For outdoor events, there are not many elements that are going to be more critical than your stage. It's the first thing your attendees will spot as they walk through the entrance, it will be the focus of their attention throughout the day or evening, and it's going to feature the vast majority of social media posts disseminated by your guests.
In other words, if you miss the mark with your festival stage hire, you'll likely end up doing the same for your overall event. Fortunately, here at Outdoor Stages, we've been leading the way for over 20 years, offering festival and concert stage hire to some of the biggest events across the South East of England and beyond.
During that time, it's fair to say we've acquired a comprehensive knowledge of the processes involved in hiring an outdoor stage. From all of the health and safety considerations to choosing the audio and lighting equipment to deck out your stage, if we don't know something about stage hire, it's not worth knowing!
But rather than keep that acquired wisdom to ourselves, we thought we would put together a short guide for event organisers to give you the information you need to enjoy a successful outdoor stage hiring experience.
There's plenty to get through, so rather than wasting any more time, let's get straight into it!
How to Determine Your Stage Requirements?
Of the course, the first step of the process is determining what you actually need from your stage hire. Whether you need to hire a small bandstand or a large festival stage, many factors will govern your decision. The first place to start is with your audience and the scale of your event.
Size of your Event
It's pretty fair to say that the larger the number of expected attendees, the larger your stage is going to need to be. But there are always exceptions to the rule. You may prefer to opt for several smaller, strategically-positioned stages for your event with thousands of audience members, for example.
Some organisers prefer the imposing, singular focal point of a large scale, which also helps with unobstructed views since they tend to be higher of the group. But if you're hosting a smaller event with less than 2,500 in attendance, the focus is less about audience size and more about the requirements of your performers.
Unless you're new to the events industry, you'll be aware that almost all artists agree to perform based on a contract which will have many stipulations regarding staging, sound, and lighting equipment. Known as a rider, you may well only have an event with an audience of 5,000, but you may need to hire a large festival stage complete with PA wings and elaborate truss structure to accommodate a performer's contract provision for suspended line arrays and lighting fixtures.
In other cases, the requirements of those taking the stage are less to do with making demands regarding the use of specific equipment, and more in relation to necessity. For example, suppose you are hiring a stage for a classical music festival. In that case, you're going to need a sizeable stage surface area to comfortably fit every member of the orchestra on stage.
Type of Event
The type of event is also going to play a part in your choice of stage. If you're hosting a full-blown festival with several acts all sharing the same stage (possibly at the same time), then you're likely to opt for one of the largest we have available before perhaps opting for a range of smaller stags for supporting acts.
With a festival, you'll also have to consider requirements associated with largescale events such as off-stage technical facilities, backstage areas, hospitality buildings, parking areas for vehicles, storage areas, and access points for deliveries to name but a few. By contrast, for smaller or local events, mobile stage hire might be more appropriate for your needs.
Your Venue or Event Location
Event organisers often get wrapped up in all of the above and forget one of the most crucial deciding factors when it comes to stage hire, the venue! Have you got flat and even ground to work with? How much space have you allocated to the stage? What will that space look like when you factor in your audience? These are all questions you need to be asking yourself concerning your venue.
You've also got to assess at the surface of the location. Will you be setting up stages on grass or concrete? We're comfortable doing either, but it may have a bearing on your choice of stage. To be honest, the most significant consideration when it comes to your venue is logistics, and more specifically, access. For large festival stages, reliable access for multiple articulated lorries will be required in all weather conditions. If that's not possible, you may decide to go for the more flexible smaller stage options.
Time and Weather!
Is your festival held on water-logged grass every year? If so, it may have a bearing on your stage hire (hint: massive lorries can quickly get stuck in the mud!). While you can't plan the weather (we wish!), you can have the contingencies in place to ensure that your venue can cope with the poorest of conditions for your stage. Our mantra is "plan for the worst, hope for the best!"
Time is another essential factor. You may have tight turnarounds on the venue you've hired. In which case you may prefer to go for a mobile stage which we can put up in a few hours. By contrast, we need a couple of days for our largest festival stages, and possibly longer in poor weather. If that doesn't fit with your time budgets, you may need to rethink your stage hire choices.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Stage?
Before getting into any specific figures, the main factors that affect stage hire price are the duration of the hire, transport to and from the site, and what extras (such as sound and lighting equipment) you decide to add to your package. Of course, the primary determining factor is related to the size of the stage. The bigger the stage, the more expensive it's likely to be to hire.
Here at Outdoor Stages, we have two systems. We have a range of packages that include everything you need bar set up and delivery costs (as they are venue dependent). Alternatively, we can create a complete bespoke/custom quote for you if you need an all-encompassing range of equipment hire and event services or they don't quite fit within our packages.
If you want to put some ballpark figures on outdoor stage hire, our smallest stage hire package starts at £850 which includes a 6m x 4m mobile stage, PA speakers, microphones, mixing desk, and LED stage washes. By contrast, hiring our 11m x 9m arc-roofed stage, which comes with a complete suite of audio visual (AV) equipment and on-site technicians to operate everything on the day (suitable for 10,000+ attendees), starts at £8,000.
Every outdoor event is different, and it may well be the case that your event doesn't neatly fit into one of these packages. That's fine. We can create bespoke quotes made up of any combination of stage, equipment, and event services support. We're flexible to your needs.
Health and Safety
If you're experienced within the event industry, then you'll already know that festivals and large outdoor events are subject to a raft of health and safety regulations. Broadly speaking, these can be divided into two categories: licensing requirements mandated by your local authority and HSE regulations. Let's tackle local authority licensing requirements first.
Local Authority Event Licenses
When organising any king of public event, you will need to obtain the relevant licences from your local authority. For the purposes of events requiring stage hire, you will likely need to obtain licences for the following:
- Serving alcohol
- Serving food at your event
- Broadcasting live music to an audience of over 500 people
For smaller events, it may be necessary only to issue a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) to your local council and police. These apply to events with a maximum capacity of 500 people, a figure which includes all staff and performers.
However, for larger events, the licensing process is much more involved. You will need to liaise with your local authority's Safety Advisory Group (SAG) to be granted a TEN. You will need to present proof of the following:
- Public Liability Insurance
- A Health and Safety Risk Assessment and Event Safety Plan
- Written permissions for any road closures or potential traffic disruption
- A Management Control Document demonstrating how you intend to regulate noise pollution and food hygiene
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Regulations
With the local authority taken care of, you'll need to turn your attention to industry regulations set by the HSE. To satisfy the HSE, your event safety plan will have to show health and safety provision during the following key stages of your event:
- During event construction
- While the event is in progress
- During deconstruction
- During potential incidents and emergencies (including extreme weather)
As an event organiser, in the eyes of the HSE, you have a duty of care or three groups of people:
- Your employees
- Contractors, performers, and third parties (including on-site vendors)
- Your audience and any other members of the public.
Creating a Safety Plan
Outdoor events require a safety plan specific to that event. Once you've performed your risk assessments under HSE regulations, and you've set out responsibilities of each party involved in the production of the event under the Construction, Design and Management Regulations of 2015, it's time to create your safety plan.
This isn't as intimidating as it sounds. It's merely a plan that lays down the health and safety safeguards for all the groups of people involved in your event and indicates how the responsible persons (or organisations) are going to implement them. If you feel like you don't have enough knowledge of health and safety procedures, you can always lean on us for help. We can also point you in the direction of reputable health and safety consultants for your concerns concerning the event as a whole.
Working with Contractors
For largescale events, even the most prominent events businesses can't handle everything in-house. Therefore, it's likely that you're going to find yourself engaging a contractor for all manner of services. From Portaloo suppliers to security and marketing companies, you're going to have to choose several outfits to help you successfully deliver the event.
When it comes to stages, you'll be evaluating contractors to handle the stage hire, sound, lighting, logistics, and technical event services. But how can you differentiate between good contractors and bad?
You can make an excellent start by asking the right questions. It would be best if you asked your contractor of choice to demonstrate their industry knowledge as well as their commitment to health and safety. You can then move on to requesting evidence of a trained and capable workforce, sufficient resources for the project, and previous successful stage hire projects.
Of course, constructing and disassembling a largescale stage is a complex undertaking. Thus if you are hiring a festival stage, you need to assess contractors on their ability to provide the following:
- Calculations and drawings concerning the structure being provided
- A Risk Assessment and Method Statement for the work
- A wind management plan
- Safety rules and guidance about the structure being provided and how they will be monitored
- Suitable liability insurances
- Qualifications relating to any plant or machinery being used
- A suitable completion / signed document for the structure before it is used
Fortunately for you, that's just the bare minimum of what we provide when it comes to our professional stage hire services. But in case you're still on the fence, let's conclude this guide by explaining why you should work with Outdoor Stages.
Why Work with Outdoor Stages?
Here at Outdoor Stages, we provide a range of cost-effective stage hire solutions for any size of event, along with all the supporting technical event services you might need. We don't just have a vast selection of covered stages to choose from, but we also have one of the most extensive sound, lighting, and associated event production equipment inventories in the UK.
While we are happy to provide only our stages to your event, we would argue our industry-leading, turn-key event packages offer much better value for money.
We are unusual among stage hire companies, in that we own and operate everything in-house. We do not subcontract equipment or personnel. We employ a full-time team of stage builders, lighting technicians, sound engineers, and project management specialists to implement and oversee every project. What that means for you is that you can safely hand over your entire stage operation to us, allowing you to focus on other crucial aspects of your event.
We have unparalleled knowledge of health and safety, and we always go the extra mile in providing unlimited free advice and support through each stage of the planning process. By choosing Outdoor Stages, you're teaming up with a knowledgeable events partner with a keen eye for detail.
If you have any questions regarding stage hire after reading this guide, don't hesitate to give us a call to receive some free, no-obligation advice from a member of our friendly team!