A behind the scenes look at putting on events


Fri 21 Nov 2014

My name is Vanessa and I am currently on placement from university, as the Outdoor Events Assistant at Derby LIVE. I am studying Events Management at Sheffield Hallam University, and will be with Derby LIVE until the end of August next year.

Following the busy period around Darley Park Concert, Derby Festé and Derby Folk Festival, my role became focused on the Markeaton Park Bonfire and Fireworks event, alongside planning for the Derby Christmas Lights Switch On. 


My role for the Markeaton Park Bonfire on Sunday 2nd November, among other things, was to arrange the catering units prior to the event. Nothing had prepared me for the complexity of such a seemingly simple task, from chasing insurance documents, to ensuring generator safety; I didn’t know how difficult it would be to arrange ten catering units. Right down to the wire I was still chasing and organising. This all wasn’t helped by the announcement that the local Fire and Rescue service would be on strike on the day of the event, meaning that the few days leading up to the event, became a frenzied rush of rejigging, organising and extra safety additions.

On the day, (a half seven in the morning start might I add!) I helped the team to set up the event infrastructure. I also took care of the caterers as they arrived and set up, ensuring the line-up fit with what the Fire Service had outlined as safe, and that they were all happy. During the stage show in the late afternoon, I helped the Stage Manager backstage. I got to meet Dino and Pete from Capital FM, who are lovely, the artists from Derby Dreams, who are all lovely, and Katie and Lana, the winners of Derby College has Got Talent, who were also both lovely!

After the show and the spectacular fireworks display, we spent hours clearing up and taking apart everything we had just put in place, before finally collapsing into a heap of tiredness just after eleven.

It was a long day, but it was absolutely worth it. The fireworks and Bonfire, which I had sourced a fair amount of the wood for, were so beautiful and magical, and the crowd loved every minute.  Admittedly, there were a few hiccups, but in a funny kind of way, this meant it was the perfect event for me. I now had something to reflect on, something to critique and improve on when I return to University. After all… not every event can be perfect!


For the Christmas Lights Switch On this year, I was given the responsibility of organising the Christmas Parade that runs through the city centre on the day of the event.

In the first week of planning, the parade was looking pretty sparse. But then, after a shout out in the Telegraph, the groups started to roll in. From Lost Elves, to Santa in a Cadillac, from Panto casts to Cheerleaders it became a brighter and more varied line up every day.

In the morning of switch on day, the Lost Elves, a duo of cheeky workshop elves who were taking a day off from toy making to tease the people of Derby, kept me busy, until it came to time to switch to parade mode. I was shaking in my boots already.

We walked up to the start point with plenty of time to spare. But as I turned the corner, there were people EVERYWHERE. All hell broke lose then, with everyone wanting to talk to me, dragons being put together and cars arriving, time was running out and I was getting panicky.

Vanessa at the Christmas Lights Switch-On parade

Miraculously however, the parade was organised and poised to leave with over five minutes to spare! I checked and checked again just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, but we were ready. Once I was given the nod from the Police, we were a go. I turned the corner at the head of the parade, with Nitro Neo (a seven year old Motorcross rider) at my side and a grin on my face.  100 meters in, I tempted fate and took an excited and sneaky look behind me… only to see there was no one following! I jogged back to the start to wave at the parade to follow on; apparently they had missed my signal to go. How embarrassing!

After that slightly awkward false start, things did get rolling. The crowds were four people deep right the way along St Peters Street, and there were no glitches. We moved smoothly along the path carved before us, and reached the Cathedral ahead of schedule. We congregated together to switch on the lights on the big tree at the Cathedral before heading home. It was a great time, had by all.

Once the parade participants had gone, my event wasn’t over. I sprinted over to the backstage area at the main stage, with Nitro Neo and team in tow, to help them prepare for Neo’s big switch on moment. I also counted down with the bell ringers at Derby Cathedral to have a ceremonious ringing of the bells at 6pm. We then packed up everything in the rain and mist, before finally getting to sit down in the pub by 8pm. I was absolutely drained and exhausted, but over the moon with the success of the day.

The feedback from the Parade event has been overwhelming. All acts have said it was a pleasure to be involved, that they had a lovely time, and would relish the chance to be involved again. Nothing is nicer than hearing something that you slaved over and worked so hard on, worked out well and made people so happy.


Since these events, everyone’s been asking me what the best bit was. Without a shadow of a doubt,   I can say that the best bit for me was turning round to look back up St Peters Street once all of the parade had turned the corner. There were people everywhere, there was lots of glitter and sparkle and music and cheers: the sight was truly immense.  I have never been so proud to know that I (with a little help and guidance, of course) made something so wonderful happen.

I am so happy at Derby LIVE. Everyone is super lovely, I’m treated as one of the team and I’m getting to be involved in some of the best events I’ve ever witnessed. I already know I’ll be sad to leave!

Thanks for reading,

Vanessa x