Long gone are the days when a music festival consisted of a stage in a field, a stack of amps and a make-shift bar to one side.
Today, festivals are closer to theme parks for the arts, where punters of all ages have come to expect an increasingly diverse mix of entertainment and amenities, as well as first class service and facilities.
Being the world’s largest ticketed greenfield festival, the 140,000-capacity Glastonbury is a good example of just how sophisticated such an event can become, with around 35,000 production people and staff required to pull off one of the biggest shows on Earth.
Of course, Glastonbury cannot be considered typical, but regardless of their size, those wishing to compete in the festival sector will always have to provide functioning infrastructure if they are to deliver a smooth, safe and satisfying experience for today’s consumer.
Safety and security has become an increasingly important part of any festival and an aspect of the events sector, and as well as controlling access to a site, fencing and barriers play a key role in crowd safety.
Mojo Barriers is “the original inventor and supplier of aluminium stage barrier systems,” according to director Kevin Thorborn, who runs the UK base for the Dutch company.
With a global network of offices and distributors, the company provides an extensive range of products and services to festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading Festival (90,000) and BoomTown Fair (60,000).
“We consult closely with production teams to design barrier systems suited to their site and audience demographic,” says Thorborn. “We install bespoke event barrier configurations and layouts for festivals to ensure optimum safety for guests, performers and crew.
“One major change we’ve witnessed is that more organisers are placing a greater importance on safety and on the quality of the barriers they choose, which has been a really positive change,” he says. “We have driven a better understanding of crowd dynamics with a scientific approach to optimise barrier designs.
“This has seen us create more complex configurations such as increased thrusts, secondary and tertiary barriers.”
Thorborn points to the increasing number of festivals and the challenge that presents.
“There are now a lot of new entrants into the outdoor event and festival market, so it’s important that we reach these people to share our knowledge and help them produce safe events,” he explains. “There are still some old barriers in the market and it’s hard to distinguish if the individual procuring the barriers knows whether they have been properly tested and if they are fit for purpose.”
Inside of the perimeter walls, some staff have a lot of ground to cover over the course of an event, which is when a company such as Bradshaw Electric Vehicles (BEV) steps in.
It has been offering methods of transporting goods and people around outdoor events for over 30 years.
The company operates a fleet of 500 electric and petrol vehicles from golf buggies to tow tractors, people carriers, 4X4 Gators and more.
“Electric vehicles are continuing to hit the headlines and that’s certainly affected demand,” says BEV MD Mike Bradshaw. “In crowded public events, zero emissions and low noise are a big win for our customers. We’ll continue to supply petrol vehicles whilst the demand is there, but we’re already seeing a change.
“This year, we’ve introduced the Goupil G4 range of electric road vehicles,” he says. “They’re designed from the ground up as electric pick-ups, with a compact body and tidy turning circle. Interest has been high.”
Similar to Thorborn’s concerns, Bradshaw has seen his sector getting busier – in his case in the form of more competition – and he too is keen to press the importance of quality.
“We’ve seen more people coming into market and cutting prices, but they don’t maintain a level of service,” he says. “Bradshaw is continuing to grow quickly, which means a lot of recruitment. It’s a busy time, but great to see our plans in action.”
Crucial to getting from A to B are the temporary track networks of road and walkways.
The result of a coming together of Eve Trakway and Lion Track Hire, Live Trakway is now a team of 350+ temporary access experts. It is the largest temporary access company in Europe with 80 installation crews and 100,000 roadway panels.
“We are annual award-winners too and the most decorated in the sector,” says Live Trakway MD Dale Robinson, “but all of this is irrelevant really, all our customers want is safety, on-time, every time and at a fair price. We work very hard to achieve that.”
Also offering related events services such as fencing, barriers, bridges and tower lights, Live Trakway counts Glastonbury, Creamfields (60,000), Latitude (35,000), Download (85,000) and Reading among its clients.
“This year, Creamfields and Glastonbury were the benchmark in event infrastructure,” says Robinson. “To cope with tighter timescales and more flexibility, we employed a new management model for these larger projects, which we intend to offer customers at varying scales.
“We created a pop-up depot at both events using our parent company A-Plant’s portable offices, accommodation and welfare units, and we built a temporary yard of access products and tools to fulfil the projects.
“Working closely with the organisers at Creamfields, we installed 28,000m of fencing and barriers and 17,000m of plastic and aluminium roadway in nearly half the time it took in 2016.”
The demand for shorter timescales and lower costs is only going to increase in the years to come, as far as Robinson is concerned. But, as with the vehicles used at festivals, providing an eco-friendlier product is also high on the list of priorities.
“We are working on an initiative to reduce our carbon footprint in terms of HGV emissions by designing new methods of installation and recovery, which will improve product install and recovery speeds,” he says.
While card and contactless payments are becoming increasingly viable at many outdoor events, access to cash is still a must for most festival goers.
Cash On The Move was founded in 2000 and has grown to become the UK’s largest event ATM provider. The company delivers cash solutions to over 400 events annually, supporting organisers and traders alike, ensuring that visitors have easy access to cash 24/7.
In addition to ATMs, it also provides an onsite banking operation that offers organisers and traders a secure and cost-effective method of receiving their floats and banking their takings.
“Music festivals have grown significantly since we started,” says Cash On The Move’s commercial director Josh Bentley. “We have grown our ATM estate year-on-year to meet the demands of the industry.
“An event relies on the many thousands [sometimes millions] of pounds that we dispense and we have a professional responsibility to ensure we deliver every time.”
The company is always looking at innovative ways to improve the speed, reliability, security and functionality of its operation, says Bentley, and he believes that there will always be a need for the company’s services.
“The demand for cash will remain strong despite alternative payment options becoming more popular,” he says. “They have their place but the end-user should always have a choice, cash will always be the most user-friendly and reliable payment method.”
Another vital resource for festival-goers is water, whether it be for catering, cleaning, hygiene and of course the hydration of attendees.
Liquiline is a Dorset based company with operating centres in Lincoln, Andover and London, delivering a range of temporary water supply solutions to clients across Europe.
It caters for events and festivals of all types and sizes, providing a total design-and-build water infrastructure system when required.
“Attendees are becoming more discerning, and expect more from their festival experience than ever before,” says Liquiline’s Richard Connor. “For us, this means that we are constantly updating items such as standpipes and water distribution units to make them more attractive and user friendly.
“The requirement for hot water has increased in the past few years. Gone are the days when people were happy to rough it for a weekend,” he adds. “They now expect a few more home comforts.”
Elsewhere, Wincanton was founded in 1925 and now maintains a fleet of over 700 types of tankers, supplying water solutions to festivals including Glastonbury and V.
“In recent years, there has been a renewed focus, and quite rightly so, on water quality and hygiene,” says Wincanton water services manager Mike Rowell. “Our experience as a business of running food grade products means that we can draw upon the latest in best practice for sampling and hygiene.”
Rowell also lists sustainability as high on the agenda for many clients.
“By getting involved in the early stages of planning with festival organisers, we can model historic data to forecast how much water will be needed and when,” he explains.
“We also factor in the ability to pull in extra fleet at short notice to cope with unexpectedly warm weather, for example. It is this flexibility and scalability which sets us apart.
“The very nature of the festival market is changing,” he adds. “With some collaboration in the large festival market, we are seeing other, smaller brands move into city locations.”
Dan Brewer is general manager at Watermills Events, which specialises in the installation of temporary water supply infrastructure and waste water management for festivals.
He also points to sustainability as a central expectation for many modern festival-goers.
“We are gathering lots of data from all our events on where, when and how much water is being used, so in the future we can tailor the demands of the festival’s water requirements to ensure there is no water being wasted and the correct volumes are being delivered to key areas around the festival site during peak periods.”
He also suggests that more festival-goers are looking for a more premium experience – rather than simply making do in muddy fields.
“With the increased popularity of glamping and VIP campsites, shower and toilet provisions have grown significantly – in turn meaning the demand for water has also grown,” he says. “We have to ensure the systems we design and install are capable of servicing this extra demand and are adaptable for any changes on site the client may require.”
“An event relies on the many thousands, sometimes millions, of pounds that we dispense”
Cash On The Move’s Josh Bentley
Meanwhile, established in 1989, Border Group is a multi-faceted business, with Border Loos, providing portable toilets; and Border Barrier Systems, a worldwide company that provides road and pedestrian safety barriers.
In 2017, Border Group completed the acquisition of Show Services Group, incorporating Grandstands GB, Grandstands On The Move, and Securifence UK.
The company has worked with events such as Glastonbury and Creamfields.
Border Group general manager Paul Nelson says that he’s witnessing newcomers to the sector undercutting more established companies, which obviously poses a challenge, and he warns event organisers against going for the cheapest option.
“The best thing about us is we can offer same-day delivery,” he says. “Because of that, we’ve helped out a lot of people who have been let down by other suppliers.
“That makes us more obsessed with delivering the best possible service we can give.
“We have our own vehicles and have the capability to move any stock item, plus we have our own logistics department and our own staff that attend events.
“So we’re well prepared.”