Outdoor Ceilidhs & Barn Dances are in general a bad idea!
Daytime outdoor Ceilidhs & Barn Dances are occasionally run, but we do not do evening outdoor Ceilidhs & Barn Dances. It is rare in this country, even in
mid-summer, for the temperature to be comfortable for dancing or playing music into the evening. Unlike Mediterranean climates, the temperature tends to drop considerably, and dew often descends.
Outdoor Ceilidhs & Barn Dances are risky, and the musicians may be forced to bring the performance to an early
end, even if conditions are good at the start of the performance.
If dew descends, dancers can slip over, moisture settles on electrical equipment and instruments, causing danger and damage. Temperature can fall too low for dancers to be happy, and health and safety dictates that musicians should not perform in temperatures below 18C (Even in August in the middle of the UK, evening temperatures sometimes fall to below 11C).
We always play amplified (it is not realistic to ever play unamplified). The equipment cannot set up entirely in the open, as weather can change more quickly than expensive equipment can be moved into shelter. Rain, damp or wind blowing equipment over is a helath and safety risk with electrical equipment, so is not permissible.
Evening performances must be considered carefully as it is rare in this country, even in mid-summer, for the temperature to be comfortable for dancing or playing music into the evening. Unlike Mediterranean climates, the temperature tends to drop considerably (regularly falling below the advised minimum of 18C needed for the musicians) and dew often descends making it not only dangerous for the musicians using electrical equipment, but potentially hazardous for the guests if they are dancing on slippery grass.
If you are planning to have the band outdoors if the weather is good and indoors if bad, you need to make a decisive choice as soon as the band arrive. Don't plan on being able to move the band indoors part way through the performance if the weather turns or an evening gets chilly or damp. Most amplification equipment takes too long and requires too much physical effort to put up and take down more than once in a day. [This may not be the case with some very small bands, but you would need to check at the time of booking whether they would move if necessary.]
If you have a proper marquee for the meal, but want the band playing to guests outdoors if the weather is fine, one option is to open a side of the marquee. The band can set up just under cover facing outwards. If the weather turns, the marquee side can be put back and the band turn to play into the marquee. Many venues have french windows which allow a band playing just under cover to face outdoors and play to guest outside.
Whatever arrangements you have for the dancers / audience, the band and all their equipment must be completely protected from the elements, i.e. wind, rain, cold, damp. Unless this can be guaranteed, they cannot set up or perform.
The band will need a marquee or other structure:
- with 3 windproof sides
- one open side facing away from the wind direction on the night, and facing towards and central to any dance area
- guaranteed waterproof roof and sides
- of a size to accommodate the band and equipment, leaving enough space either side to put their PA loudspeakers [these cannot be left in the open, and cannot be too close to the musicians because of the danger of excessive sound level & acoustic feedback] and with enough overhang to protect everything in case of rain. This means that looking in at the open front of the marquee or other structure, the depth needs to be at least 4 meters and the width at least 6 meters.
- There needs to be 1.5x0.8 meter trestle type tables and an armless chair for each performer, so that equipment can be kept off the ground
- The floor must be dry and reasonably dust free [not damp grass, cinders, bare earth, tarmac with puddles etc.] This is to ensure that equipment is not damaged and to guarantee electrical safety.
- The protected space must have adequate lighting to read music by and set up and operate the equipment
within the protected area you need to provide a 13A mains power supply socket that is RCD safety protected and mounted off the ground
- Should equipment and instruments be damaged due to the elements, then you will be charged for repair or replacement.
- If the temperature drops so that it is too cold for the musicians to play (i.e. below 18C), they will stop their performance. [For a musician, repetitive strain injury of fingers, arms and back is a constant threat, and playing instruments in cold temperatures can be a danger].
You will be entirely responsible for the safety of the dancers in all respects, and suggest that you ensure that there is adequate lighting for the dancers to dance by.
If the conditions outdoors are considered by the leader of the musicians to be unsuitable, the performance will end and the band will pack up their equipment. (Although you will see bands performing in the rain, cold and wind on outdoor stages at major festivals, don't think that the same applies to a band that will play for your event with their own equipment. Such events have sound and electrical systems that are specially built and installed for such conditions, taking days for sound and electrical engineers to install and costing many thousands of pounds in equipment, installation costs and damage repair or replacement.
Also, the band may play in cold conditions that are physically dangerous for a professional musician (e.g. risk of strain injury) if they are getting hundreds of thousands of pounds to perform, or are doing it for the chance of fame and hitting the big time. This doesn't apply to the musicians who will be playing for you and who will have to continue earning their living week by week as fit and healthy musicians.)
This applies to our bands: