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Few areas of the event industry have experienced as much change over the past few years as marquees. So much so that even the term ‘marquee’ seems out-of-date – nowadays there is a bewildering array of temporary structures to choose from.
First things first. In essence, there are two different types of marquee: ‘Traditional’ and ‘Frame’. In a traditional marquee, the fabric is part of the structure; in a frame marquee (stop us if you’ve guessed already), the frame takes the strain and there are no guy ropes to waste space and trip guests over.
Just to confuse things, when a frame structure is made with box-section aluminium frames, it’s known as ‘clear span’. Usually, anything wider than about 12m, or more than one storey, will be clear span (they can go 35m wide and 200m long). Example: the amazing three-tier Bessborough Restaurant at Ascot. Clear span is the preferred choice for event planners who want a real ‘blank slate’ to get creative with.
Freeform structures or ‘stretch marquees’ are also popular, their main draw being that they can be manipulated to fit around natural features such as trees and can easily be erected on slopes. Beware, however, that if you’re erecting a stretch marquee where it is not possible to secure the structure with tent pegs in the ground, (though guy ropes can be attached to solid structures such as pillars) it will require plenty of ballast. This needs to be disguised if you don’t want ugly blocks dotted about your swish marquee. On the plus side, they can then make useful table tops for drinks.
Depending on the style of your event, consider circular yurts, peaked Chinese hats or circus tents for that festival vibe. Teepees are big news too, as several can be opened up and joined together, accommodating up to 1,500 guests. Something you might not have come across before is the clear-roof marquee, a common sight at events in the USA and Australia that’s now made its way to the UK. The greenhouse-style structure gives the feel of being outside, without having to dice with the elements.
Whichever style you choose, make sure your supplier is accredited to MUTA, an industry body whose members have to adhere to a strict code of practice.
When booking, the key things to confirm are: guest numbers; delivery, completion and dismantle dates; furniture; the internal layout and floor type (high heels rule out matting); whether you need heaters and a generator; and last but by no means least, deposit and payment details.
Less obvious questions include: have you checked if you need a local authority licence? And access, can workmen reach the site easily? Do you know if there are sprinkler systems and electrical wires under the lawn? Scarily, the legal onus is on the event organiser and venue owner to provide a safe place to work (however, if there’s any doubt, the responsibility falls on the contractor to establish the whereabouts of wires).
Armed with this, we’ve no doubt that you’ll have a (temporary) roof over your guests’ heads in no time.
This article was originally published in Square Meal Venues & Events Guide 2013.