As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, the organisation of a wargame show is a complicated affair. You have to chase traders and clubs, organise venues, insurance, advertising, equipment hire...even organise the parking. Not the parking of the visitors of course, but the traders, clubs, tournament players admin staff and so on. Believe it or not, this is one of the most tricksie of all the show features; at least it is for Broadside.
Sittingbourne is not exactly a bustling and busy metropolis, rather a small provincial town with a sadly limited range of shops and attractions 95% of which are closed on a Sunday. This, you would think, would mean that car parking would be free on a Sunday. Nothing to come and see or do, beyond the leisure centre of course, so no visitors; would save you paying the patrol staff too. Except no. The car parks are all live on Sundays and, to add insult to injury, they are all run with a maximum stay order of just four hours! So, how do we then organise a large wargame show where we have some eighty to ninety vehicles to park up between 8am and 6pm?
For our first show I went to visit the council parking office and speak to the parking manager personally. I used to be a parking enforcement officer myself so understand the issues and protocols. The manager was pleasant enough and helpful to a point. To solve my problem she was willing to sell me some special parking vouchers to issue to the various traders etc. These would only cost £2.00 each and would allow the vehicles to park all day but, and there is always a but, I was only allowed to buy sixty vouchers; about two thirds of what I would actually want. The vouchers were also car park specific too so I had to divide the cars between the two halls of Broadside and the car parks. Worse still, this was at a time when we could not know how many vehicles we would actually need to park. The size of Broadside 2011 was going to be determined by the parking allocation! As it turned out, I managed to negotiate with a community centre and make use of the 28 places there too and eased the problem, we were still forced to close our doors to new traders and clubs though. Bottom line, we got by....just.
Given this experience we set out to organise Broadside 2012. I went back to the parking office only to be told that the whole car park system was being restructured, I would not be able to organise the parking until late January and nobody there was able to agree anything or even confirm that the old system would be available again! This made things very complicated, I had to take a risk and base everything on the last event. The letters and booking forms went out and we had to hope for the best. I managed to arrange some new parking at a local school and again at the community centre but the rest I just had to hope would resolve themselves. After two weeks of trying to contact the new parking manager I was finally told that we would not be issued with the vouchers and my heart sank. However, they were prepared to allow me to park everyone all day if they bought a maximum stay ticket from the machine...no matter how many I had to park up....a complete turn around from the previous year! Each space would cost £3.00 rather than the £2.00 of the old vouchers but I could cope with that! Interestingly, nobody apart from me, had seen the issues this raised for the enforcement officers. This system meant that nobody with a maximum stay ticket could be booked at all and this time the parking managers face dropped! I suggested that I would issue all official vehicle with a special badge to identify them and suddenly he was happy again. Its not exactly rocket science is it?
So now we are settled. Broadside vehicles will be issued with the special badge and will have to buy their own tickets from the machine...all will be well. We will not be restricted to numbers or locations and can actually not worry about posting parking marshals again. Happy days!
Hands up all those that can see it all going wrong when the manager forgets to inform all the enforcement officers of these arrangements...or they change their minds....or, or, or...?
Next time you go to a wargame show, spare a thought for the poor bugger that had to organise the damned thing. No doubt he will be the white haired nervous wreck with a twitch and a box of dried frog pills at the ready.....come and say hi, I will be very pleased to meet you.