Construction Plant News Editor, Lee Jones reports on how one hirer is changing the way that machinery is managed and delivered at outdoor events.
The festival season is as much a fixture of the great British summer as news flashes on ‘the hottest day since records began’ or two fine days and a thunderstorm.
From the vast tent cities of the showpiece celebrations of music to the myriad niche examples up and down the land these events are big business, and their appeal shows no sign of diminishing.
In fact, it is estimated that some 14 million UK adults attended a festival last year alone, spending around £2.3bn in the process, and in order to supply these heaving masses with the beer and booming sounds they demand an entire armada of cranes, telehandlers, lighting towers and gen sets are as essential a feature as two feet of mud is to Glastonbury.
That makes events a particularly lucrative side-line for plant hirers like Hewden, a company that has seen that side of its business more than double in the last year.
Like puppet masters hidden from public view, in the days before the gates are thrown open to the revellers it is the machinery that takes centre stage.
It would, however, be fair to say that the way that the equipment has been delivered has failed to keep pace with the growth of the sector itself.
That was until Hewden came up with a concept that is so remarkably simple it is surprising that nobody hasn’t thought of it before.
“We’re calling it a pop-up depot,” explains Hewden Events Sales Director, Jeff Schofield as he provides us with a guided tour of the Carfest North venue in the grounds of Cheshire’s Bolesworth Castle.
“When we first had the conversation with the organisers of this festival we pitched the idea of having a physical presence on site for the nine days of the set up, and it’s worked far better than we could have imagined,” he enthuses.
“We have 12 telehandlers at CarFest North, for instance, all of which have been carrying out general lifting and materials handling duties for the organisers, but we can also hire out the machinery to any of the exhibitors and retailers who have need of it on a two or four hour rate.
“The same applies to the skid steer we have on hand and, because we effectively have our own depot here, we can maintain a stock of things like generators and lighting rigs as well.
“We’ve also got two drivers who’ve been bedding down in a cabin on the site who can operate the machinery, which means we can offer the telehandlers or skid steers as operated plant.
“The guys are fully accredited electrical and mechanical engineers so if there’s any problems they’ll fix it. Festivals have very tight deadlines and you just can’t afford to have downtime so that’s something that’s really important.”
“In addition, a cabin fully stocked with tools and sundries has proved popular. With festivals and events the entry point for us is often non-mechanical plant, like fence panels and ground mats – we’ve got over 9,000 fence panels at Latitude this weekend for instance – and then what we supply grows and evolves from there.
“It also makes sense for the organisers because they can deal with one supplier for a huge range of products. At CarFest, we’ve got everything from a 70 tonne Tadano mobile crane here, to 42 lighting rigs and hundreds of crowd barriers.”
One machine that is much in evidence is the FireFly hybrid generator, the rental arm of which Hewden acquired earlier this year. “Firefly has been a game-changer for us in terms of events,” declares Jeff.
“In taking on the company’s hire business we’ve added a range of equipment that includes generators, hybrid units, solar panels, distribution units, cables and lighting solutions.
“That means we can offer the most sustainable solutions into a market that often demands nothing less, and it provides a perfect synergy with our festival business.”
As far as Hewden’s pop up depots are concerned the show will definitely go on because, following a successful introduction at Carfest, the hirer is planning three in 2016, expanding to ten next year. The company believes that it is a solution that could service a huge range of major outdoor events with their plant and machinery needs,
Hewden Crane Takes World’s Biggest Selfie
Hewden’s pop up depot wasn’t the only ground-breaking feature of CarFest North when it came to plant and machinery.
Utilising its 70-tonne Tadano crane, the hirer also teamed up with the Cheshire festival-goers to capture what is believed to be the world’s biggest selfie.
A remote controlled GoPro camera was mounted to the tip of its 68m tall crane mast for the selfie, capturing hundreds of people in the process.
“CarFest is a fantastic family event, which helps raise money for Children In Need,” said Jeff Schofield. “This was a great way for us to get involved and use our equipment in a fun and engaging way. The picture was amazing. I’m just glad nobody blinked.”
Combining a love of cars and music, Carfest North sees exhibitions and demonstrations from the likes of Jaguar, Tesla and BMW, whilst the likes of Bryan Adams headline on the main stage.
Carfest North is held at Bolesworth Castle in Cheshire and its southern counterpart descends on Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire every August.
Founded by Chris Evans the event is also designed to raise money for Children in Need, and as of July 2015 had contributed £3 ½ million to that worthy cause.
For further information visit www.carfest.org