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Top Tips for a Stress Free 3 Singlehanded Day Festival

by | 07/08/2018 | Business Shows and Events, Business Skills, Events, Kids Bee Happy Business Opportunities, Training

As I flit around the facebook groups, I frequently see posts from consultants asking help and advice about how they can do big events on their own.  So, this summer I attended one of the larger events that we do, and I decided to do it on my own, so I can talk you through all the steps, tips and secrets, and put it all here in one place, so that you can see if I can do it, you can do it to.

So, to be clear, this isn’t a story on how “how to do a perfect sand art event”, its more a “yes, you can do really big events, on your own, and its not that difficult” type of survival guide.  Hope that makes sense.

There are 2 principles that this weekend was structured around – KISS  (Keep it simple stupid) and 80/20 (that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your products).  Both principles have a similar ethos which is cut to the chase, and focus on the easiest way to generate the sales, and I need this, because the event is a busy 3 day summer festival,  a long way from home, and i’m on my own.

Pre Event

Get to know your organisers and your contacts.  After you have made the initial booking and confirmation, send a couple of couple of emails a bit closer to the event asking for information, but also helping you to start building a relationship so that all of this is in place before you get there.

Think of the things that you like to find out in the first 15 minutes of turning up at an event, and drop your contact an email with about 3 of these questions on it.   But top things to ask would be:

  • Who will be my point of contact on the field?  And will they be on site during the festival/event?
  • Can you confirm the times for set up and unloading on the field?
  • Can I drive right onto the site up to my pitch to unload?
  • Where can the car be parked/kept for the duration of the festival so you have easy access to it throughout the event?

Arrive when you say you will, or if you are going to be late take the time to make a quick call and leave a message.  Again, this just helps build those relationships before you even meet the organisers.

About the Festival:

So this is what I knew about the festival before I turned up

  • 30k people
  • One of the UK’s top FAMILY festivals with a dedicated family activity zone.
  • 3 Days of festival, plus set up one day earlier.  400 miles away from home and driving either side.
  • In Invernesshire in the Highlands of Scotland, meaning that all and every weather climate will be experienced over the 4 days.
  • Full schedule of free childrens activities and workshops happening all three days, in and around the area where we are trading.
  • The obligatory “crappy sand art” person, who of course this time is situated right opposite us.


My Plan of Attack – What’s my Business Goal?

I am doing this festival for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, its my annual way of keeping it real.  There is nothing like the Highlands of Scotland in August for really flinging the unexpected at you in all directions.  And its an important way for me to make sure that all of our different products work the way that we design them, that the prices hit the right pricing points for our target customers, and that all the advice and guidance that we give out is well and truly on the “normal person doable side” of things rather than designed for superman/woman.

I also love this festival.  I love the atmosphere, the bands, the music, the vibes, the fact that there is a Women’s Institute tent selling cream teas at the main stage.  I love that its a immersion into a family environment where no-one has anything better to do other than just be there and enjoy it.

Its just me, and a normal family car.  So, I’m following KISS and 80/20 and keeping things minimal and easy.  I acknowledge now that there will be some sales I will miss, and that I probably could take more sales if I take a load more stuff, but I’m happy with the decision to keep it lean, and go for a happy balance of work, sales, money, effort and fun.   Same logic is being applied to my personal camping (ie i’ll be buying meals on site, not cooking at my campstove), and the fancy camping accessories will be left safely at home.  Its just me, I have three tents – so I will need to co-op help (and I’m not stressed or worrying about that at all).

Choice of Pictures, Stocks, Materials and Pricing

I took only Ovals.  I took all 9 summer designs, and 3 Christmas designs.  I did not take A6, A5, A4, unicorns, and any other “top selling”.  I did not take any DS packs, or any made up retail packs.  And here is my logic and my why’s.  No unicorns?????  But they are the top selller?????  I don’t mind.  People will buy ovals instead.

Why Ovals?

800 Ovals take up the same amount of space, and weight the same as 200 A4 pictures.  For this weekend, weight and space is an issue, in both the car, and from the perspective of how much stock I need to lift, shift, move and store over the weekend.  Therefore an “oval only” decision means that packing, carrying and storing pictures will be as easy as possible.

800 Ovals also mean that as well as not having to worry about the possibility of running out, I will also not use a huge amount of sand, which means that I can reduce the amount of sand that I take, another weight, space, packing, moving plus.  I’m taking 15 colours, 15kg so that if one runs out I can introduce another colour.  I’ll also have magic multicoloured rainbow unicorn sand in one of the bowls too.

All of the pictures will also be the same price, this reduces drastically the amount of information that I need to share with a new customer.  However, 1 size doesn’t mean no differentiation.  I separate out my ovals into “simple” and “more detailed” this way people can choose the pictures that suit their timeframe, but also shows that there are “added value for the same price”.

If ever you have a “but what if I sell out” panic, pack another 10 packets of Ovals.  So simple, minimal space, effort, weight and packaging.  And kids really don’t care about the design.

Pricing – the plan

At this festival, the majority of the kids will be there for 3 full days.  That means 3 days of buying all their meals out, most of their drinks and snacks, tired and frazzled kids, kids up awake early before the parents want to get up, parents keeping the kids up late after the kids want to go to sleep.  All of this means that there will be parents who will be internally screaming every time their child asks for something, and kids who want to go back to their favourite bit and do the same thing over again.

So, I am making my pricing cheap.  I don’t want a family to be one customer, I want a family to be 5 customers.  I want them just to keep coming back all through the 3 days. I want to see them twice a day, and for them to have the best sand art experience at a value for money price.

My ovals are costing me 60p+VAT, as they are on special offer right now.  I know that the ovals use very little sand, and I know that there is no sleeve, or hook.  So, I’m pricing the ovals are £2.00 each.  AND I am going to do a festival pass at £6 for 6 decorations, that can be shared between families and used whenever they want over the weekend.  I am also writing the prices nice and clear on a white board.


Be clear on when you need to be unloaded by, and when vehicles need to be off the site.  Treat these deadlines as set in concrete with no flexibility.  Remember, you don’t need to be set up, only unloaded.

Bring a High Vis jacket for EVERY person in your vehicle, even if they are children, or wont be working.  Until the site is open to the public – it is defined in law as a construction site, and you need to have High Vis.  This is one of those things that causes the organisers grief as people turn up without high vis, then give the organisers earache when they have to find/buy/borrow a jacket.

Make sure that you leave time for queues at check-in/Accreditation.  These things are inevitably slow simply because no-one does this all the time, and the staff sorting you out don’t have that much information.  BE INCREDIBLY NICE to these people.  They will undoubtedly have talked to a couple of dozen moanie stroppy people (who also didn’t bring high vis jackets) before they get to you, so be the sunshine in their day.

When you meet the organiser of your area, again, talk to them, confirm details, confirm expectations, take a few minutes to build relationships and talk about the expectations for the festival etc.  Again, these are people who have dealt with a whole day of hastle, and moaning people, so take the time to be friendly, polite, and care about how you can help them.

Unloading on Site

What I did:  In the children’s area there are 2 big marquees used for the workshops during the festival – 12noon Thurs to 5pm Sunday.  In order to spread the load, and not exhaust or put myself under pressure, my plan was to simply unload the sand art equipment, materials, and everything else that needed to be on site, into these marquees over night.  This has 2 big advantages:  (1) It takes an unneccessary time pressure off of me.  (2) It’s one more night where everything is under wraps, dry and not subject to any adverse weather.

Sand art pictures, sand, stickers, recruitment leaftlets, biz cards, bottles all unloaded into my waterproof box.  Fold up table underneath the waterproof box, my 2 sand art tables over the top of the waterproof box, ground sheet wrapped over and tucked underneath the waterproof box.  Legs & banners on the ground sheet.  Bungees, small water bottles, whiteboard, bowls, etc all put into the truckle bins, and wrapped over in the ground sheet.  Done.  Quick text to the organiser to let them know that i’d done this, and that it would be out in the morning before the festival started.

Personal Camping

Get this bit done, then you’re relaxed for the night.   Find out where the water supply is.

TALK TO EVERYONE.  Say hello to your neighbours.  Ask about what they are doing.  Lend out your mallet, extra tent pegs, help new comers put their tents up, whatever.  Make friends.  Smile.   Talk to people, ask if they have done the festival before, and find out all the top tips and the low down.

Make friends with the security teams – you’re going to be seeing a lot of them.  Find out about car access on and offsite for production and performers during the festival.  There will be a sneaky entrance that only production can use that will skip all the queues, so don’t worry that you are “locked in” for the duration.

Your Sand Art Pitch set up

TALK and make friends with the other people who are setting up around you.  Before you start go and introduce yourself, find out what they do, if they’ve done the festival before, etc etc.    Do this before you even get started setting up.  It’s important, but most people move straight pass this – make time to do it first.

Second, realise that you are now on festival time, so it doesn’t matter if your pitch isn’t set up until 10 minutes after the official opening.  It is more important that you are relaxed, happy and calm.

If you have a gazebo, the chances are that you can’t set it up single handed.  And that’s OK.  Ask for help – people rarely if ever say no.  Explain that you are on your own, and if you could just ask a favour of a couple of minutes help just to get the gazebo up, you would really appreciate it.  In all my years of Sand Art, and hundreds of events and festivals, no-one has ever said no to this.

If there really really is no-one available to help, message your organiser contact and ask if someone from the site team can give you five minutes help.

So the number one top tip here is Bungee Everything!  Put up your gazebo, and then use the guy ropes and bungees to secure your gazebo to anything and everything stationery that you can find.  If there are marquees fix your bungees from their loops into your gazebos loop.  Use trees, even other people’s tents.  Tent pegs for other marquees etc.   But remember, you are looking for stationery rather than solid – what does this mean – it means that there is “give” in the wind.  Gazebos break when they are strained too far.  So if you fix your gazebo rock solid, with tight guyropes and pegs, it means that if the wind gets up there are only 2 options, stay, or break.    Fixing things with a little bit of room to move means that your gazebo gives a bit in the gusts of wind rather than breaking.

Remember that not all ties need to be rope like.  Use your horizontal banner to secure your gazebo to other appropriate fixing places.  Its much more colourful, and it can help bring people to you from other directions.

Sand Art Equipment and Display Set up

Take a step back now from your gazebo and look at the planned flow.  Where are the people coming from, where are they going to.  Where are they going to sit and have coffee.  Where are the kids going to just run in circles.  Where is the nearest stage, where are the food tents.  Who is doing what where in your area.   Now think about your set up.  Sometimes it can be really useful to have a back as well as a front entrance.  And this is easy with the equipment that you


Use your 6ft table to direct the flow of people.  Do you want to use it like a desk, so people start there, choose their picture, you start them off etc? If yes, then put your table at an angle outside of the tent too, this does the “outside of the box” thing and instantly makes your space bigger.  Its also a really good technique to direct flow of people.  Put your waterproof box underneath your 6ft table.

My table display was as billy basic as it could be.  I had one bowl with sticker roll, yellow sticks, loyalty cards, pens, and my white board pen, and ribbons in it.    I had 12 packs of ovals on the table, in the packets.  I had another bowl on the table for yellow paper and rubbish.  This sparse table was perfectly suited to the weather as I could instantly move things around when it drizzled.  The plastic packs stopped the pictures from blowing away.  It meant that I could very easily keep a log of how many pictures where sold.  I could rearrange the bowls when necessary to make a windbreak.  There was extra space on the table for children that wanted it to do peeling.  I didn’t spend any time worrying about what was happening on the table, being taken off the table, being blown off the table etc, when my back was turned.  And remember, I have 3 big horizontal banners on all sides of the gazebo, so there is absolutely no chance that anyone doesn’t know what we’re all about.

Running a busy stall single handedly

I work on the basis of clear friendly instructions.  Every customer venue has rules and guidelines that there customers are expected to follow, you don’t stand on the tables in the pub, you don’t through food in a resturant, you switch your phone off and don’t talk in the cinema etc, so one thing is to never feel that you can not tell your customers how to behave.

I always use the 10 second start up, no matter how busy.  When it is busy I simply group the kids into small groups of 3-6 and show them all together.  I always make sure that I pull the first section off.  So my “spiel” goes something like this:

  • Hello, how are you?  Would you like to make a sand art picture?
  • It’s £2 – is that OK?
  • Right then, so have you made pictures with us before?  If Yes – the I let them choose a picture – then leave them to it.  If No – the it goes as follows:
  • The way it works is that the more sections on the pictures the longer it takes, so these here (pointing to a selection I have grouped together) are simpler and quicker, and the other pictures have more detail and take longer to do.  So you can pick whatever picture suits you, and then i’ll show you how it works.  (At which points the parents of the little kids, or the parents in the rush strongly direct their kids towards the simpler pictures, and the get your maximum VFM parents direct their children towards the more detailed pictures).
  • I let all the kids in the group get their picture, then its “Gather round and i’ll show you how it works”.  I always point out clearly the cut inside the black line, I say the words “Inside the black line” at least twice.  I get them to peel the first bit of yellow paper off and put it in the bin, and I say “and the yellow bit of paper goes into the bin, we don’t want it sticking to and spoiling other people’s pictures”.  I then take their picture over to the tables, I hold it above a bowl and tell them to hold the picture over the bowl, and then with an imaginary spoon in my hand I talk about get a spoonful of sand, sprinkling it on, and then tipping it back off into the bowl.
  • The next line is really important, and its said in a very conspiratorial type of tone.  “Now, because its very busy today (or because we have lots of smaller children) can I ask you to make sure that you always move yourself to the bowl of the colour that you want and that you don’t stretch over, because that mixes up the sands and spoils it for other people”.
  • The impact of lines 7 and 8 together are that you have explained to every kid (and 80% of their parents) why they need to put the yellow pieces of paper in the bin, and not stretch over.  This means that as well as drastically increasing the chance of the children actually doing this, you also have them all keeping an eye out on the ones that don’t do it.

What to do when:

  • When it gets too busy – tell people that its a bit busy at the moment and that they’ll enjoy it much more if they can pop back a bit later. (Dont be scared to do this, a lost customer is better than a customer who had a bad experience because its too busy)
  • When it gets REALLY busy – Give out flyers with a time on it.  I do 20 people on the hour and half hour.
  • When its REALLY quiet – kidnap a kid
  • When kids footer about in the sand – Please don’t do that, it messes up the sand and spoils it for all the other kids.
  • When kids ignore the above – I’ve asked you not to mess around in the sand, please stop now or I will have to ask you to leave

Lots of Free Childrens’ Activities?

ACE!  Why?  Because that means that there are going to be more children, more children specifically coming to and staying around in the kids activity area for longer.  Perfect, just what we want.

Go and introduce yourself to the other activity entertainers, find out what they are doing and when, smile, be friendly, ask them if they are enjoying the festival etc.  Be aware of timings.  For example if there is a big puppet show every 2 hours, then you can be assured you’re going to have an influx of people after the show ends.  Ask the customers who have finished and waiting for other family members what they are doing next, give them some recommendations, tell them whats on where and when.  All of this stuff is about building rapport and relationships with your customers, the organisers, and the other entertainers.   It also helps you enjoy your day more, as you just spend the whole day around the sand art having lovely chats.

The “crappy sand art” trader?

There may well be one.  What do you do? nothing, ignore it.  Its not an issue.  We know that the KBH quality, products and VFM stack up exceptionally in a customer experience, and that they stand out well and truly above the crowd, and that is all you need to know.  There is probably more than one stallholder selling burgers, or selling coffee, or doing sticky pom-pom arts and crafts.  There’s probably more than one bouncy castle, and definitely more than 1 trader selling bubbles. It doesn’t matter, its a big world, and in the grand scheme of things, more entertainers mean more children, sticking around for longer.

Pricing – the results

Household income is squeezed right now, and parents are trying to get a lot for their money.  £2 for a sand art decoration is very good VFM.  Its less that half the cost of a beer.  It’s not enough money to make people think twice about spending.  The parents think about the festival card, but aren’t sure if their kids will want to come back 3 or more times, so they just go with the single picture first.  They’re happy, their kids are happy.  Only 4 families in the weekend said “no, we’re not paying for things, lets go and do the free stuff”  (I counted 😉 )  And these are the important things to note:

  • Nearly every family who came to us on Saturday came back to us on Sunday.  85% of children had more than 1 go.  15% had 4 or more goes.
  • It is incredibly easy to work out money and change – absolutely no thinking is involved when there is only one round sum price.
  • 80% of sales were taken in change, very few notes.
  • 5 families bought the festival card – 4 of these were all families with 3 or more children (all of these paid with notes), the other was a single child who made all the pictures herself.

So, what does this teach you – it teaches you that you set your prices with spending objectives rather than being based on something like size.  The festival card gave customers are really cheap option that offered staggeringly good value for money.  Therefore, we have moved in their mindset to one of the good guys, that’s on their side and understands families, rather than something like the fairground rides, or the zorb balls, which is just money for nothing.  And the best bit, is that that sentiment is true – even if they don’t take it up.

It teaches you that value for money, earns you repeat customers.  And that with an event that the same people are at, continuously for three days, that happy repeat customers are the best thing that you can have.

It teaches you that differentiation doesn’t have to have a charge, the difference between simple and more detailed, with no extra cost again offers you a really good way to offer extra value to your customers.

Survival – the Practicalities of doing it yourself

Eating, Drinking, Resting and Toilet  (ie – use the whiteboard)

The crux of this is timed sessions.  Set your sessions for no longer than 2 hours, and then put the time of the next session outside on your whiteboard.   You now don’t have to worry about toilet breaks, eating, drinking, etc.  Because its all set and all known.  Also, its a white board, so you can change it if you need to as things change with the flow for the day.  Don’t set your times all out in advance and be committed to them – the tool is the board, not the times on it.

As your times are on display, you will find that it naturally eases up about 15 minutes before the end of your session as people will naturally look and think “oh, I’ll come back later”, so even if you are completely lost in sand art, you’ll suddenly notice its gone quieter, check your watch, and find that you’re due for a break.

  • Close for at least an hour for lunch – you need it – you are working single handed.
  • Close for a break mid afternoon – you need it – you are here for days.
  • Follow the weather and the flow.  If it all goes quite because its raining and everyones gone back to their tents – take your break then.
  • Plan your sessions with the festival guide so that you can break at the times that you want to catch particular bands, or shows etc.

Remember, you’re not going to serve every single customer who might perhaps want to do sand art at any point throughout the day.  But you are going to get 80% of them.  And you are going to close to take breaks, and food, and rest, because you are doing this whole thing to make some money and enjoy it.  It is not an endurance test or race.

Talking to People

How can you possibly talk to everybody about everything when you’re busy and on your own?  Well the simple answer is that you can’t – so don’t.  Instead be the best, most friendliest, welcoming, smiley happy you that you can be.  And ensure that the customer has something branded (the ovals are already branded remember, if not, go for stickers).  You won’t have had the time to have an in depth conversation about Christmas and Birthday parties, about joining teams and everything else.  But what you have done is that you have made a genuinely, warm, friendly connection with a family, and they will remember you for that, and your branded product will guide them back to you.   (Remember, at KBH HO when we’re passing on enquiries, we always ask people WHERE they have met someone).

Securing your pitch during the day when you’re not there.

When you are taking a break lift out the bowls and put them in a truckle bin with something over the top, along with any pictures on display, and turn the tables onto their side.  Take your pictures off display, and put these in the waterproof box.   This way it is instantly obvious you are closed and no-one plays with the sand, but its also obvious that you are coming back 😉   If you wish, or if its windy, then it can be a good idea to put the 6ft folding table over the top of the tables.,

Make sure your whiteboard is updated with the times of the next session.  But don’t put anything more than the next planned session because your times will change with the flow of your day.

No Packs?????  Really????  But what about those missed sales???

This one is up to you, but i’ll tell you why I didn’t take packs with me.  Firstly, there was the space thing – the DS packs could get easily damanged if the weather was wet and windy, if we pack up in a hurry because of unexpected weather.  Also, whatever and however I pack them in the car, they always fall out, slide over, and generally tend to get in the way (or in a box that’s always in the way).

But the main reasons I left them at home were that I knew my customer.  Families don’t come to a festival, and then make an impulse decision to buy packs for presents.  They are thinking about things getting broken, lost or damaged in the tent, they are thinking about what they are carrying around with them all day, they are thinking that lunch is going to cost them £30.  “Ooooooh these are nice, I think i’ll buy 3 of these now for presents for my nieces” isn’t at the top of people’s minds in the middle of a festival.

It’s a pros v cons type decision.  Yes I probably did lose some sales of packs.  But I am on my own, single handed, at a three day festival, with a full car.  So I’m following KISS and 80/20.  And I know from my previous experience elsewhere that I will make 80% of my sales from Oval sales, with 20% of the effort that having the other products too would require, and i’m happy to live with that this weekend.   But I did give my business card out to people who were interested in packs so that they could catch up with me later.


  • Waterproof box in the middle of the gazebo, in it, all pictures, printing and spare sand.
  • Bowls lifted out of the tables and stacked inside one of the truckle bins, along with my bowl of bits (ribbons, biz cards, sticks, whiteboard pens etc).
  • Sand tables laid on their side, legs still on, either side of the waterproof box, creating a frame, and giving a layer or protection for sidewards rain that’s managed to get through the gazebo.
  • 6ft Folded table over the top of the sand tables (giving a top to the frame over the waterproof box, and another layer or protection for the waterproof box).
  • Groundsheet wrapped around and tucked under the sand tables and waterproof box to secure from wind, and another layer or protection from sidewards rain.
  • Everything else tucked into the groundsheet.
  • Gazebo bungeed to everything possible.
  • Gazebo secured to the ground with tent pegs and bungees too.
  • Gazebo sides secured with fixings, and bungees (or rope or duck tape) completely around the perimeter of the gazebo to keep the sides down.


  • There will be nearby a marquee or organisers office that has a electrical point – if you need it get a power pack charged.
  • Secure extra change in your car at the end of each day, don’t worry about keeping everything on you – coins are heavy.
  • At times you will be too busy – suggest people come back later
  • At times you may be stonkingly quiet – offer the next child that walks by a free picture.
  • There is security onsite everywhere – lots of people with high vis jackets – everyone knows they are there, visitors and exhibitors alike.

Things that didn’t happen

  • NO-ONE said “There isn’t a unicorn/car/dog/fairy/cupcake/Robot/insert whatever you want here” picture, I don’t want to do it.
  • NO-ONE asked if there were any other size pictures
  • NO-ONE asked if there was any other coloured sand – note that didn’t have dark blue, dark green, beige/biscuit, brown, or bright purple.  AND NOBODY NOTICED.
  • NO-ONE stole all my stock and equipment overnight – I have done many many festivals and never worry about this.  There is security.  And being brutally honest, if you are going to steal stuff from a festival field, then there is a lot more exciting and valuable stuff to nick than sand art.
  • NO-ONE said “Its too expensive” – a few wandered past after looking at the white board and decided to do free stuff instead.
  • NO-ONE refused to pay, a couple of kids turned up without money, but when I said “It’s £2 is that OK?” it gave them a nice way to disappear without feeling embarrassed.
  • NO-ONE was worried about there being other sand art people on site.
  • NO-ONE said that they were going to do the other sand at because it was better (we know of course that it isn’t lol).
  • NO-ONE was upset or offended because Santa and Rudolph were on the table

My Pack List

Normal Sand Art Things:

  • 15KG of Sand
  • 5  Packs of each of the 9 Oval Summer decorations
  • 3 Packs of each of 3 Oval Christmas Decorations (Angel, Rudolph and Elf)
  • Gazebo, ropes, mallet and a couple of Bungees
  • 2 x 6 Sand Art Tables & Legs
  • 1 x Folding pop up table
  • Spoons
  • Yellow Sticks
  • Horizontal Banner
  • KBH Round stickers
  • Recruitment leaflets
  • Float – £60 of £1 coins and £40 of 50ps.
  • My business cards

Extra Sand Art things I wouldn’t normally take

  • Smallish Whiteboard and Pens
  • Waterproof seal tight box
  • Every extra bungee I can get my hand on.
  • 12 x 500ml Water bottles.
  • Spare set of bowls
  • Set of filled bottles
  • Plastic funnel
  • 2 big groundsheets
  • Sun shade gazebo
  • The entire bag of spare camping ropes and tent pegs & a roll of Duck tape
  • 3 Extra horizontal banners
  • 3 big truckle buckets

Personal/Festival/Camping essential things.

  • Mobile phone power packs, and my old Samsung phone that has extra intensive power saving mode – So I can keep a close eye on the weather and keep in contact
  • Personal Tent, Airbed, Sleeping bag and Pillow, and another mallet (you can be guaranteed that if you take one mallet it will always be in the wrong field lol)
  • Gas camp stove, Kettle, Mug
  • 2 x 5l of water
  • Instant porrige, biscuits and non chocolate snacks
  • Waterproof coat & Walking boots, and “layer up” clothes.
  • Golf umbrella
  • a carton of UHT milk for each day (I cannae cope without my tea)
  • An “over the body” handbag with big easy access sections and zips.
  • Camping chair – Sometimes you need just not to sit on the floor.
  • Collapsable bucket

Things I didn’t take and why

  • No plastic sleeves – i’m not doing bigger pictures, and if anyone asks for a bag, its a “no, sorry unfortunately not today” answer.
  • No “proper food” –  Don’t event pretend that you are going to cook at the campsite, just buy the meals.  It saves buying, carrying, loading, unloading, cooking (and wasting) food.
  • No cash tin – I need to keep the money on me, a separate cash tin is just another thing to keep an eye one.
  • No Party/New Direction/Bear Club flyers – I know I’m going to be busy, the weather will probably play havoc with the table display – so anyone that I have a chat about anything can have a business card instead.
  • No display stands – I’ve only got 12 pictures, I don’t need a display for these.  Also, it means I can quickly and easily move things if the rain comes on, or if it gets windy.  It means my set up is flexible and can be easily shifted around as the day and the weather changes.
  • Risso – Yes, it would have been lovely to have this, but there is only 1 of me, so i’m keeping it focused on the sand art.

Potential calamities that my packing would have permitted for:

  • Duck tape was to go completely around the gazebo as the gazebo’s sides were a bit thin and cheap,  Ducktaping the entire gazebo would give it extra strength as a structure and keep the sides secure down where they needed to be.
  • Rain – we would all have squidged in the tent, and for prolonged rain I would have taken the 6ft table down to give more room
  • Torrential rain during the day – everything is portable, and could have been moved into one of the organisers Marquees.
  • Heatwave & overcome by customers, large waves of toddlers, people with disabilities etc – ground sheet, spare bowls, and bottles on the floor around the gazebo.
  • Intense overnight downpours – my Stock secured in the waterproof box and wrapped in the ground sheets.


Exciting and wonderful things that have happened in my years of sand art festivals, and how we overcame them:

“The Chocolate Milkshake Tent Calamity”

Galtres Festival, just me and my then 9 year old daughter, who helpfully left a chocolate milkshake in the tent the year before (BOAKIN! as we say in Scotland).   We abandoned the tent, and put the airbed in and slept in the car, and survived the weekend quite fine. – Top Tip – Remember your car – emergency tent, overnight secure storage, waterproof container, money safe it has many uses.

“The Last Night Hurricane”

Full hurricane, downpours of rain, flooded festival fields, we even had the red cross in with the silver emergency foil blankets to wrap rescued campers in.  My worry here was leaving stock and materials on site overnight.  But a quick chat with the organisers revealed that obviously we weren’t the only people with the same problem, and they had got extra people in to help the production people get equipment off site after the close of the festival at 1am, rather than the normal 7am the next morining.  – Top Tip – If you have a big big problem, then it is likely that other people will do to, which means there is already a plan to help.

“The muddy boggy stuck car”

Again, it is highly unlikely that your car is stuck in a bog, and no-one else has the same problem.  Which means that the crew will already have a solution, just go and talk to them to find out what it is.

“Stuck in Traffic and Missed the Access times”

As hundreds of other production and performers were also stuck in the same traffic jam – this turned out not to be an issue as the access times all moved to accommodate everyone.  Top Tip – Recognised when you are a sheep and be sheep like.

“Medical Emergencies”

Over the years I have had spontaneous blisters, knackered knees and this time the migraine from hell.  There is always first aid.  There is always everything that you need.   Top Tip – Don’t try to worry about every eventuality –   There are always people to help – it’s part of the reason that organising a festival is such a big undertaking, but all those small things that feel like unnecessary burdens and administration, really do mean that there is someone to help with every eventuality.

The Sell out

One festival we did sell out, half way through the last day.  We went to tell the organisers that we had closed early as we had sold out, and they were delighted.  Organisers don’t get upset if you sell out.

The “I’ve got 4 adults in the car, where can I put the sand art” year

Oh this was fun.  One family vauxhall estate, and 4 adults, camping for 4 days with the sand art.  So with this one you get clever and use all the parts of the car that you don’t normally use.  Lift out the boot liner, and the majority of your sand art can go in here.  Fill up the centre of the spare tyre with pictures, put the sand bags around it, layer out the other bits and pieces.  I got my entire sand art stock that year underneath the bootliner.  Then there are all those other spaces – the glove boxes, properly right underneath the seats, etc.  there are lots of spaces in our cars that we never actually use.

Overcoming Any Problem – the one Business technique you need to cope with everything

I’ll share a little secret with you.  Most people worry about things that don’t ever happen.  They sit, and plan, and worry, what if this? what if that? and so on.  And then the list gets bigger because now you’re in worry mode, and without realising it you’ve started contingency planning for everything from a grey raincloud through to a Tsunami.

But in reality, these things don’t happen.  And in the very very very rare instance that they do, they don’t cause a problem because you’re just suddenly faced with something and you cope.  One way or another, you always cope.  In fact, the less worrying you do, the easier it is to cope, because solutions just seem blindingly obvious and right for the moment.

The secret is that you have all that you need, you have sense, instinct, compassion, and connection with people, and these qualities mean that if you are up against an unexpected problem, you will over come it.  Simple as that.

So, don’t let the panic monster stop you thinking about opportunities like this, because of a huge long list of “what if this?” and “what if that?”.  Know, that you have your business sense and your common sense and you can cope with pretty much anything.  And if in that rare rare circumstance something pops up that is simply impossible, then ask for help.  That’s it.  You’re ready 😉