For an event that offers family fun and fresh air by the bucket-load, look no further than a campover! A campover can be pretty much 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. The key 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.
- Six months before: Find a suitable site and check what permissions may be required. Ensure there will be enough parking for visitors across the duration of the event. Send out a save-the-date to parents.
- Four months before: Order any equipment you need, such as marquees, toilets, bins, lighting, generators, staging and a PA system. If you're holding your event in summer, 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 bands and performers. Push ticket sales via your usual channels, potentially offering an early bird price.
- Two months before: Confirm with your local authority which licences you need - the sale of alcohol will require a TEN, but if numbers exceed 500, a premises licence may be required. If playing music then you may need a licence from TheMusicLicence. Check whether your PTA insurance covers your event and get copies of public liability cover from any external contractors. Start planning activities, making sure you have the equipment you need and enough people to run them safely.
- One month before: Draw up a rota of volunteers and start to fill in time slots. Roles might include: set up/take down, serving food, serving on the bar, running activities, parking stewards, gate security, first aiders and campfire stewards. Finalise your schedule and let attendees know what sort of activities and entertainment to expect. Order floats from the bank. Notify local residents of the event.
- One week before: If you have marquees and staging then try to stagger the build. A few people may need to camp on the site the night before to keep an eye on equipment. Confirm details with external suppliers. Depending on the scale of your event, you may want to inform the local police and fire service, giving them a contact number.
- On the day: Check that the site and all equipment is safe. Don't forget your cash floats. Try to relax and go with the flow. Although you will have done lots of planning, be prepared for people to make their own spontaneous entertainment.
- After the event: Have a post-event debrief to discuss what worked well and what may need tweaking for next time. Thank your volunteers and ask for feedback. Give details about how much was raised and how it will be spent.
Tips and advice
- Find a site: A safe and secure site where children can play with minimal supervision allows adults to relax. Check the site after heavy rain - has it turned into a swamp? You will also need to consider: access to water for drinking, cooking and washing; electricity (you can cook on open fires or barbecues and ask people to bring torches, but if you have catering units you will need power); enough toilets (or portaloos) and loo roll.
- Safety and security: Choose a site where access in and out can be easily monitored. Issue attendees with a wristband and ensure that they are worn. Keep cars out of your campsite if possible - use stewards to help people park and transport luggage. Carry out a full risk assessment and appoint first aiders.
- Activities: The following things work well, especially for getting dads involved: treasure hunt, obstacle course, a slippery slope (a big plastic sheet covered in water for kids to slide along), campfire sing-a-long, family games of rounders, and football tournaments. Encourage some friendly competition between families with some team events. What about a den-building challenge?
- Wet weather: Work on the assumption that the weather will be wet. This may involve arranging access to indoor facilities such as the school hall or a farmer's barn. Erect some marquees to use as covered communal areas and think about wet weather games such as bingo. Make sure people pay in advance so that if the weather turns bad at the last minute they won't pull out. Find out how to make a wet weather contingency plan.
- Boost profits: Offer face painting and temporary tattoos, run a tuck shop and sell 'mocktails'. Ask a local camping shop for a discount (with some commission for you), for parents who need to buy equipment.
- Food: 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 communal feast and provide a full bar. Also consider calling in local catering companies. This decision will depend on how many people you have to feed and over what time period, and what cooking facilities you have available. Pre-sell an all-inclusive food package if possible. Don't forget the morning after - will you serve breakfast?
- Publicity: Promote your event with reluctant campers in mind, pointing out 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 all ages.
Campover success stories
'The Big Brill Camp started in 2012 and we have now run three very successful events. In fact, last year we had 650 campers (including 350 children) and raised £6,300! The original idea was for a low-key affair with families camping in a beautiful location, with games for the children, some communal food and a few local musicians. The proposal was met with such enthusiasm that it soon evolved into a mini festival! I identified a site that I thought would be perfect and was lucky that the landowner was open to the idea. I drew up a document that, though not a legal contract as such, acted as a statement of intent in terms of what we were planning and how the event would be operated. We worked closely with the landowner to agree how things would run and compromised where necessary. With around 700 people to feed from Friday night to Sunday morning, we brought in external caterers such as wood-fired pizza and fish and chip vans. Luckily a number of our parents are in the catering industry so we took advantage of their expertise and certifications to provide most of the food ourselves, and hence made the most of our profits. We pre-sold an all-inclusive ticket which included all meals (£90 for a family of two adults and up to five children; £45 for a single adult and up to five children). This ensured that we had money in advance and reduced the amount of cash on site, as well as enabling us to minimise food waste. As an added touch, we decided to involve as many people as possible in a community-based art project. We had workshops before the event where children made dream-catchers and we built a huge tree on which they were displayed during the event itself. Gates opened at 3pm on the Friday and the fun went on until Sunday morning when people had a leisurely breakfast before packing up. We had lots of activities, including a crafts tent, have-a-go archery, dance classes and two therapists offering beauty treatments. We also had 16 bands performing over the weekend. A dedicated team spent several months planning the event, and we had more volunteers to help over the weekend itself. The event has already become so well established that it even has its own dedicated website: bigbrillcamp.com!'
Michael Swan, PTA event organiser, Brill CofE Combined School, Bucks (172 pupils)
'Our campover is a long-standing event. It usually falls on a weekend at the end of June or beginning of July. Booking forms are emailed to the whole school and promoted on our Facebook page at the beginning of May. We charge £20 per pitch, limited to 50 pitches. We sell afternoon tickets to those who don't want to camp for £5 per family.
The school field opens at 2pm on the Saturday for campers to pitch their tents, then it's a case of relaxing, socialising and letting the children enjoy themselves. We keep a large space free in the middle of the field for the children to play in, and we have the swimming pool open (lifeguard and weather dependent).
Food is the main profit booster, with burgers for £2.50 and sausages for £2.00 available on Saturday evening and bacon/sausage rolls for £2.00 on Sunday morning. Campers order and pay for food in advance when booking the pitch so we know numbers for pre-ordering and have less money to deal with on the day. People can also buy food at the event. We have beer on tap, which always makes a good profit, and we also sell light-up toys and glow-in-the-dark bracelets. We hire portaloos so that we can lock up the school overnight. Last year's profit was £1,941.86.
I thoroughly enjoy running this event as I love camping, and for some families this is their first foray into the camping experience. It's hard work, but is so rewarding when you see families having such a good time and get such lovely feedback afterwards. If you're thinking about running a campover my advice would be to go for it. You'll be giving families a wonderful experience and raising funds - it's a win-win!'
Lucy Steel, PTA volunteer, St Edmund Campion Catholic Primary School, Maidenhead, Berkshire (423 pupils)
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 PTA, based on the guidance provided.