So you’ve got the concept; you’ve got the name… maybe you’ve even got the nod from a couple of headline acts… So you just have to suss out that perfect festival venue. All you need is a big field or other open space, right?
Wrong! Well yes, of course you’ll need a large open space, ideally one that’s flat or whose topography provides you with a natural arena or amphitheatre (although even these may come with problems of their own). But there’s an awful lot more to it than that. In fact, unless you’re already a seasoned events professional or festival promoter, finding the ideal location for your festival can be harder than it at first seems.
If you’re thinking of somewhere outside London yet easily accessible by road and public transport, of course you can simply enter a search for ‘festival venues Hertfordshire’, for instance, or another of the Home Counties. But you still need to go deeper and interrogate your results to home in on somewhere with all the right attributes.
So where do you begin?
Let’s look at the physical space to start with. Obviously, there has to be enough room for the size of crowd you have in mind (and the scale of the production itself!) — but if it’s not an established venue, you need to tread very carefully to avoid quite a number of pitfalls…
Drainage is one concern that rarely occurs to the uninitiated. It’s so easy to be seduced by a beautiful meadow sloping gently down to where the stage is going to be… But if it rains heavily and there’s nowhere for the water to go – if the underlying rock isn’t porous or there’s no river, stream or lake etc for run-off to flow into, you and your audience are going to be bogged down. Not unrelated to this issue is hard-standing… If you’re planning to erect a sizeable stage with hefty sound and lighting rigs, a flat, paved or concrete area makes life a lot simpler and safer.
Access is another aspect that’s easy to overlook. The gravel track leading to a field might serve perfectly well for a few vehicles at a time. But can you get a couple of truckloads of staging, sound and lighting along it? And what about your audience? Are there separate entrance and exit routes – and is the access from public roads sufficiently visible and unrestricted to avoid causing a hazard?
And what about the neighbours? Seriously, if your festival venue isn’t normally used for this purpose, the neighbours may well object to your event. Which means you’ll have a hard time getting an event licence. Worse still, you could obtain one and then have your event closed down!
Have you got your suppliers and services all lined up? Even if you’re hiring in a complete production package, there’s still the water and power supplies, toilets and showers, fencing and security, car parking and traffic management and so much more to organise. And every bit of it has to be brought in, built and then packed down and taken away afterwards.
Enough to give you a headache, isn’t it! Which is why we’d strongly advise all but the most experienced festival production professionals to go for a properly established festival venue with a documented track record of successful and above all safe and trouble-free events…
…Just to pluck a completely random example out of the air, you won’t find a better-equipped, better staffed or more beautiful boutique festival site than our very own Frogmore Fields. Of course, we would say that, but we think our 15-year track record speaks for itself – running festivals such as the Hogsozzle, Wilkestock and Back of Beyond to name but a few and hosting acts of the calibre of Bastille, Razorlight, The Fratellis, Ms. Dynamite, Tom Grennan, Sub Focus, Faithless and So Solid Crew and, as they say, many, many more.