The ideal thing about a camping event is that it can be whatever you want it to be - from a few families pitching their tents on the school field, to a full-blown mini festival in a local farmer's field. Entertainment can be as simple as a game of football, craft activities and a sing-along around a campfire, to a full festival line-up of live music. Ask families to bring their own food, provide a BBQ or call on the services of local catering companies. The key thing is to start off with something relatively small and see how you get on, growing it into something bigger in future years as confidence builds.
Find a suitable site and check what permissions may be required. If you're not using the school grounds, then identify an alternative site and approach the landowner, agreeing with them exactly what you will be doing. Think about the scope of your event. How many people do you expect to attend? What will you do for food? What kind of activities will you run? Do you want to put on live music? If you do host a live music event, start checking out any local acts before you book to make sure that they're suitable for all the family.
Order or acquire any equipment you need such as marquees, toilets, bins, lighting, generators, staging, PA system, etc. If your event is held in the summer, then bear in mind that this is the busiest time of year for outdoor events suppliers, so the earlier you order the better. If you're using external caterers, get quotes and start booking. If you're planning to have live music then book the bands and performers that you are interested in. Start promoting your event - posters are available from PTA Print Shop. Start pushing ticket sales.
Confirm with your local authority which licences you need - the sale of alcohol will require a Temporary Event Notice, although if your numbers exceed 500, a premises licence may be required for your site (most schools already have these, so it's worth checking). As a rule of thumb, if featuring live or recorded music (where copyright applies), your school should have PPL and PRS for Music licences (again, most already have these). You should also check environmental health requirements for caterers. Get copies of public liability cover from any external contractors. Plan any activities that you're hoping to run, making sure you have the equipment you need and enough people to run them safely. Prepare a risk assessment.
Draw up a rota of volunteers and start to fill in time slots. It's advisable to have some extra people on standby for emergencies. The sort of roles you might need to fill include: set up/take down, cooking and serving food, serving on the bar, running activities, parking stewards, gate security, first aiders, campfire stewards. Finalise your schedule and let attendees know what sort of activities and entertainment to expect.
Order catering supplies if you are doing your own cooking. If you have lots of infrastructure, like marquees and staging, then stagger the build to avoid a last-minute rush. A few people may need to camp on the site the night before the event to keep an eye on equipment. Confirm details with external suppliers, contractors, performers, etc, making sure that they know where and when they are expected. Depending on the scale of your event, you may want to inform the local police and fire service, giving them a contact number in case of any queries.
Check that the site and all equipment is safe, and that you're ready to allow people in. Remember your cash floats, and if necessary, revise your planned activities based on the weather. Have some large noticeboards detailing the schedule of activities and entertainment if appropriate.
Finding a site
Finding a safe and secure site where children can play with minimal supervision allows adults to relax. Check the site after heavy rain, as it may prove unsuitable in certain weather conditions. You will also need to consider: access to a water supply for drinking, cooking and washing; and electricity. You may be able to cook on open fires or BBQs and ask people to bring torches, but if you have catering units and a PA system, you will need some form of power; enough toilets (or portaloos) and toilet roll.
Safety and security
Choose a site where access in and out can be easily monitored. Issue all attendees with a wristband and ensure that they are worn. Anyone on site without a wristband can then be legitimately challenged. Keep cars out of your campsite if possible - have some stewards to help people park and transfer luggage to the site. Carry out a risk assessment, noting anything that lies within the site that could compromise safety. Consider how stewards will communicate with one another, and appoint first aiders.
Activities and entertainment
The following things work well: treasure hunt, obstacle course, a slippery slope (a big plastic sheet covered in water for kids to slide down), family games of rounders and football. Don't feel the need to overschedule things. The children will love roaming around and making up their own games. You might want to offer something for adults, such as pamper treatments or craft workshops.
Work on the assumption that the weather will be wet. Even if it's sunny, you will feel reassured in the knowledge that you have already arranged access to indoor facilities (such as a school hall or a farmer's barn), should the weather take a turn for the worst. You may even want to erect some marquees to provide covered communal areas and think about some wet weather games, such as bingo. Make sure people pre-pay as far in advance as possible, so that if the weather turns bad at the last minute they won't pull out - or at least if they do you already have the money.
Sell glowsticks, offer face painting and temporary tattoos, run a tuck shop and sell 'mocktails'. Most of these can be run by the children themselves with a little help. Consider negotiating a discount with a local camping shop (with some commission for you), for parents who need to buy a tent or other equipment. Find more ideas for boosting profits here.
Serving food and drinks
You may decide that it's easier for people to bring and cook their own food and drinks, or you may want to put on a grand communal feast and provide a full bar. This decision may depend on how many people you have to feed and over what time period; what cooking facilities you have available; what expertise you have; and how you are hoping to make your profits. Pre-sell an all-inclusive food package if possible.
Market your event with reluctant campers in mind, pointing our that it's just one or two nights, held somewhere close to home and you are providing a good variety of food and fun activities! For high-quality, editable posters, go to PTA Print Shop.
The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a school, based on the guidance provided.