In 2001 we were better organised and kept much more in touch with the school, partly because what we wanted was more complicated and needed more to-ing and fro-ing. In the end we had three guided tours of the school; an initial recce by a couple of committee members when the school had agreed in principle that we could use their premises, a tour for the rest of the committee about nine months before the festival so everyone could understand what rooms were available, and a final review a week before the festival. At this final review we managed to point out that the showers needed clearing enough to make them usable and we spotted the hole in the floor that we ended up covering with duct tape; we also got some idea of how we would lay out reception, what sort of signs would be needed, where power supplies for PA would come from and so on.
We failed to get through to the rest of the school that we were coming (our week-before tour was during half term). This led to our room-clearing gang being surprised by a French teacher who was distressed to hear that his classroom was being dismantled for the weekend.
We will know for next time that you can put a fancy polish on school hall floors that takes a day to dry until you can buff it up and then put another layer on top, and then another day for the next layer; eventually, after three or four weeks it dries out to full strength. However if you dance on it a week later you scuff the polish off. Oh dear. This accounts for our very dusty hall floor; while it had me worried for a bit we were not damaging the floor at all, though we had ruined the caretaker's half-term project.
Apart from helping people find their way around, signs are a good way of marking the festival territory. In both 1997 and 2001 we had signs with a festival logo in grey as a background to the sign proper; some festivals have a logo that can fit round the edges of the sign. In any case I think it is good to make IVFDF signs visibly belong to the festival.
In 1997 we put up lots of signs, and then the porters came round and took them all down because they hadn't been stamped as Student Union posters. Humph. We found the stamp and had to go round again.
As well as the signs we had thought of in advance we produced a dozen blank sheets with just the grey logo to allow for emergency extras. They vanished rapidly. The main culprit was the food committee member who was having a panic that people couldn't find the food vans buried away at the back of the site and he went berserk with extra signs. We went and got a load more blank signs and they vanished too (quite a few went to the reception stewards who plastered the outside door with "keep this closed - we're getting frozen" signs). In retrospect a stock of 30 blank signs and a dozen blank sheets of A3 or A2 paper would have been a good idea.
We used most of a slab of blu-tak sticking up posters, and then went on to sellotape. You might want to have more than one slab (yes, we did split ours in bits, but we didn't have enough to go round in the initial putting-up frenzy).
There is a problem about putting up signs outside the venue. On the one hand you want people to find IVFDF, but on the other hand you don't want the local heavy mob to find IVFDF. We put up small signs outside the school, and had a lot of grumbles that the place was hard to find. On a university campus we would have put up more signs outside.
We intended to put up large copies of the maps of the venue we had in the programme (so that those who had put theirs down, and people with session tickets and no programme could find their way around). We forgot. Sorry.
We put up large copies of the timetable in each major room. Someone later made the good point that putting them by the entrance was a bad idea because people standing around looking to see which workshop came next were blocking the exits for those who had planned ahead.
For 20 dancers, an acoustic musician and caller should be audible. Up to 50 dancers, one or both may need a microphone depending on how loud they are. For CD/tape a 20W ghetto blaster is sufficient for up to 50 dancers. Up to 150 dancers, I recommend a 100W PA, which is a typical size used by bands on the local wedding/PTA circuit. Asking a local band to lend their PA is a good idea especially if they set it up for you.
For the main ceilidhs, it is reasonable to assume that the band will provide PA. Make sure you check though; in 2001 one band assumed that we would provide PA because we were a "festival". Also let the band know roughly how large the hall is, and how many dancers you expect. This allows them to ensure that they bring sufficient PA.
In 2001 we had 5 workshop rooms with >100W PA. These were borrowed from local bands, and parents of committee members. The 2 other rooms just had a ghetto blaster. The PA was set up each morning, and torn down after the final workshop of the day. We didn't risk leaving it set up overnight. It took 1 person 20 mins per room to set up. For most workshops 2/3 mics is sufficient for 1 caller and 1 or 2 musicians. This amount of PA was just right.
Some workshop leaders brought their own tape players or whatever and used the equipment they understood rather than risk the unknown controls on that we provided. One workshop leader left a CD of his in one of our players.
For the scratch band, things become interesting. In 2001 we had 20-30 people in the band. On stage, it sounded wonderful, however none of the volume made it onto the floor :-( The lead musicians electric fiddle went directly into the desk, and was put through the monitors so that everyone could hear him. For everyone else there were 5 microphones above head height to get a general sound. This was adequate. If everyone is individually miced, and you have a tame sound engineer, a much better job can be achieved, but is not essential for this event. Oh, and the caller had their own mic! Note that each callers voice is different, and you need someone changing the settings for each one.
In 2001 it was obvious where to put reception - in the school's entrance lobby, which made it quite a crowded area at times. In 1997 it was less obvious and we had it in a corridor near an office we were borrowing for the weekend; this made it harder for people to find reception.
For the Friday evening we manned two desks, one to deal with prepaid orders and one to sell tickets. We also put T shirt sales elsewhere. After Friday we moved all sales onto the reception desk and gave the other desk over to flyers people wanted to spread around IVFDF festival goers.
We had two stewards on duty on reception all the time (with one sleeping under the desk at night with a sign to say that he could be woken in dire emergency).
We found a whiteboard and put this in the reception area for random notices. Initially this held a programme and a sign-up sheet for morris tours and display rehearsal slots, but over the weekend acquired various other "we have arrived and are in the ceilidh" type messages. I spent the weekend in unfounded fear that the permanent marker pens on reception (for writing emergency signs) would get used on the school's whiteboard instead of the erasable marker pens.
Our checklist of reception equipment was:-