PRESS RELEASE - July 2019
The Final Event
The Events Committee has decided not to run the 1940s Event after this year, for a number of inter-connected reasons. Since 2017, we have operated under the health and safety umbrella of the Events Management Plan structure (EMP). This structure aims to safeguard all those who visit or are involved, one way or another, in the event – as volunteers, entertainers, stallholders etc – and to inform and protect those who organise the event. However, in the long term the extensive implications were always likely to make it very difficult to sustain an event of the scale that has grown from a small village concern over 12 years. In a sense, we have become victims of our own success.
This assessment has led to a strategy of spreading our activities over the last two years – as explained elsewhere in the Newsletter. Essentially, our decision is based on the view that our efforts are best based on village-focussed events which are much more easily managed, much less time-consuming, which do not involve extensive expense, nor risks based on the vulnerable legal position of committee members or on the unpredictability of the weather.
This decision has been carefully thought-through by the committee and I have already explained the decision and reasons to groups most affected by the decision. I’ll explain the reasons as briefly as I can.
From a personal perspective, 2019 is the third event for which I will have been ‘Lead Organiser’. In September 2016 – new to the village that June – I took over the chairmanship of the 1940s Event in a context where it was going to fold otherwise. I committed to the role for three events to give a level of stability. I can’t pretend that it hasn’t been extremely challenging but I don’t begrudge a moment because it’s been a pretty amazing team achievement. Nevertheless, three years is a good stint in a role which is pretty demanding in time and energy and which requires having an overview of the whole event, ‘signing-off’ on all our EMP details and ensuring that these are actually implemented in practice. The context makes it very difficult for anyone else to pick up this responsibility.
I think some much wider factors must also be taken into account. The EMP structure and the widespread implications for organising the 1940s event has been a massive game-changer – clearly indicating that once was a village event, is now a significant public event, with a flood of consequences. The gist of the matter is that the EMP provides a comprehensive account of our duties – legal and moral – to take ‘reasonable’ care to safeguard all those involved in the 1940s Event – in numerous capacities.
The obligations are very substantial indeed – policies, practices, procedures, record-keeping, a considerable burden of administration – the stall-holder admin alone is enormous - collection of documentation, licensing, insurance policies, risk-assessments, first aid requirements, communication and emergency protocol, codes of conduct, the organisation and management of large numbers of volunteers, set-up and take-down organisation etc etc. A major task – as all public events find - is traffic management and we will have even more extensive preparations this year. The EMP is 25 A4 pages and Appendices amount to around 100 more. Planning has
become a year-round process. Essentially, we are running, successfully, an extensive public event through a small voluntary group - to the great credit of the committee and volunteers – but it has to be asked whether it is sensible, or possible, to sustain this level of organization and commitment – especially given other factors, and risks.
Another implication of the EMP is the rising cost of putting on the event. In order to safeguard participants, we need to spend more. The classic case here is traffic management. We have to plan to cope with large numbers, especially with the ‘pull’ of fly-pasts and the general reputation of the event. Last year, we had two carparks full for a period on the Monday. We have to have a plan for dealing with potential saturation – which effectively means using the football field with professional traffic stewards. This is vital for safety reasons – so Traffic Control alone is likely to cost us at least £1200 this year and the event overall will cost near to £4,500.
With our planning and budgeting – and a sponsorship arrangement in place – we are still on course to make our aspiration of £2,000 plus for the Community Fund – but we are needing to run harder and harder to do this. The event is now much more vulnerable if weather conditions are unfavourable – the peril of every outdoor event. If the 1940s Event had been the weekend after the heavy June rain, the green-field carparking in the cricket field and school would not have been useable and the event would have been cancelled. We can insure against complete cancellation – which we did last year and will do again – but this does not apply to bad weather which partially affects the event – for example, one wet day or part of. And of course, nothing can compensate for the investment of time which has gone into the planning etc.
The legal position of committee members gives cause for concern. As committee members we are potentially individually legally liable for activities of the group – mainly potential civil liability if failure to take reasonable care can be shown. In our case these risks are minimised by exhaustive organisational planning, appropriate insurance and efficient management of our main event by the committee. Nevertheless, organising a public event on the scale we can now anticipate has inherent risks and collectively and individually the committee, are literally ‘responsible’ for a public event of considerable size. This is something that has weighed heavily in our considerations.
Finally, by forward planning, we have given ourselves options by widening the scope of our activities – designed to ensure that if, and when, the 1940s Event was not to take place, the community would have a range of events already up and running.
We are very conscious that there will be downsides to the loss of the Event. It is a wonderful spectacle, brings a good deal of kudos to the village and will be much missed by the re-enactor and heritage fraternity. Unfortunately, things don’t ‘just happen’ and the big positive is that we have succeeded in organizing the Event for three years beyond 2016 and that this enabled us to establish a whole series of other, sustainable and manageable activities.
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