No marquee hire advice this week

There’s no marquee hire advice this week other than to make sure you get to the show on Wednesday or Thursday.

We’re going down to set up tomorrow and with several hundred people happy to pass on their advice (our products are the best etc) I figured you’d be fine without this week.

We’ll be showing our new 9m x 12m marquees for sale (less than half the price of aluminium). We’re really very proud of them, come and have a look and see what you think.

We’ll be displaying our new gable end system we’ll be putting in to production for next summer as well as some new blackout linings with attachments to create your own DIY starlight lining.

Thanks for reading, look forward to seeing you at the show (hopefully with my back intact this year)


For those who aren’t aware we launched a forum for the marquee industry last week. It seems to be going very well with some very interesting ideas and healthy debates. A word of warning – I will unashamedly be using this for topics to discuss on here occasionally, if I see something I think would be useful to our customers then I’ll write about it on here.

We had an unusual thing recently, someone came in and bought a pagoda marquee (not that unusual), he then asked what time we were open on Monday to return it. He thought he was just hiring it! I felt bad. Obviously I offered him his money back if he didn’t want it (he actually seemed quite happy to be fair) but I also felt bad I’ve pinched a potential customer from a poor hirer out there. Still, our prices must be pretty reasonable for that to happen in the first place 🙂

Look at that, 9 days to go and I nearly managed to get to the end without mentioning The Showman’s Show next week! We’re still working on the samples so I can’t confirm what we’ll have there yet. Things that we won’t be showing but we are supplying next year are full height partitions so you can split a marquee internally (ideal for creating catering areas etc) as well as increasing our 4m wide range to include 4x6m and 4x12m as the 4x8m & 4x10m were so popular this year we could barely hold stock of them.

As always thanks for reading, please pop along to the forum and have a read.


Budgeting, a bit like accountants. Dull but important.

It’s the end of the marquee season, your cash flow should be at a reasonable level and in a few weeks there’s The Showmans Show where all of us cunning marquee suppliers will dangle fantastic new products for you to buy ready for next season. Much as I’ll happily sell you any marquee you really need to do some planning before coming to the show.

Here’s what we used to do back in the days I was a visitor not an exhibitor:

  • Calculate our costs for the next 6 months. Includes wages, tax bills, vehicle bills etc
  • Calculate the likely income for the next 6 months (if it’s anywhere near the figure from the 1st step you’re doing very very well)
  • Work out the minimum amount of equipment we’d need for the next season – including essential repairs/renewals etc
  • Work out the equipment you’d ideally like to expand the business – things that customers have asked for or equipment that you’ve turned away business for. For example if you turned away 4 bookings for a 9x12m marquee last summer then if you can afford it it’s probably worth buying one for next year (in which case definately visit our stand, we should have something of interest for you!).

So in a nutshell we’d come to The Showmans Show knowing exactly what we wanted to look at and exactly how much we had to spend. I strongly recommend you doing the same otherwise you’ll get crafty salesmen (stand 269 ave E) convincing you to buy enough marquees to cover Wembley football pitch! We’re one of the few companies that could do that from stock too..

Thanks for reading


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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