Open Spaces

Outdoor events help promote community growth

If you are planning a community arts or cultural event, an outdoor event, your area may have a diverse range of green and open spaces to host it. These might include city and neighbourhood parks, commons and open spaces, recreation grounds, village greens and sports pitches. Events on open spaces come in all different shapes and sizes, for example you might plan to organise a concert on a bandstand, a small theatre production, an Olympic inspired sports day, a special or civic occasion or perhaps you are planning a large scale event such as a music or performing arts festival.

Outdoor events allow an opportunity for your community to take part in a rich variety of art, music and entertainment events throughout the year. Involving people from the community in the planning and decision making can improve local attendance figures, generate more ideas and create a greater sense of community ownership of the event (see our Who to Involve section for further information).

When Do You Need To Obtain Permission?

Whether your event is large or small public open space, permission needs to be sought if you intend to use e.g. sound equipment or structures such as tables, gazebos/marquees (also known as ‘infrastructure’). Gaining permission will help ensure that your event meets various statutory control measures including health and safety, crowd control, licensing and insurance.

If, however you simply want to have a neighbours picnic in the local park with no infrasturcture you may not need to get any formal permission from your local council, particularly if it is a small gathering and you do not have a BBQ or any music playing.

If you do need to apply for permission, it is important to have a clear purpose for your outdoor event and what you are aiming to achieve from it. Key factors would include who your target audience is and how many people you are hoping will attend your event – is it just for local residents or are you publicising to a wider audience? Knowing this will help to plan what welfare arrangements or facilities are needed such as toilets, first aid, lost children, baby changing, lost property and refreshments etc.

Some local authorities operate a hire system that requires a fee for the use of the park or open space. This may vary depending on e.g. whether the event has charitable aims, if it is commercial in nature or if it is a public or private function. There may also be additional associated charges, for example if pitches need marking for sports activities or if your event has a licensable activity (ie music or sale of alcohol).

Things to consider

Depending on the scale and type of event you are organising, a pre-event checklist might include some or all of the following:

Have you considered the reaction from local residents in response to potential noise or reduced parking spaces etc?
How would you respond if you did receive complaints?
What is the maximum number of people that your event can safely hold?
If your event is not ticketed, would attendance be unexpectedly boosted by good weather or another reason?
Have you considered specific arrangements so that disabled people can safely enjoy the event?
Do you have a contingency plan for extreme weather conditions, transport problems or other issues that might affect the event at short notice – would you cancel or postpone the event and if so, how will you let people know?
Does your event require temporary structures such as staging, tents, marquees, gazebos, barriers or stalls?
Do you need public liability insurance?
What is the timing of the event, does it clash with another event?
Have you made emergency arrangements, such as first aid and informing the police of your event?
If providing food, does your caterer have a food hygiene certificate and are they registered with your local authority?
If your event will use stewards or marshalls, are they sufficiently trained and can they be easily communicated with on the day of the event?
Have you arranged for litter to be removed and collected?
If you are involving performers, do they have their own insurance cover and risk assessments?
Does the event involve power and electricity?
Have you appointed someone to act as a Health & Safety coordinator?
Is crowd control a concern and do you need to think about positioning barriers or using a public address system?
If you are selling alcohol, have you applied for a licence?
Do you need a premises licence or a temporary events notice (see our ‘Do you Need a Licence’ section for further information)?

Some local authorities have arts development and events officers who are happy to give advice to local groups and organisations in developing outdoor arts events. They can often help with giving advice on applying for funding, recruiting artists or performers or general information on how to plan your event. Peterborough City Council have produced a very useful guide to planning and organising safe outdoor events that includes an event checklist which can be downloaded here

Idea: For useful tips on how to make your event in an open space more environmentally friendly, check out our section on Protecting the Environment.


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