ORGANISE AN EVENT
Organising an event can be a great way to draw people to the High Street. They can be about almost anything, from a music or theatre performance, a book exchange, a photo exhibition or a tasting event of what’s on offer on the High Street.
This guidance is for events with fewer than 500 visitors at any one time and that do not involve activities that require licensing beyond a Temporary Event Notice. Small events do not need to cost a lot of money or a large team of people to organise. In most cases, some form of licence is necessary though, and not many events are run without the help of volunteers.
If you want to organise an event and have no experience, we recommend you start with organising a small event. Organising a large event can take a lot of time and there are many risks that need to be taken into account. If you are planning to organise a large event, start by reading the extensive Council event guidance accessible via the Support section on the bottom of this page.
DEVELOPING YOUR IDEA
Start by asking yourself some questions:
– Who is the event for? (or aimed at)
– How many people do you expect to attend?
– What kind of activities will you include?
– When is it happening? (date, time)
– Where is the best place to put on your event?
If you have an idea for an event, it’s a good idea to start by talking to other people about it. They might have ideas that can contribute to yours, or know other people that can help to make your event more successful.
You can also check online to see if other people have organised similar events and how they did it. Don’t be shy about getting in touch with those who have organised something similar before. They can give you tips and insight.
Once you have a clear idea of what the event will look like and who might be interested in helping you organise it, it is time to start planning.
ORGANISING A GROUP
If you are not part of an organisation already, you need to get a group of people together to help you organise your event. Enthusiasm is essential, but it’s also helpful to bring certain skills to your group. Here are some of the things you’ll need to consider:
– project management
– finances (eg budget management)
– marketing and promotion
– DIY skills
Tap into your local networks and those of your group. It will help in recruiting volunteers and spreading the word about your event. Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to get people engaged!
If you’re already involved in a Traders Association, Community Group, sports club, etc. it is likely that there are other members who have the skills you need in your group. You might want to consider forming a sub-committee so you can organise meetings that are specifically about the event and not clog the general meeting with discussing event details.
It is usual to divide roles on the basis of team member’s skills. You should think about who can be:
– Chair (this could be a rotating position)
– Secretary (take meeting minutes and coordinate the team)
– Treasurer (manages the budget)
It is useful to assign someone as the main contact person for the event. It is also advisable to have one person who is exclusively responsible for health & safety.
Whether or not you have a group with all these skills the most important thing when starting out organising an event is that everyone knows what their role in the group is and what tasks they’re responsible for. This isn’t always easy to do so don’t get discouraged if this takes time!
Do I need to formalise my group?
If you are part of a formally constituted organisation you can probably make use of their organisational resources. Licences etc. can be acquired on behalf of the organisation.
If you are not part of an existing organisation, you might want to consider talking to a local organisation first, to see if they can incorporate your event within their activities and make use of the organisational resources they already have.
If that is not possible, there is the option of setting up an unincorporated association. This is an organisation set up through an agreement between a group of people who come together for a reason other than making a profit. There is no need to register this type of association and it doesn’t cost anything to set one up. Importantly, individual members are personally responsible for any debts or contractual obligations, ie licences or insurance. If you are selling something at your event, such as food, you’ll have to pay corporation tax and file a company tax return.
Having a group bank account is the best way to make sure the group’s money is kept safely. Most high street banks offer special accounts for community groups. You will need to have at least two members of the group willing to act as signatories.
If you are thinking about setting up a series of small events it might be helpful to establish a more formalised organisation. You would have to choose which legal format fits your group best. The National Resource Centre has good guidance on this.
Volunteers are often enthusiastic and motivated individuals and can provide great support to your event. If you are already part of an organisation then that is probably the best starting point for recruiting volunteers. If you are not part of an organisation, you may want to approach local organisations or education institutions and ask if they can help with recruiting volunteers. The Volunteer Centre Sutton is a good place to ask for help in recruiting volunteers. If it is really hard getting volunteers, you may want to consider advertising in a local newspaper or magazine.
When using volunteers you need to insure yourself against them getting injured. If children or vulnerable adults attend your event, volunteers need to be checked for criminal records. These checks are free for volunteers.
It is considered best practice to pay back volunteers travel expenses. Don’t forget to ask them for receipts, as you may need those for tax purposes. And when the event is over, don’t forget to celebrate their contribution!
No matter how small your event, it is always a good idea to start planning your event as early as possible. The first thing is to pick a date. It’s worth checking if there are other events on that date that will either support or compete with your event. You may want to plan the event to be part of a wider celebration, such as Sutton’s “Take part, take pride”.
Once you have set the date, make a list of actions that you need to take to make the event a reality. Then, think about how long each step will take and work up a timeline. For example, getting a licence might take several weeks, so you would want to start that process well in advance of your event. You could use a Gantt chart to help you with planning. A Gantt chart is a common tool used by project managers to plan actions and keep track of progress.
Holding an event carries certain risks. Remember that if anything happens, you and your fellow organisers are responsible. Although for small events you normally don’t need to fill in a formal risk assessment, it is wise to think about what risks there are. Think for example about what to do:
– when the weather is too bad to do outdoor activities
– if key people or volunteers don’t show up at the event or key items (toilets!) are not delivered.
– when someone is hurt or feels unwell
– power goes out
– if there are people that want to disrupt your event
Make sure you discuss these risks at organising meetings and talk through the actions that you will take in case of emergency. One tool that comes in handy when assessing risks is to make a site map. The map will also be needed during the event for contractors, volunteers, emergency workers, etc.
Budget & Costs
It is important to know well in advance how much your event is going to cost. Start early on by identifying some of the major costs. These might be:
– Permissions / licences
– Insurance, e.g. public liability insurance
– Hire of equipment
– Hire of services and staff
– Hire of venue/site (if event is inside or in a Council park)
– Administration costs
– Performers and entertainment/ amusements costs
– Materials used on the day
Make one person responsible for the budget and let him or her report back to the group on a regular basis.
Preparing a budget begins with rough estimates but is updated every time you get more insights in the costs of a budget item. Make sure the budget is updated regularly, at least before every group meeting. Keep track of income and expenses from your bank account and petty cash in a check book.
Find out as early as possible which licences and insurance policies you need as it normally takes at least 6 weeks to get a licence.
Any event held in the high street needs to be brought to the attention of the Council. For small events (the council limit is less than 500 visitors at any one time) you need to fill in a temporary event notice. These must be submitted at least 10 working days before the event. There’s no guarantee your licence request will be approved, so it is wise to apply well before the event to avoid late cancellation. There is a fee of £21.
You don’t need a food hygiene licence when you ask local people to bring food. If that’s not possible it is easiest to ask a trader who has all licences in place to sell food or drinks. If you want to sell food yourself, you would need a food hygiene licence.
If you plan to have the event on a street, such as a parade or street party, you probably want to establish a road closure to make your event space safe for families. The Council can organise this for you (this is called a Traffic Management Order) when your event is deemed appropriate. You need to apply for a road closure at least 12 weeks before the event. There is a usual fee of £50 for road closures.
Contact the Council on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0208 770 5070 for an application form.
If what you are organising is a “street party”, “big lunch” or “playing out” event, then there is a separate process, which takes 6 weeks to complete.
If you are planning to promote your event in public space, for example by hanging up posters or handing out leaflets in public space you will need a licence to do so. You can apply for a licence through the licensing team.
It is best practice to let local people know about your event, especially if it includes loud music and large crowds. The best way is to write a letter and clearly explain:
– What will be happening, what kind of event will take place
– Give the date(s) and times the event will begin and end
– Give a contact name and phone number for your event
– Give the contact number for the council Noise Control Team
– Include a map showing any road closures with details of times when the closure will be in place.
Additional licensing associated with larger events
If your event includes street trading (for example a street market), you must ensure all your traders have a street trading licence.
If you or others are selling food at your event, everyone who does so needs to be registered with their local authority as a trader. They must also comply with food and health & safety legislations, have in place a food safety management system and have health & safety risk assessments. You must be able to assure the Council Environmental Health teams that any food being sold or served on your site meets these safety standards.
If you’re selling alcohol, you need a licence issued to a named individual on site.
If any of the following special treatments are part of your activities:
– Manicures or pedicures
– Ear, nose or body piercing
– Beauty treatments, facials
– Massage or acupuncture
There will be a fee depending on which kind of treatment you are offering. Apply to the Environmental Health unit a minimum of 35 days before your event.
If you’re planning to play live or pre-recorded music you must have a music licence from the Performing Right Society and/or Phonographic Performance Ltd, even for small events.
If you’re planning to have fireworks or balloon races/releases with over 5000 balloons you need to get permission from the Civil Aviation Authority. For balloon races with less than 5000 balloons you need to notify airports closer than 5 miles from the event site.
You are strongly advised to have the right insurances in place. If anything happens on the event you organise you can be held personally liable. A public liability insurance is the minimum you should have in place. This covers you in case an attendee is hurt, loses something, or has his/her property damaged and holds you responsible. You can cover yourself for values from 1 million to 10 million or higher. Make sure you discuss the right cover with your broker or insurance company to avoid paying too much.
You also may want to insure yourself against cancellation if you risk losing money because of commitments to hire space or materials and no-shows of people that are performing or otherwise crucial to the event.
If you are hiring materials, such as a marquee, often the company that hires it out already has insurance in place against theft or damage. The same applies if you are hiring a space in a building. Make sure you check this with the company and read their hiring contract carefully.
You can buy insurance for a one-off event online or through an insurance broker. To find a local insurance broker, you can use this search facility.
You do need to be sure that the policy you buy covers all the activities you want to be included, so be open and clear with the insurer or broker you talk to. And make sure that you check the terms of the policy and in particular any exclusions.
There are a number of different ways of promoting your project. Make sure you start well in advance and build up your promotion just before the event. If your event is sponsored, remember to name your sponsors in any publicity. Check if they want you to use their company logo and how it should be applied. If Sutton Council is a sponsor, there is an approved way to carry the council’s logo on promotional materials. Ask Sutton Council’s communications team’s advice at email@example.com for advice.
Printing posters and handing out leaflets
When designing leaflets and posters make sure you always communicate the event date and location clearly. If you’re using a picture, you need to make sure you are allowed to use it (especially if you get it from the internet) and that you have the consent of any identifiable people featured. Also make sure that your sponsor’s logos are included. Printing costs for black and white are usually much lower than colour printing, so whereas it may not be as eye-catching, if your budget is tight you may want to take that into account when designing.
Put up your posters in clearly visible places where footfall is high. Shops and business owners may allow you to put up posters in their shop windows. If you want to put up posters on public notice boards or distribute leaflets on the street, you need permission from the Licensing Team of the Council.
Advertising in newspapers/ magazines
You many want to put an advert in a local newspaper or printed magazine that are distributed in Sutton. Costs are between £50-150 depending on size per edition.
Make sure your event is published on an online event calendar or via online magazines:
Facebook and Twitter are quick and easy ways to promote your event online. With a bit of effort, it is possible to reach a large amount of people. Twitter is useful to spread the word about your event quickly. It is easier to quickly get a lot of ‘followers’ by connecting with other local organisations via Twitter. One idea is to tweet to local organisations or individuals that have a lot of followers and ask them to tweet or ‘retweet’ a message about your event and spread the word. Setting up a Facebook page is also easy and you can invite friends to “like” your page. These friends can invite others as well and/or spread the news in other ways. If you’re organising multiple events, it provides a good opportunity to publish news or other updates, such as a call-out for volunteers.
Press releases are free of charge and can reach a lot of people. Apart from being published before the event, local press might be interested in coming to your event to feature it in their paper.
You can also promote with Radio Jackie.
Large event guidance
If you are organising a large event you are strongly advised to read the guidance Sutton Council has provided online:
Highways, Transport and Smarter Travel, Environment and Neighbourhoods Directorate, 24 Denmark Road, Carshalton, SM5 2JG
Telephone: 0208 770 5070
firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 8770 6003/4391
Business Regulation – Licensing, London Borough of Sutton, Civic Offices, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 1EA
Licensing Section – Sutton Police Station
6 Carshalton Road, Sutton, SM1 4RF
Tel: 020 8649 0793
Environmental Health Team:
London Borough of Sutton, London Borough of Sutton, Civic Offices, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 1EA
Tel: 020 8770 5000
Sutton Communications Team