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Festivals Toolkit: Ideas and Concepts: What, When and Where

Having an idea is the start of the planning process. Big ideas often start small - some of the biggest established festivals started as modest, one-off events - so if you think you have a good idea for a special event, research it further and test it on other people.

What is the best time for the event? Try to avoid clashes with similar events and work with other organisers as there may be benefits in joint planning and promotion. Try to secure a date and venue for your event as early as possible, and be aware of half-term and holiday periods. Allow at least six months to a year for a large event (100+) and four months for a smaller one.

Never underestimate how long it takes to plan an event; prioritise your work and don't leave anything vital to the last minute. You will need time to put together teams of staff and volunteers; time to raise funds; time to involve all the necessary community, council and other bodies; time to obtain permissions and licences and time to publicise and promote the event.

Choosing the right venue is very important.  What is the best location for the event? Will it be an indoor or outdoor event? Could you use private and public spaces  not normally used for such activities? Estimating the numbers of anticipated visitors is an essential part of determining where your event will happen - buildings will often have maximum numbers imposed by fire regulations, and limits will be imposed on outside areas by local authorities or the police for health and safety reasons. Your chosen venue should be flexible to fit your requirements; be accessible for disabled people; provide for people with special dietary requirements and provide sufficient electricity, gas and water sources. Also, think about catering, parking, transport and toilet facilities.

You should draw up a site plan, including all front of house (what the customer sees) and backstage (what happens behind the scenes) activities, to test the practicality of your ideas and to assist with microplanning and the production of your event manual. If your event happens to cross local authority boundaries, bear in mind that you will need to contact the same officials in both areas.

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