Free Stuff!

Ok, so I may once or twice have mentioned the fact the showmans show’s on next month. We’re working hard on making sure there’s some new things of interest to you but some are going to be cutting it pretty fine -I’ll try and put them on here in good time before the show if I can.

I’d also like to reward you kind people who read my ramblings every week. I get a fair bit of email feedback but next month is often the only time I meet people in public, so I thought I should offer a free gift to anyone who mentions they read this blog.

I’m offering a 4 pack of pole straps. What are pole straps? I asked Jim from CCMarquees to review them for me just to make sure I wasn’t giving away something useless:

I have just packed away a 6m by 12 m marquee supplied by DIY Marquees and used adjustable tie straps to bind the poles together for storage. By locking the poles together with these strong but easy to use straps, the poles are not going to roll around when stored and are easier to carry. Thanks for introducing me to the product and I would recommend these straps as a great way to store and transport marquee poles. Regards Jim Costello Cc Marquees

So visit our stand (middle of Avenue E probably), mention the blog to get some useful free stuff (limited stock available blah blah)

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Update: We’re on Avenue E, stand number 269.

A tip for site visits

If you go out on site visits then it helps if you’re a good salesman as obviously that’s where most of your business comes from.
It’s often said that my Dad could sell snow to Eskimos. My brother (who’s successfully avoided joining the family business so far) similarly has ‘the gift of the gab’. I, do not. My tactic when meeting people was simply to be as helpful and honest as possible and just hope for the best. Luckily it worked pretty well 🙂 If you’re not a great salesman then I suggest you follow my example.

There was however one little trick that I learnt:

If you’re hiring out a marquee on it’s own then chances are you’ve got linings or other accessories sat there doing nothing for that weekend which is not ideal. When discussing extras for a marquee with a customer who was hesitant about spending the extra money I’d always say “Everything is itemised so I’ll put it on the quote and you just cross it off if you don’t want it”. I swear 4 out of 5 quotes that came back with deposits had nothing crossed out, it works very well.

Similarly if there’s something that a customer wants a price for that you’re reluctant to hire to them (something you’d have to cross-hire from another company for example) then list it separately at the bottom of the quote almost as an afterthought. It makes it far less likely customers will go for it.

I hope this helps, there are lots of other small bits that I picked up over the years that I’ll have to post up here sometime.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Do I need a licence for my marquee wedding or event?

A few follow up points from last week:
1. Fields are often uneven, if the marquee is booked a long time in advance then recommend the customer has the area rolled before the summer.
2. Apparently the laws on weddings are slackening so you can be granted temporary wedding licences in buildings (you still have to have 4 solid walls)

I came across this interesting article from Chris at Cascade Events who has kindly permitted me to reproduce it in full here:

“Do I need a licence for my marquee wedding or event?

This is one of the most common questions we get asked by our marquee hire clients and it’s not surprising really as a lot of the information available on the internet is contradictory and confusing and none of us want our perfect day to be ruined by a council official telling us it cannot go ahead because of a lack of an event licence.

The short answer to whether you need a licence for your marquee wedding or event is: maybe!

The exact answer depends on a lot of factors which are explained below but don’t panic! If it does turn out that your wedding or event requires licensing then a wonderful piece of legislation called the Licensing Act 2003 which allows for Temporary Event Notices.

Events only need licensing if “licensable activities” are taking place, these include:

  1. the performance of a play (this means any piece where a dramatic role is acted out);
  2. an exhibition of a film (this means any display of moving pictures);
  3. an indoor sporting event;
  4. boxing or wrestling entertainment;
  5. a performance of live music;
  6. any playing of recorded music;
  7. a performance of dance;
  8. or entertainment of a similar description to live music, recorded music or dance.
  9. the sale of alcohol (either at a cash bar or as part of a ticket price)

Numbers 5 and 6 mean that included in most weddings and parties there will be a licensable activity. However for a licence to be required for activities 1 to 8 they must take place “for a consideration or with a view to a profit” which means that a band performing at a wedding where the guests have not been charged an admission fee (!) would not require the event to have a licence whereas a charity concert where donations are sought from the audience would need to be licenced.

Number 9 only covers the sale of alcohol. You are allowed to give away as much drink as you like to your guests as long as you do not charge them for it.

So, what if it turns out that under the criteria above you do need to get a licence? If you need the licence because Cascade are running a pay bar for you then we will look after all of those arrangements and you do not need to worry. If you are running the bar yourself we are still able to organise the licence for a very reasonable fee.

If you would like to do it yourself then it is not too difficult at all:

  1. Make sure you do it in time. You must submit your notice at least ten working days before the event date. We would suggest doing it more like 20.
  2. Go to the website of your local borough / district council (see below)
  3. Locate the Temporary Event Notice application form
  4. Complete the form (fairly straight forward)
  5. Submit to your local authority along with the fee of £21
  6. Await their confirmation of receipt (they normally send you back a stamped copy of the form)
  7. Have the event and have fun!

To assist you here are some links to local authority TEN application forms:

Wokingham Borough Council Temporary Event Notice
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Temporary Event Notice
Reading Borough Council do not have one on their website so we suggest using the generic TEN Application form here.”

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee forums

At The showmans show in 2008 I was approached about a new marquee forum that was going to help out everyone in the industry. I thought it was a good idea but sadly didn’t get off the ground. Lisa from County Marquees kindly pointed me in the direction of the office section on the blue room forum where a few people have posted about marquee hire and the admins have said if there’s enough interest then they’ll make a ‘marquee’ section.  If that doesn’t work then maybe we’ll just have to set up our own one.

I stumbled across this post on yahoo answers and wish I’d got there sooner to offer my own answer (basically they’re asking it is possible to hold a marquee wedding in a field).  In my eyes the question is perfectly reasonable and one you come up against regularly, it just demonstrates that your job is not simply to hire out and put up marquees but to reassure people that it’s possible and can be done successfully.  Some of the answers are also quite interesting so I’ll run through them here.

Answer 1: a different event was ruined by poor heating and a muddy field all down to the weather. Except it wasn’t the weathers fault, it was the hirers. There was insufficient heating (several small heaters are better than one large one) and ideally (certainly in a field) you should run a small path of matting or carpet across to the toilets and also as an entrance path. This avoids getting muddy and ladies losing high heels. As long as any long grass is cut short well in advance of the event and it’s relatively level then fields make excellent venues for marquees.

Answer 2: It’s more expensive than a regular venue. Possibly true, possibly untrue. There are always cheap ways of doing things -instead of caterers get a cold buffet from Waitrose or get a local take away to do the food for example.

Answer 3: Tents can be very expensive. They can also be very reasonable.

Answer 4: You don’t get married in a marquee, you get married in a church/registry office and hold the reception in a marquee. We did several marquees where the couple were married in a quiet registry service the day before but then held a blessing with all of their guests in one marquee before coming across to another marquee for the reception. Guests think the couple are getting married there but they’re not actually.

Answer 5: DIY Marquees aren’t expensive :). You only need a licence for a bar if it’s selling alcohol, if it’s free then you don’t need one.  A field generally has plenty of space for parking (lighting the parking area is an often forgotten item). Marquee hirers have public liability insurance as standard, we can give details of bespoke insurers if required but exactly what part of the property is going to get damaged? It’s a field.

What this person really needed was for someone to go on there and say yes this is a good idea and happens all the time. What you need is a few smaller marquees connected together to create a courtyard (a field is a large place, you want to keep everyone together in one area). Put some outside seating in the courtyard (or hay bails for that country feel) with a spitroast in one corner. It’s informal, you remove all the marquee walls facing the courtyard so people drift in and out of them. It won’t cost a fortune and you can do all of the decorating yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Showmans show 2010 & more on guttering

After my article a few weeks ago on how to gutter a marquee it was pointed out that I’d left an important part out – remember to pull any slack material of the gutter out away from the marquee as far as possible. If you just leave the extra material in a heap on the floor then the water won’t be taken far from the marquee and more importantly you’re probably kinking up the end of the gutter in the marquee.

For anyone unaware The Showmans Show is a must-visit for any marquee hire business. Every supplier to the trade has a stand there, it’s where you meet all of the required contacts/suppliers as well as keeping in touch with any new products that are coming on to the market.

The show is at Newbury Showground on 20th & 21st October

We’re going to have some new ideas and products available, we’re working on them now so I won’t mention them just in case they don’t get through testing in time!

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Back to work

Apologies for the late blog, I’m now back at work and can confirm once again that looking after children is far harder and more tiring than putting up marquees ever was.

This is all about passing on advice so you don’t make the same mistakes I did and one of my (many) mistakes was lifting. As someone who puts up marquees I assume you’re well aware of the need to bend your knees not your back and to avoid twisting when carrying a heavy load. What you may not have thought of is which shoulder you always carry stuff on, invariably you will favour one.

In my many consultations with back specialists and physios after my injury it became apparent that the muscles were completely out of balance and were making dealing with the injury very difficult. This was purely from carrying everything on my right shoulder.

So short and simple message today – if you want to avoid joining me in my pilates class every week (think James Nesbitts Yellow Pages ad on Yoga) then look after your back and share the load over both your shoulders.

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

PS 4m wide marquees are now back in stock

Marquee swags and holiday

I mainly use this blog to pass on advice or tips that I’d have liked to have known when I was starting up a marquee hire business. I sometimes use it to announce new products as i. they’ll be designed with hirers in mind and ii. I need to make a living! Very occasionally I’ll use it to make announcements.

This is one of the latter.

Marquee swags: We make roof linings in large batches, when people order a marquee swag upgrade we then take a made roof and add the velcro so the new swags can be attached (or left off to still use as a pelmet finish).

We’ve had several instances where people have ordered roof linings and assume that we remember/look up the fact that they need velcro on for their previously purchased swags.  Please don’t do this, always always specify you require velcro when ordering new roof linings -we offer it free but we don’t offer it as standard.

I’m away next week (there’s a barrel of cote de rhone red with my name on) but the factory’s still open (some might say running more efficiently in my absence) if you want to order anything.

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

New Marquee Hire Websites and stock photos

When you first start up a marquee hire business something you always struggle with is photographs for your website. Obviously we supply a few to get you started but really you want a wide selection showing a variety of marquees and effects for customers to see but until you’ve done a marquee like that you haven’t got any photos of it.

One solution is to buy some ‘stock photos’ (I can’t recommend one particular site so just google it to see what I mean).

If you’ve been in business for a while and suddenly a new business pops up who look as if they’ve already done wedding marquees similar to the Beckhams then this is probably the answer, they just bought some stock photos.

Saying this, you do have to be a little careful here.

  • The photos look good. That’s why you bought them after all but..
  • Chances are the photos aren’t of your style of marquee. What if someone comes along as says – I want one of those!

You also have to be careful of misleading customers (even Burger King are at it). My personal view is by all means use them but be very very selective on the photos you buy. Choose ones that show people having a good time at a wedding/party for example rather than one that shows an unknown marquee in detail.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Theatre style seating in a marquee

As my wife frequently tells me I often repeat myself. This is true in blogging as well as general conversation (when limited to football and marquees there’s only so many things I can talk about). So if I repeat myself on here there’s a fair chance I’m being forgetful though sometimes it is intentional – some subjects are more important/essential when starting a marquee hire business than others so need mentioning again for more recent followers.

Theatre style seating is something you come up against now and again, often people have the legal wedding in a registry office the day before and then have a celebratory ceremony in a marquee on the day. But they’ll be looking to you as the marquee supplier to advise what space they need. Here’s what we used to allow:

For every chair (without arms): 0.5m wide x 1m deep. Most chairs (bistro, gilts etc) are 40-50cm square, you then leave a further 50cm at the front to allow for leg room.

For aisles: allow a path 2m wide (conveniently the same width as our red marquee carpet if you want to make a nice feature of it).

Here’s an example layout:

Theatre style seating in a marqueeSo of the 6x12m area you’ve got 12 seats on one side of the aisle (taking up 6m) and 8 seats on the other side (taking up 4m) leaving a 2m aisle down the middle – it’s off centre otherwise you’d have a leg at the end of the aisle on the way in/out!

This layout works better in landscape rather than portrait. If you imagine trying to have the same marquee with an aisle going the other way through the marquee it would only leave 2m (4 seats) on either side. 9m wide marquees work a little better that way round as you can fit 7 seats either side of the 2m aisle.

This may not be useful to you right now but keep the dimensions and ideas handy as you will be asked for this at some point through your marquee hire career!

Thanks for reading

Spencer

How to gutter marquees

At the risk of educating my competitors I’ve heard several people recently describe how they (incorrectly in my view) put up gutters so thought it was a good thing to cover on here.

Several people tell me it’s easier to hang guttering using bungees rather than cable ties. Easier it may be, better it is not.

Even if you’ve got a good fall on it water is still going to weigh down a gutter, this pulls down the bungees in the middle meaning that middle section of the gutter holds water. When it holds water the bungees get pulled down even more, this continues until water overflows the top of the guttering. That is not a good thing.

Second point: You want to avoid getting kinks in a gutter, if you’ve got a kink in it water will get held up and sit in the bottom.  If you’ve got a 6inch high gutter with 2″ of water sat in the bottom then suddenly you’ve effectively got a 4″ deep gutter. Less than ideal.

The secret with hanging a marquee gutter (wake up competitors, this is the bit you’ll want to copy/steal) is to pull it out taught as you go along:

  1. Lay the gutter out between the marquees with an equal length overhanging each end
  2. Start in the middle of one marquee and cable tie tightly in place. Work your way out to either pulling the gutter taught and cable tying in place (leave the cable ties slightly looser towards each end to create a fall on the gutter)
  3. At this stage you should have a gutter hanging down from one marquee.
  4. Repeat stage 2 in the second marquee ensuring no kinks form as you go along.

Guttering is very easy to do, once you’ve done it a couple of times it will become second nature.

Remember good guttering is also part of planning – always avoid ‘T’ shape guttering as it never works. Better to have three marquees side by side than attempt two side by side with one across the end.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer.