What will festival sites look like in a post-COVID world? This week, we have a guest blog brought to you by Rupert Bassadone, founder of Event Site Design. Read on and discover his thoughts on what festival sites may look like in 2021 and the key things to consider:

This week, the events industry has been buoyed by news of a number of viable coronavirus vaccines and the Government’s COVID-19 Winter Plan, which details under what circumstances some large events can go ahead in England. It has given #eventprofs hope that we will soon be back doing what we love the most… delivering live experiences for clients across the world, putting huge smiles on the faces of vast and varied audiences.

I appreciate that event organisers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland face further struggles. However, one small movement can soon gather momentum and so I remain hopeful that organisers in our devolved nations will be given the green light too.

Goodbye “old” festival design”

That doesn’t stop any organisers from being able to plan ahead, though. In fact, I am a firm believer that when this all ends, savvy and forward-thinking #eventprofs will come out stronger.

Currently, I am working with a number of organisers that are looking to simplify their events. For years, event organisers have shouted that content is king. And it is. But it’s also a headache where social distancing is concerned. The more content and feature areas you have, the more measures you have to put in place. Each area or stage may have its own one-way system and a COVID-19 plan. That will require more staff and that’s when things get more complex.

What’s clear is that event and festival sites will look a little different: you cannot deliver your “old” festival.

The big challenge

One of the biggest questions being asked is how will site plans work in a post-pandemic world? Until everyone has been vaccinated, social distancing measures are expected to remain in place with risks mitigated. Therefore, having details and scaled site plans will be critical and understanding flow rates will be paramount.

Organisers should look to add space, address pinch points, make aisles wider, devise new queuing systems at bars/concessions, think about seating areas and how customers will consume the food and drink they have purchased. I think creating space will be the easy part. How you move and manage large groups of people from one stage or feature area to another will be the challenge.

Communication will be imperative. For instance, organisers will need to communicate finite details with audiences before they arrive, ensuring they fully understand the measures in place and the expectations that they need to meet.

No surprises

Over the last few months, I have actively engaged with event and festival organisers and believe that the larger challenge will be during the event itself – not the build. Some events may even push their dates to make more commercial sense, operating for four days instead of two. This could have an impact on site design.

Naturally, everything is location dependent. Which brings me to my final point: each local authority will have a different perception of COVID-19, as will devolved nations. Therefore, organisers should draft a sensible site plan, approach their Public Health representative and SAD and build a relationship with both. Show the relevant authorities and bodies now that you are competent and you will have no surprises.


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