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Winter events warm up the festive season

Ice rink at Tower of London, powered by Arena Group

A wide range of winter events have launched across the UK and business is booming. With many of them being staged outdoor it’s clear that temporary structures are bucking the trend.

Canary Wharf was the first to tap into the winter season with the opening of an ice rink on 4 November, closely followed by Tower of London’s own ice skating site and bar on 17 November.

Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, in Central London, offers what is deemed the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink plus attractions ranging from rides, circus, theatre, and food and drink. Next week will see Winterville, another pop-up town, open in Clapham Common (23 November).

Last but not least, Greenwich Winter Time Festival at Old Royal Naval College is set to open on 1 December. The Historic Royal Palaces will follow the trend with an ice rink in Hampton Court. It might open later in the season but it will be up and running until 7 January 2018.

Light festivals are also tapping into the winter events offering. Lumiere Durham stands out as the UK’s largest light festival featuring 29 artworks. The four-day event will close on 19 Monday and the organiser is bullish on attracting 200,000 people.

Other projects in this field include Hull City of Culture 2017. The culture company has announced a spectacular show with Where Do We Go From Here? In Cornwall, the Truro’s Festival of Lights will take the community to a lively parade, which is expected to attract 30,000 people.

Expert insight

Undoubtedly, the offer of winter events is plenty, largely staged outdoor, however, a significant share of the offering across the UK is indoor. The market is led by leisure centres, but other sporting facilities and venues are also picking up market share.

Access talked to Aggreko to get a business insight on winter events as a whole. The company provides specially designed power, heating and cooling to a wide variety of winter events, from snow sport events in remote locations like the X Games or Winter Olympics to Christmas events like Christmas markets, city centre ice rinks and light displays.

Kevin Brownhill, senior account manager, Aggreko Event Services, points out that the company also do contingency planning to ensure events meet the organisers’ and participants’ expectations. “We work to make sure that the events can run on time, without disruption, which might mean supporting winter events with temperature equipment to keep snow cold, or to warm the audience arena, support catering etc.”

Ice rink - Melbourne Federation Square

Ice rink at Melbourne Federation Square, powered by Aggreko

Aggreko boasts an extensive portfolio of projects. The company was appointed to light up ‘Luminocity’, the ice rink in Canary Wharf, last year, and has also provided power and chilling for Christmas ice rinks in Mexico and Chile.

“Being in the Southern Hemisphere and seeing temperatures rise to around 20 degrees Celsius in December, artificial cooling is a priority here and any disruptions to power or chilling would inevitably result in these rinks disappearing very quickly,” Brownhill said, adding that Aggreko also supports global arenas hosting ice hockey tournaments, often having to freeze the pitch and melt and dismantle it within very narrow time constraints.

Brownhill pointed out the importance of planning. “Christmas events draw big numbers and ensuring reliability is key. Melting ice rinks and failing lights are not good for an event’s reputation and maintaining high footfall throughout the season. Incorporating efficient, tailored systems and taking steps to protect reliability help to mitigate these risks.”

The collaboration between organiser and supplier is paramount. Brownhill suggested that working as far in advance as possible will benefit the delivery of the overall event, particularly on new events or in new locations where the risks are not yet identified.

“We can be very creative in finding solutions to problems, whether that be limited space or meeting specific noise and emission regulations for example,” Brownhill said. “Planning ahead and implementing contingency plans is vital to avoiding disruption to spectators and families enjoying seasonal events,” he concluded.