I had the pleasure of spending a week in the Corsican town of Calvi recently. It’s beautiful place. By chance we were in town just as the 26th Calvi Jazz Festival was taking place. It takes place over 5 days in various locations in the town. There are some big named paid concerts right through to what I call the more fringe performances. The majority of the performance locations are in fact outside in natural amphitheatre settings, streets and parkland sites. Nothing particularly unusual about that you might say.
No rain today!
As an event manager, Englishman and one who has organised many an outdoor event I love the confidence of organisers of the Calvi Jazz Festival. Why? Because not one of the concert venues had any sort of stage cover. The organisers knew it would not rain – hence my reference to being an Englishman and used to our predictably unsettled all year round weather. I for one in all my 20 years of events have never provided an uncovered stage. Experience has taught me that whatever the time of year, you just can’t take the risk. I guess part of me is jealous. What could be better for artistes than actually to be performing literally under the stars?
Wondering around the Calvi Festival as did we did most days reminded me just how important stages and performances spaces are to the overall success of an event. It also reminded that they don’t have to be big expensive things too. So here are a few tips for the event planner on getting the right performance space and stage.
Getting the right performance space and or stage
The chances are that you will book a speaker, act or entertainer or arrange some kind or performance. You will, therefore, need to create a performance area. Your first priority is to establish how big an area they need and whether they have any special requirements. At this point, it is worth establishing the activity’s “must-have” items from the “would-like-to-have” items. In terms of the performance space, this can be as simple as providing an appropriately-sized area or the use of an existing stage. The floor is fine too if your guests are sitting down. In fact, all kinds of structures can become a performance area. You can simply lay a rope on the floor to indicate where people need to stand or sit.
More substantive performance spaces are created by linking together an appropriate number of staging blocks. These staging blocks or systems often start at a height of about 15 to 16 centimetres and can be increased incrementally up to several metres in height for larger-scale events. As the stage gets higher, you will be required to have safety barriers (on the back and sides) as well as steps or a ramp (or both). The ramp is to allow large heavy items of equipment to be wheeled onto the stage. In this case, you will need to consider hiring a reputable staging company who will know the current regulations regarding staging, barriers, steps and ramps.
You may also need to provide a covered performance space if you are outdoors. There are really only two ways of doing this:
- A covered standalone stage – provided by a staging company
- A stage or performance space created inside a marquee; in this case, you will need to consider all the relevant fire and safety risks and take appropriate action; in the case of the marquee, you will need to determine how many people you can fit in it, as it is now effectively an indoor venue (so it is worth taking professional advice)
There you have it the art of staging. Stages can literally cost the earth while other forms of performance spaces can come for nothing. It depends on the programme you are offering and the expectations of the audience. You know your audience and must decide what you must do to ensure they leave your event with great take away memories. It helps also if you live in a country where it doesn’t rain very often either.
Chris Powell, The Event Expert
The event expert helps those accidental event managers: those with events in their job descriptions and not in their job title develop the skills and confidence to design, plan and deliver their own outstanding events.