How to hold your own festival


If you want to hold your own festival or event you’ll need to understand the licensing rules for events and how they will apply. Read on to find out what you have to do to hold your own Glastonbury!

What is an event licence?

If you want to host an event, you’ll need a licence to from the council to hold it. There are lots of different types of licences for different events so make sure you pick the correct one for your event.

Before looking into the practicalities of event licensing, it’s worthwhile taking a step back to look at the situation from the perspective of the people in charge of managing it. In the most blunt and basic of terms, permanent facilities such as pubs, nightclubs etc are generally heavily invested in their location and so need to take licensing rules and best practices seriously, since it would usually be devastating for them to lose their licence.

One-off events however can, in theory, simply go ahead without worrying too much about the repercussions of breaking the conditions of their licence. With this in mind, here are three golden rules to give you the best possible chance of obtaining the licence you need for your event.

Rule 1: Be as well-prepared as you can before you even start

Fundamentally, whether or not you get a licence depends on whether or not the relevant authorities trust you to run it properly. Therefore you want to do as much preparation as possible so as to make a favourable first impression.

At a very basic level, you need to demonstrate that you have thought about how to run your event safely and with the minimal of inconvenience to other people (mainly noise, traffic and litter). For example, having full insurance (especially employer’s and public liability) plus all relevant safety certificates and provision for appropriate personnel (first aid, security, Designated Premises Supervisor with a Personal Licence) all in place right at the start can go a long way to smoothing your path with the relevant authorities.

Rule 2: Understand exactly what your licensing requirements are

As a rule of thumb, if you are planning on selling alcohol and/or playing live and/or recorded music and/or attracting large crowds, you’re probably going to need some form of licence even if your event is purely in the daytime. Licences, however, tend to be very specific in nature. For example, if you’re hosting a festival in a field, then you’ll need to determine whether you’re going to use the whole field or just a part of it and if the latter, how attendees are going to know where the festival ends and the field begins. You wouldn’t want your festival goers running through the fields of wheat!

If you’re going to have your attendees camping in a field, then you’ll need to decide whether or not the campsite is going to form part of your licensed event venue and if not you’ll need an off-sales licence if you want to sell alcohol for attendees to take back to their tents. When looking at your licensing requirements, a good starting point is to see if your intended site has a suitable licence you can use. The key word here is suitable; check any pre-existing licence very thoroughly to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs.

Rule 3: Start your application as early as possible

Assuming you’ve already checked to see that your intended date is free, then you should aim to put in your application at least 6 months in advance of it. The earlier you start, the better. Most local authorities like to have proposed events checked out by relevant organisations (such as the police and environmental health) and these tend to be people with busy schedules. Give them plenty of time to do their jobs and make their jobs as easy as possible with good preparation.

Stuart Jessop

Stuart Jessop is an experienced barrister, specialising in Regulatory Law and in particular in the following areas; Licensing, Food Law, Planning and environmental enforcement and health and safety law. Stuart regularly advises and represents individuals, companies, local authorities and other regulatory authorities and appears in proceedings in tribunals, civil and criminal courts and the appellate courts.