.

Things to do today:

  • Set up online ticket sales with a company like eventbrite

Festival insurance you can count on

We understand the amount of work you put into making your event a success. With so many other jobs, it can be easy to leave insurance and just accept the first quote you get. This is where Park Insurance can help. Our experienced events team understand the unique insurance needs of festivals of all kinds and sizes. We’re an independent, family-run firm, so we’re not tied to any one insurance firm. We’ll shop around to find the best value deal, whilst making sure there are no gaps that could leave you open to risk. Call us today on 0117 955 6835 or get in touch for your free, no-obligation quote.