Festival Gas Interview: Issue 46 CQ

Festival Gas supply gas and safety advice nationwide at all major outdoor events such as Glastonbury, Latitude and Bestival, among many others. Priding themselves on their high standards of service and customer support, it’s no wonder that Festival Gas has an unparalleled level of expertise and experience in the business. With nearly 30 years of experience and an impressive 100% past safety record, they are the market leaders in supplying gas for outdoor events and festivals, come rain or shine. We sat down with CEO Simon Beale to learn about more about how it all started and what lies ahead.

How did you get into the events industry? 

We had just started up, providing gas to domestic sites and caravans. We were driving past Long Marston airfield, where they were doing the Phoenix Festival, and saw some catering units. Eventually we ended up in the backstage area, talking to Lulu Cowley, who bought the whole load of gas off me. She recommended I get in touch with Melvin Benn, that was in 1996, and it went from there! Our first event was Reading; the festival industry was quite limited then with just Glastonbury, motorbike rally’s etc. The Phoenix Festival was a rebirth of Glastonbury and after it was cancelled Melvin Benn got the licence back for us. In the early days it was showmen and burger boys providing food – the whole industry has changed in the last 25 years.


What has made you stay?

The business grew rapidly and working in the music/events industry is great fun! You get to meet lots of different people and watch live music in your downtime. Once you’re in it it’s very hard to get out of it; what we do is unique. Over the years we’ve supplied 95% of the events industry. I nurtured the business from nothing, very basic roots, to a multi-million-pound business. There was very little competition when we started and, as we started from nothing, we knew all the solutions to the problems. As we grew, we brought all the things we needed to make the job easier. Equally, we will always take a chance on an event. Boomtown started with us providing 10 bottles of gas and now we provide 4 lorries. Latitude, as well, the first event was a small trailer full of gas bottles and now we do 3 lorries full of gas cylinders. We’re a part of the infrastructure, events like Glastonbury have the same gas usage and supply as a big city would need.

How have festivals changed?

They’ve changed for the better as there are a lot more systems in place. Health and Safety is a lot stronger, and our customers have made the food side of the industry much more professional. It’s become an industry, as opposed to a few events dotted around fields. They are setting up a little mini city for the weekend essentially and we’re at a point where we are doing 10-12 events across the country now.


Has compliance become more complex in an event setting?

It’s changed massively, especially with gas. You have to build compounds and have designated areas, so the fire service knows where the cylinders are. There are gas safe engineers onsite, and we only provide enough cylinders for 24 hours. The team are constantly working to keep the site safe and clean so that people don’t need to carry lots of cylinders in vans, which cuts down on hazardous products being carried.


What would you say the most challenging part of compliance was for you when you started working in events?

Logistics. The logistics of getting volumes of gas around the site safely, especially when it is wet and muddy. We have to get the site clean and safe after the event too.


How do you go about making good relationships?

These are key. We work closely with numerous production teams and the relationship that we have with the caterers is invaluable.

What are the key things that you need to check and check again?

The key thing is checking the safety side of gas cylinders. We have to check there are no leaks and that cylinders are stored safely and securely on gas safe rigs. We must also make sure that the cylinders are off when they are being switched over as they may not be empty. Safety is key.


What’s the best event you’ve worked at?

Glastonbury because the logistical side to keep the whole event going is huge. There are over 500 caterers, all the campsites, crew catering, showers and pyrotechnics! It’s always challenging to make sure it’s perfectly smooth. One of the nicest events was Bestival and Latitude is one I would go to if I wasn’t working on the event. They are all so diverse, so there are things I love about all of them. With events, it’s the punters that make it and when it’s up and running you realise why you’re there and what you’re there for.


What are your expectations for this year and what has changed since the pandemic?

It will be extremely busy and very challenging – it will be business as usual! But there will be a really good vibe at events this season as we’ll be reuniting with people who we haven’t seen for 3 years. It’s a community and you don’t see them for months on end and suddenly the season comes back, you work hard and have a good time.

What are you doing at the moment to get ready?

We’ve done all the pre-orders for events. We’re prepping for events by getting the vehicles ready, the caravans ready, booking in all the passes, staff training, booking in staff team building – we’re going axe throwing this year! It’s all go!


What advice would you give someone trying to get into the industry right now?

Start on smaller events and don’t overstretch yourselves. We’re happy to give advice to help them along.


Where will people be able to see you?

Glastonbury, Download, Latitude, Wilderness, Boomtown, Boardmasters, WOMAD – there are so many so keep an eye out for me and my team on site!


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