We are on the verge of festival season once again. That means that people up and down the country will be looking at their list of things to pack, checking off sleeping bags, wellies, toilet paper and tickets. For event organisers, however, there is a lot more at stake if they miss something off the list when it comes to setting up the event’s power. Here, Matt Collins, business development manager of temporary power specialist ide Systems, takes a look at the top three things that can go wrong.
Picture the scene. It’s Glastonbury 2015 and Kanye West takes to the stage for his controversial set, his only stage prop - hundreds of lights overhead. The rapper, described by the BBC as “notoriously uncompromising”, steps out on stage, raises the microphone and then the power goes out. While the thousands of people who signed a petition against his Glastonbury booking may have applauded, the assembled crowd and Mr. West may have had a few choice words for the event organisers.
Whether it’s keeping acts and audiences happy, making sure the concessions stay operational or just trying to keep an event within budget, there’s a lot to juggle when it comes to power management. Here are my top three tips to getting the balance right.
1. Be ready for demand
Festivals today are increasingly complex, more like temporary cities instead of one stage in the middle of a muddy field. Glastonbury, for instance, spreads out from the central Pyramid Stage with an array of stages and venues, including a theatre and a kid's field.
The bigger the event, the more power is required and the demand for equipment is increased. Things like lighting, stages, screens and concessions all need power – and the days of the humble burger van are long gone. Events are expected to provide a variety of food options, catering for a vast array of international cuisines, sweets, ice cream and bars.
Taking the time to specify the power requirements for things like catering in advance will save you headaches down the line. However, it’s also vital to have on-site engineers educating and policing third party vendors. If you don’t have boots on the ground to react before power is over loaded you’re going to encounter problems.
2. Have the right tools for the job
If you’re trying to ladle soup with a spatula you’re not going to get very far. Likewise, if you don’t have the right equipment on hand that is up to specification the possibility of power failure is ever present.
However, this means more than just picking the right sized generator. You also need to have contingency plans with fail-safes in place. For instance, having an Automatic Mains Failure (AMF) system, such as the one provided by ide Systems, in place will help prevent problems.
An AMF system is a panel connected to two generators and then wired out to a load, like the sage for example. Generator one runs normally supplying power, with generator two on standby, to supply the stage with electricity. Should the first generator fail, the AMF panel automatically signals generator two to start running and supply power to keeps the stage running. At most, the stage would lose power for 5 - 15 seconds, rather than up to half an hour or longer if this were done manually.
Part of having the right equipment in place involves getting skilled engineers onsite for the duration of the event and making sure hotlines are manned to handle any breakdowns or damaged equipment. Festival goers are used to being connected 24/7 and not having access to services because there was no one on hand to fix a simple problem can lead to backlash.
3. Money, money, money
Apparently, Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beware of the little expenses; a small leak can sink a ship.” If you’re focussing on booking high profile acts it can be easy to sideline the power budget, but capital investment in temporary power equipment can really blow a hole in your boat.
Rental equipment can be much more cost effective, as well as flexible. This means you can hire cable and distribution equipment that support or enhance your fleet to service your event without having to invest more money into your ever-expanding fleet of event power. In addition, if you rent from a company like ide Systems you get the added benefit of round the clock support. Should a piece of equipment fail, or if you simply do not have enough, ide Systems has readily available stock and logistics to deliver replacement equipment without delay.
If you check everything off your temporary overlay list, you’ll be able to deliver an event that is as enjoyable for you as it is for the audience. Just make sure you remember to pack your wellies too!