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Planning for Small Events and Festivals
A checklist for organisers

This checklist is aimed at the organisers of small festivals and cultural events.
We hope that it will be a useful starting point and will help you to access the
resources needed to plan a successful event.

If you are organising a public event, or an event outdoors, you will bear
considerable moral, legal and social responsibility. You may be liable legally if
things go wrong, especially if planning or control of the event are flawed.

City of Westminster Special Events Team has produced guidance notes for
major public events. Even if you are organising a small, indoor event, we
recommend that you read these guidelines so you are aware of all the possible
health and safety, social and legal implications.

This is a brief checklist which we hope will aid you in your planning and
production. It is a working document and if you have experiences, tips or advice
that you feel should be included, please email us at

Please also see our disclaimer at the end of this document.

Initial Planning
     Decide on your target audience and aims for the project.
     Set a date for your event. Leave yourself enough time for planning and
        obtaining the funding you need for your event.
     Find on a suitable venue. See for a list of spaces to hire
        in Westminster.
     Create an ideal plan and ‘wish list’ in terms of funding, and
        performers/artists. You might want to brainstorm all the possible ways that
        entertainment and activities could be provided.
     Include a contingency plan for bad weather if the event takes place
      Research funders. See for our Arts Funding
       Directory and Guide to Fundraising for Beginners.
      Research potential costs. It might help to visualise your project and
       imagine yourself walking around at the event so that you can identify all
       the equipment and resources you will need.
      Ensure you have up to date Health and Safety, Risk Assessment, and
       Insurance Information see
       ppevents.cfm for details.
      Ensure that you have valid Public Liability Insurance for the event. Artists
       may need separate cover and this should be researched before hand (for
       example, if their artwork falls on a member of the public they may not be
       covered by your insurance).
      Ensure that workshop leaders working with children or vulnerable adults
       have CRB police checks in place. See and for information about this. Be aware that checks for
       individuals from non-registered organisations can take up to two months to
       come through.

Making the most of your resources
   Approach possible partners – including neighbouring organisations that
     could publicise your event or combine resources. See for Resources for the Arts in Westminster –
     with contacts for arts organisations and cultural groups that might be able
     to help.
   Arrange for Volunteers to help at the event if necessary and agree a fee
     for expenses.
   Utilise any support in kind such as help from committee members

Working with Artists
   Approach artists early on to confirm availability but do not book them until
     you are certain that you have funds in place.
   Ensure that artists have appropriate personal and public liability insurance.
     See insurance for artists.
   Ensure your artists will be properly looked after. Where will they change?
     Do they need refreshments? Do they need special equipment? – confirm
     their requirements in writing.
   Rates of pay vary, so ensure you are offering the going-rate.
   Draw up a clear contract or letter of agreement
   When/where will artists rehearse? When will they set up?
   Appoint a contact person who will look after them on the day.
   Draw up a clear agreement that details what will happen in the event of
     unexpected circumstances.
   Make sure they know how to work relevant technical equipment.
      If groups are performing they may need extra rehearsals or induction to
       the space.

   Create a realistic budget for your event with income and expenditure. See for our Guide to Fundraising for Beginners.
   Westminster Arts Arts Funding Directory has contact details for a range of
     funders including Arts Council England, British Council, Community Fund,
     Awards for All, Youth Music, and many charitable trusts. We also have a
     Guide to Fundraising for Beginners that you can download.
   Once you have thought through your plan you can make funding
     applications and approach potential sponsors (including local businesses).
     Obtaining funding can take many months so ensure that you start
     fundraising early and check the deadline dates.
   Arts and Business provide training on obtaining sponsorship
   Once funding is confirmed, draw up contracts or a letter of agreement with
     artists and performers.

   Create a plan for reaching your potential audience – you may want to
     create press releases, e-invites, formal invitations, leaflets, and/or a word-
     of-mouth campaign.
   Ensure that your target audience can read the language on the publicity
     leaflet – you may need to arrange for translations.
   Email a press release with images contact details to local press and follow
     up with a phone call.
   Ensure that you are providing access and facilities for people with special
     needs – check the DDA website
   Create a system to monitor who attended your event, this could be
     through a questionnaire, ticket system or headcount.

   Westminster Arts has a guide to venues and spaces for hire in
     Westminster on the website:
   Ensure you are aware of venue capacity and restrictions in terms of noise
     levels and considering neighbours.
   Ensure that there is disabled access to the venue and its facilities.
   Draw a site plan which specifies where everything will be situated in the
   Undertake a risk assessment for the event and the venue. See
      Ensure that visitors know where amenities are. If you are organising an
       outside event you will need to provide toilets.
      What will you do if the weather is very hot or very wet?
      How will people get to and from the event safely?
      Is there adequate parking space for making deliveries and offloading

   When organising an outdoor event with marquees and tents you will need
     to consult the emergency services, in particular the police and fire brigade.
   Consult Westminster City Council via the Special Events Team,
   Local residents and those affected by noise from the event should also be

Health and Safety
   Be aware of health and safety issues and ensure that you conform the
      Council’s guidelines.
   Voluntary Arts produce a book: Health & Safety at Outdoor Community
      Events. To order a copy, email
   In particular, you should consider the following:
         o Electricity kills and domestic plugs and sockets should not be used
            outdoors in wet weather conditions.
         o Bouncy castles can also be dangerous. Ensure that yours has
            sides, and is attended at all times.
         o Movement of vehicles can create hazards.
         o Permission for funfair rides must be obtained from the Council.
         o LPG Bottles and Propane Butane must be opened in the open air
            as leaks are highly dangerous.
         o You must make suitable arrangements to steward your event so
            that the movement of people and vehicles is supervised. If more
            than 100 people are expected to attend than consider using a
            public address system to deliver safety messages.
         o Overhanging trees can be a danger if you are organising a float
            procession or if people are standing on vehicles.
         o Open backed lorries should not be used and vehicles should have
            an edge which passengers can hold on to.
         o In hot weather, ensure that there are suitable refreshments and
            cold water available.
         o You may want to use the St John’s Ambulance Service
   or Red Cross
         o Make a plan for emergency evacuation of the site.
         o Ensure that first aid facilities are available throughout the site.
    Be aware that there are health and safety regulations and monitor the
      handling and distribution of food.

Planning on the day
    Create a programme for the events and an organisers timetable and make
      sure artists and staff all have a copy– you might want to include the
          o What time does set up begin and finish?
          o What time will artists arrive? Who will greet them?
          o What time does the audience start to arrive? Who will greet them?
          o What time do special guests arrive? Who will greet them?
          o What time are refreshments served?
          o When does cleaning up and dismantling begin, and finish?
    Appoint a safety co-ordinator who will oversee safety matters on the day.
    Document your event. Good photographs can be used to help you
      publicise and fundraise for your next event.
    You will need to communicate with colleagues on the day – for small
      events you may want to appoint a runner who can pass messages and
      fetch last minute items. For larger events, consider more sophisticated
      forms of site communication.

   Equipment and technical requirements
    You may be required to employ a freelance technician to operate technical
     equipment. If the venue does not supply or recommend one, otherwise get
     in touch with other local venues and theatres as they are likely to have a
     list of contacts. It is highly advisable to involve a technician in the planning
     meetings and you may need to set aside some budget for this.
    Make sure you know how you are going to power the sound and lighting.
    Talk to your suppliers to ensure that you know how technical facilities will
     work. Microphones, turntables, lighting and mixing desks all need specific
     wires and plugs. Save yourself last minute stress by talking to the experts
     and making a detailed list that can be checked when equipment is
    Ensure that enough time has been put aside for artists sound-checks.
    Also, consider:
          o generators need a special type of diesel and you will need to get
              this beforehand
          o p.a. systems will need to be more powerful if your event is outside
          o there may be noise restrictions and you’ll need to ensure that you
              aren’t too loud
          o sometimes complicated equipment changes are required between
              acts – you may need to plan activities between to distract the
              audience from the technical changes
    How will you know if your event has been successful?
    Think about ways of getting feedback from your audience. Will you have a
      comments book, surveys or even an interview booth?
    Put aside some time to think about what worked and what could be
      changed to make the next event even better.

   Think about what could go wrong. What will you do if there are
     unexpected circumstances?
   Set aside a contingency fund as part of your budget.

This is a brief checklist and Westminster Arts cannot guarantee the success of
your project based on this guide. We are unable to take any responsibility for the
success or failure of any events based on this document. However, we hope it
will help!

Good luck!
Alice Evans

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