AtTENTion to detail

Marquees are a key piece of kit for any organiser. Stand Out unearths some innovative case studies and looks forward to the coming months and events ahead…

Just four days in to 2011, and industry is already experiencing its first challenge; despite knowing of its existence months prior, a rise in VAT will come as a blow, albeit a small one, to businesses and organisations up and down the country.

Organisers are already operating with tight budgets and event suppliers it seems now have even less rope to hang themselves with.

According to Jason Mace, managing director of Gala Tent, for VAT registered companies it is more likely that the psychological effect of seeing a total price increase may have an adverse effect on industry, even though the net price will remain the same.

“Whilst I believe that the increase in VAT is a prudent decision by the Government in the current economic climate, it is the responsibility of manufacturers and suppliers to seek ways to mitigate any negative effects,” he suggests. “It has been our decision to maintain our pricing at the pre-VAT increase levels in order to maintain price stability and we have decided to absorb the increase in VAT ­– to some degree we are benefiting from having the foresight to pre-book all our material in 2010 for production in the following 6 months which enabled us to secure prices and passing this benefit on to our customers who are, and remain, very supportive. I would encourage other companies to try to do likewise and be proactive in doing everything possible to keep prices steady so that our industry and the economy can grow once again.”

Tony Marsh, MUTA president, adds: “Event organisers will be every bit as cost-conscious in 2011 as they were in 2010 The temptation to go for the cheapest option, with the probable shortfall in product and service quality, will always exist, but organisers have significant responsibility on their shoulders over the course of their events. They need to assemble competent teams around them to achieve the lowest risk profile at an affordable cost.”

De Boer’s sales director, John Cochrane shares Marsh and Mace’s view in relation to cost-effective approaches as the pressures on marquee companies are ever more prevalent today, compared to the market some 25 years ago.

“In times of continuing economic uncertainty, there is a very real wake-up call for event industry businesses that don’t react and constantly evolve. The recession may officially be over but companies and their suppliers that don’t move with the times are unlikely to have a long-term future.”

One such company making strides and launching products this year is Danco. The Bristol-based business says that like everyone it has had to adjust its position to make it through a tough climate, but is set to come out stronger in 2011 with a new festival tent, which combines the strength of a clearspan frame and the looks of a big top.

Richard Thornton, Danco’s marketing manager, says that the product has received a significant interest, as it will create a focal point at a festival without the hazards associated with guys ropes and internal poles.

The festival market is one sector identified by Danco as a growth area for its business, citing added corporate interest and increased on-site amenities as a result of health and safety measures. This coupled with 80 per cent core repeat business of showground work is favourable and allows it to look at product innovation.

Danco recently provided a catering and hospitality structure for ParalympicsGB training camp at the University of Bath. On the face of it this marquee was relatively straightforward, however the location for the event placed the marquee on a suspended roof terrace over a 100-metre indoor sprint track with access via a 24-metre long staircase.

The event needed meticulous planning with meetings with the University, ParalympicsGB and the structural engineers to ensure that the weight limits and point loadings of the of the roof were not exceeded whilst providing sufficient ballast to secure the marquee.  Standard concrete weights or water ballast were not possible as the point loading of these and the frame exceeded the structural calculations for the terrace. The solution was to design a new integral floor and weighting system that allowed us to spread the required one tonne anchorage across a greater footprint.  The new systems along with boarding the whole area with a ply base allowed us to provide a 40m x 15m marquee with full-suspended floor. The event itself was designed to simulate the conditions that athletes would experience when competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games so when the games come around, they are used to the experience and therefore allow them to focus entirely on their athletic performance.

Aquila Shelters recently supplied and built the marquees to hold the 2010 Newcastle City Christmas Market. Providing 22 tensile structures for over 50 local traders at the base of the landmark Earl Grey Monument and Eldon Square shopping centre, it was a striking festive occasion for the 80,000 visitors attending this year’s market.

However, in the days before the event the region experienced some of the heaviest snowfall in years. But Aquila guaranteed the snow loading capacity of their tensile structures and was able to assure the local council of its decision to not postpone the market.

In providing a modular-based structure Aquila was able to create a back-to-back walk through outdoor market environment with the use of dividing walls to create separate trading areas within each marquee. Securing the structures with the use of concealed heavy ballast ensured no permanent impact without the need for drilling or surface removal.

Aquila understood the importance of the generating an excellent visitor experience and this year provided the council with a method of measuring it. In each structure visitors were asked to take part in a mobile technology-based customer survey that collected and presented visitor results in real-time. The questions were used to measure the extent to which visitors enjoyed the event (100 per cent satisfied), the choice of traders (92 per cent satisfaction), whether the event was good for the City (100 per cent satisfaction), whether the event lasted long enough (69 per cent agreed) and the average number of visits made to the event (three). This information will now be used to provide feedback to traders and influence future events of a similar vein.

2010 and was interesting year not only for us as a company but for the marquee and event industry as a whole, comments Carl Louw, managing director of Intent Productions.

“As a relatively young company we continued to grow, which we were very satisfied with considering the economic climate. It is hard to say if the growth we experienced would have been more substantial in more favourable conditions. We have also experienced an unprecedented number of enquiries for the coming year, which gives us huge cause for optimism for 2011. In addition it has also been our busiest winter, which is quite unusual considering the stretch marquee is primarily viewed as a summer product. We are expecting corporate work to pick up as now the recovery is underway the stigma of being seen to spend money on hospitality is starting to remove itself.”

According to Louw, the stretch marquee offers very practical solutions to a challenging venue.

“For this reason it is quite common for to be called in where other marquee companies either simply cannot operate or require a substantial extension to the budget. An example of this is that we have a number of bookings at tricky venues like Kensington Roof Gardens and Shoreditch House where traditional structures would need to be craned in for a start and then the space may still not conform to the required footprint required by other structures.”

Princess Productions recently appointed Element Domes to construct a multi-dome cluster to house a touring roadshow that would coincide with Sky1’s Got to Dance television series. The five-week roadshow visited Glasgow Science Centre, RHS Centre Dublin and Battersea Power Station, and aimed to create a buzz and a sense that the circus was coming to town to celebrate the “biggest dance event of the year”. Forming the cluster was a 90-foot dome used as a dance TV studio, a 20-foot entrance tunnel dome, two 36-foot domes for interviews and registration and a 60-foot dome that allowed dancers to warm up for their auditions.

Richard Lynch, director, Element Domes, told Stand Out that the auditions, which took place in September, had a three-week build and one-week fit out compared to Owen Brown, which had just a day and a half to erect a 20m x 30m Premier Pavilion with clear roof and gable skins at the Imperial War Museum for The Sun Military Awards, organised by ESC Events.

The structure, a reception area at the entrance to the Imperial War Museum, allowed guests to mingle and also housed the red carpet area that received guests before the start of the prestigious and humbling ceremony.

The structure was built over two five-metre-high monumental guns that are a permanent feature outside of the museum; elements like this can always cause issues however it was overcome with minimal fuss by specifying a raised floor and with the help of site visits and prior planning by the build team. The monumental guns made a fantastic feature within the reception area.

Owen Brown’s Premier product has all the features you would expect to see on a top-of-the-range temporary structure, including an integral floor system, a range of roof options including peaked roofs and clear view roofs, as well as the traditional apex and curved roof offering. The Premier is also now available with Panorama windows, which are a five-metre wide window that enables much more light into the structures and better views of the surrounding areas.

“The Premier Pavilion is one of our legacy products,” says Alex Robertson, managing direct, Owen Brown. “Absolute was developed in 2009 to advance the Premier range’s design however the Premier is still a fantastic product that offers event organizers the opportunity to create flexible and adaptable space whatever the application.”