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Venue and Facilities

This section provides a basic overview of things you may wish to consider on site during an event. 

If you are running a larger event then there is significantly more detail available on The website requires a subscription which can either be gained by the club or if you have a specific question then the British Canoeing events team have a subscription and will be happy to pass on the relevant information.

Venue Smaller

Selecting a Venue

If your event is taking place at your own club, there may not be any decision to make about where your event should take place. You may, however, wish to consider other local locations or, if you are arranging a larger event, then there may be a whole range of options to consider. 

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If you are looking for a venue, some of the key things to consider may be:

  • Location and accessibility - how easy is it for the people you want to participate to get there? 

  • Is there sufficient parking or transport links?

  • Is the water at the venue suitable for your activity?

  • Are there sufficient facilities (e.g. toilets, changing, water, power, catering) or space to bring in these things?

  • Are there any costs involved in using the venue? 

  • When is there access to the site before and after the event and how does this fit with the time you need to set up and de-rig?

Site Planning

When planning the layout of your site, there are several questions to ask:

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  • What resources/infrastructure do you need on the site?
  • Which things are in fixed positions (e.g. toilets, changing, water, power)?

  • What is the participant/competitor flow – e.g. where will they move from and to throughout the day?

  • What is the spectator flow - e.g. where will they move from and to throughout the day?

  • Do you need to restrict access to certain areas?

  • Traffic flow around the site, access routes for emergency vehicles 

  • Race control/check in/results location

  • Meeting point/lost children location

The Purple Guide website provides a lot of detailed information in this area

Permissions and licenses

If you are organising an event on the water you should notify the relevant navigation authority such as the Canal and River Trust or the Environment Agency. 

You can find out who the authority is via the British Canoeing website. For some authorities there are specific forms to be completed (links below) whilst others may just need to be notified. 

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British Canoeing members have licences to paddle on the majority of waterways across the country (as detailed on the website). If your event takes place on one of these waterways, then as long as paddlers are members and the authority has been notified, they are able to participate.  

If your event is taking place on a waterway not included in the British Canoeing membership, then you should liaise directly with the relevant navigation authority to confirm permissions and licences they require. 

As well as considering the water-based permissions required, it is also worth considering any land-based permissions you may need. This may be for access or portages for the event or for simple things such as local facilities, such as toilets, that you may be anticipating people will use. Even if you do not specifically need permission, then having a courtesy conversation may help the event to run smoother and avoid complications on the day, e.g. public toilets being unexpectedly closed for maintenance the day of your event. 

Event Notification Forms


As well as arranging the facility and venue for the event, it’s important to consider at a relatively early stage what equipment you may need to allow the event to run smoothly.

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The kind of equipment needed may include:

  • Infrastructure - e.g. gazebos, sign posts, stakes and rope for fencing

  • Paddling - e.g. boats, paddles, buoyancy aids

  • Competition or event specific - e.g. bibs, buoys, stopwatches/timing systems

If you don’t have all of the items you need readily available, then you may be able to source them from:

  • Other local clubs or event organisers

  • Regional Development Team contacts (links available via the British Canoeing website

  • Discipline Committee contacts (links available via the British Canoeing website)

  • British Canoeing event contacts - [email protected] 


Depending on the event, participants and spectators may need to have food and drinks available. For small events this may not be necessary, but participants should be told if they need to bring anything with them. You also need to consider access to drinking water.

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If you are catering on site, it is important to assess what is needed and consider:

  • How many people need to be catered for – participants and spectators?

  • What sort of food/drinks will people want – hot/cold, meals/snacks, dietary requirements?

  • Are you looking to use external caterers to deliver requirements or catering in-house? If you are doing it in the club, it’s worth reviewing the Food Standard Agency advice on providing catering and making sure that someone who is responsible for the catering has training (e.g. Level 2 food hygiene certificate) in food safety - this is available online or by local deliverers. 

  • If you are looking to sell alcohol at the event, then the site and/or seller will need the appropriate licensing and to ensure that legal requirements are met.

Toilets and Changing

The number of toilets needed for an event will depend on:

  • The duration of the event

  • The demographic of the people attending

  • The anticipated consumption of refreshments

  • Whether there will be times when high usage can be expected – e.g. are 500 people going to want to use the facilities before they head out on to the water for a long period?

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The number of participants will also dictate how much changing space is required. 

Consideration should also be given to accessible facilities which could also be used as gender neutral provision. 

As an approximate idea, the Purple Guide gives the following recommended toilet numbers for events of 6 hours or more with little or no food or alcohol served:

  • 1 female toilet per 68 women attending

  • 1 male toilet per 340 men attending

  • 1 urinal per 125 men attending

  • 1 accessible toilet per 45 people attending

You will also need to consider the maintenance of these facilities throughout the day and follow guidance of providers around how often they may need to be cleaned or emptied. 

Refuse and Recycling

It’s important to look after the site you are using for an event so you should make sure that there are suitable bins for people to use for waste and recycling. You may wish to put additional bins or bin bags around the site and encourage people to use them. You should also be aware that bins may need to be emptied during the day so have people keeping an eye on them to prevent them from overflowing. 

At the end of the event, a sweep should be carried out to ensure that any litter has been cleared and the site has been left in the same, or better, condition than it was at the start.


It’s important to make the site appealing to people who are attending the event and branding can certainly help with this.

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Options may include:

  • Scrim – lightweight cloth banners (usually 3m x 1m) with logos or printing on that can be used to cover fencing

  • Feather flags – tall (2m-5m) feather shaped flags with logos or printing on

  • Pull-up banners – printed roller banners that usually are about 80cm wide by 2m tall. These are usually based placed inside or in a place sheltered from the wind

  • Pop-out A-Frame banners – fabric banners usually around 1m long that can be pegged into the ground. They are particularly useful if needed to provide a barrier

Branding is also a great way to promote sponsors/partners engaged in the event.  They may even have banners, etc. themselves you can use so there is no cost to the event.

There is a growing market for more sustainable branding for events. It’s worth looking at the materials your branding is made from and, where possible, look at how reusable it is, e.g. does it need to have specific event logos or dates on or could general club/discipline/sport branding be used which could be used again. 

British Canoeing and the Regional Development Teams have a range of British Canoeing branding available which may be useful to brighten up the site and promote the sport. If you are a member of British Canoeing, then this may be loaned to your event free of charge, subject to availability and possibly transport costs. If you are not a member, then this may be loaned at a cost.


Any event should at least consider accessibility requirements for people attending the event either as participants, volunteers or spectators. 

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For an event targeting participants with a disability, then this will be especially important and some useful areas to look at would be:

  • Car parking

  • Access (e.g. ramps) to any buildings

  • Toilet and changing facilities

  • Paths and surfaces around the site

  • Access to the water

  • Additional and appropriate rescue provision

  • Quiet space for people with autism

If the event is open to the public, then these things should also be considered as you may not know in advance who will attend and what requirements they may have. This would also apply to a club event where spectators or friends and family may attend. 

The nature of the sport means that some locations will have limited accessibility so, if this is the case, then it’s important to ensure this is communicated in advance. 

Car Parking and Traffic

Where possible it is useful to promote public transport, car sharing and active travel (walking/cycling) for an event. As well as the obvious environmental benefits, it reduces the number of cars on site and the amount of car parking required. 

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Cycle parking may be a useful addition to a site and should be advertised to encourage people to use it. 

For car parking provision, it’s important to anticipate the number of people who are likely to attend the event and ensure that the provision is appropriate. If participants are likely to bring their own boats, then it is not unrealistic to expect that there may be nearly as many vehicles as participants. 

If parking may be limited, then it may be worth using marshals to direct people to spaces and encourage parking close together (especially if there are not marked spaces). These marshals should have hi-vis vests and be briefed to ensure they are safe when doing so. 

If you are expecting a significant number of cars to attend and that there isn’t enough car parking provision on site, then it may be useful to speak to the local council and any neighbours to make sure that they are at least aware of the event and to see if any additional space is available.  

Depending on the ground, e.g. grass, it is important to consider the likely weather and ground conditions.  With a prolonged period of rain you may have to notify attendees that parking is not available or limited.  It is worth monitoring the ground condition and weather and making this decision and communicating it at least 48 hours in advance so both you and the attendees can adapt accordingly.

On-Site Communications

The nature of your event and the size of the area it covers will determine how important on-site communication is.

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There may well be a need to communicate at least basic information with participants who are on site. This could be done with a notice board or an information point that can provide key timings of the day or other information that people need. This will help to reduce the number of questions that organisers and workforce receive. 

If you are using a large site, have a significant number of people attending, or participants and workforce are travelling a long way, then you may want to consider how people communicate with each other across the site. This could be the workforce communicating with each other or as a way for participants and organisers to interact.

Mobile phones provide an easy solution and can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Individual calls or messages

  • Group chats on services such as WhatsApp

  • WhatsApp one-way group messages - you can create a group in which only administrators can post information to participants/volunteers which can be useful for getting information out without it being lost in replies. To set this up, create a group → select ‘group info’ → Select ‘group setting’ → select ‘send messages’ → select ‘only admins’

The biggest challenge with phones is often phone signal, so it’s good to check beforehand if they will work for everyone involved. 

If they can’t be relied on at the venue, then you may wish to look at 2-way radios that can be distributed to volunteers in key locations. 


Putting up signs around the venue can make it much easier for people to navigate around and significantly enhance their experience.

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You might want to consider signs for:

  • Car Parking

  • Navigational signs from car parking to activity and around the site

  • Toilets

  • Changing

  • Catering

  • Check-in

  • Briefing Area

  • Activities

  • Key notices - e.g. timings, that photography will be used on site

It’s important to consider the conditions they will be used in and to make them waterproof if there’s a chance of rain. It’s also useful to consider exactly where you will put signs and how you will attach them. 

Where possible, make these signs generic so that they can be reused for future events.