Lesson of 2018’s event season: Expecting the unexpected

Now we’re firmly in Autumn, it feels like the perfect time to take stock on what has been a very busy, eventful summer, and consider the lessons learnt from this year’s abundance of events….

One of the summer’s resounding memories for everyone will be the endless hot weather and sunshine we were lucky enough to enjoy – from an event attendees’ point of view, going to your favourite festival in the sun is somewhat more pleasant that the muddy, wet weather we’ve come to expect at festivals in the UK. And actually, from an organiser’s point of view, I’d rather have the dry and warm weather over rain and mud any day of the week – but the warm weather does bring its own challenges and this summer’s hot weather has certainly had an impact on the way outdoor festivals and events have been planned and managed by organisers and safety teams. 


The record temperatures and continuously dry weather we’ve experienced has brought a whole new set of challenges to event planning. For the first time in my 16-year career, I’ve written dry weather contingency plans to deal with the extreme dry ground and grass conditions, talking to colleagues in Australia to understand how they deal with such high temperatures and the fire loads / risks that dry grounds present.

We’ve had to consider the possibility of grass fires and monitor the fire severity rating on site, we’ve also co-ordinated specific fire induction for the crew members, introducing a ‘hot works’ permit for any works onsite generating heat and over combustible grounds / areas.

 It’s not just the heat and dry ground conditions that have had an impact on this summer’s events. Perhaps linked to the ‘heatwave’ or just another weather anomaly, SQUALL like weather conditions have also been an added challenge at Team Redwood’s events. We’ve had two particular instances in the last couple of months when sudden, intense and often unpredictable weather arrives onsite with little time for the team to react.

SQUALL weather conditions can seriously disrupt an event with high level wind, rain and lightning seemingly coming from nowhere. Whilst we continuously monitor the weather conditions when on site, every now and again an unexpected weather system can arrive unannounced. At Pub in the Park in Tunbridge Wells, we had 18mm of rain in 10 mins – that’s a month’s worth of rainfall! Combined with 35 constant and 45mph gusting winds. The system popped up to the south of site and then hit us within two minutes. At that point, you have to make very quick decisions to preserve the site and ensure everyone on it knows how to deal with it.

So, for me, the resounding lesson from 2018’s summer season is to expect the unexpected. We did not anticipate the endless warm weather which led to a change in practice from years gone by. And there is no way you can predict SQUALL weather conditions which in their very nature have no rhyme or reason and appear unannounced. But it’s our job to ensure these unexpected challenges have as little impact on the show as possible, because as they say, the show must go on….

(Photo credit: Will Bailey)

It’s that time of year again…festival season is upon us!

The summer’s event season is fully underway, and Team Redwood is already five events deep in to what is set to be a busy and exciting year. When you’ve got a back to back calendar of events running one weekend after the other, the beginning of the summer can feel like you’re at the starting line of a marathon, and like all endurance tests, planning and timing is key to success. 

At the beginning of the summer, like at the beginning of a race, everyone is full of energy, anticipation and positivity – but keeping that momentum is what’s important and most difficult. Here’s some thoughts from the Redwood HQ to surviving the hectic summer months and the long days on event sites and getting past the finish line with your sanity and health in check. 

Eat, sleep, work, repeat

There is no need and really no excuse for a 24/7 work ethic, especially on an event site.  While we all expect to pull in longer shifts onsite (usually somewhere around the 16-hour mark) - it is more important than ever when you’re walking tens of miles every day and having to be ‘on alert’ for long periods of time, to make sure that you look after yourself. You need to be as close to fighting fit as you can be when you’re being expected to make important decisions. Eat regularly, sleep as much as you can and try to take breaks, we all know you’re not you when you’re ‘hangry’, tired or broken – don’t get to that point. 

Fail to plan, plan to fail

It’s that age old but very true point that planning is key to success. 

By going to site with the plan means that everyone knows what to expect, there’s a system to everything and everything is happening for a reason. Avoid wasting yours and others time and energy (when both are already stretched to their limits) with processes that have been devised and explained before even stepping on site – have you and your team seen the shift rota, do they know who to report to, what the H&S policy is on site and what to do in case of an emergency? If not, these are all things that can be dealt with before arrival to avoid questions and delays further down the line. We like to think it’s 80% planning and 20% execution. 


Tip top team

Behind every great event is a great team – there’s each company team working together to create their element of the show, but on a bigger scale, each supplier team is part of the overall event team all working together to deliver the best event possible. 

Picking the right suppliers and them in turn picking the best individuals to deliver their services makes for an overall great team. You need to be surrounded by people that you can trust and that you have confidence in to perform to a high standard and often under pressure. Not everyone is cut out for the events industry which is why those that are, need to be looked after to ensure they keep doing what they do.  

It’s in the bag

There’s nothing worse than being on site and needing something you didn’t bring….which is why we have our Redwood event box that (literally) gets wheeled onto every event site we work on. It’s teeming with all the event must haves that we’ve gleaned from over 30 years in the industry – here’s what we pack for every event: 

  1. Redwoods reporting, auditing and operations systems Weather Station

  2. The trusty iPad

  3. The best boots you can get (and dry socks, lots)

  4. A multi tool (leatherman or gerber)

  5. Sun cream

  6. Excellent wet weather gear - coat and trousers

  7. Coffee machine!

  8. Multiple phone chargers

In closing, look after yourself and each other - we are all firmly in the business of creating incredible and beautiful events that people visit and attach moments of their lives too. That’s a pretty special vocation. 

(Photo credit: Will Bailey)