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Creative outdoor events: how Birmingham welcomed students safely in 2020

The first week at university: it’s a classic rite of passage.

After a tough summer, it was more important than ever to give 2020’s new students a warm, fun and sociable welcome to their new home. But how do you achieve that when they can’t meet in groups of more than six – and that guidance comes out just weeks before they arrive?

The event: welcome to campus

Traditionally, welcome weekend is a festival of fun. With lakeside accommodation, rolling green fields and its own bar and restaurants, the Vale Village is the perfect destination for a big student party.

Lakeside at University of Birmingham

The challenge: make it fun, and make it safe

It was vital to provide this year’s freshers with a welcome experience that would be safe. It was also essential to make it fun: a genuine alternative to the temptations of the big city where risks might be harder to control, and a proper chance to get to know their new flatmates.

As September’s welcome weekend date drew closer, the team learned of two additional challenges.

First, Birmingham was entering a period of additional measures to combat rising infections. Secondly, new limits on socialising indoors and outdoors meant that no more than 6 people could gather together. When you have over 5000 new students to provide for, that’s quite the challenge.

The solution: Lakeside

With only three weeks’ notice, teams across the University mobilised, thought creatively, and created a safe, secure social event experience.

Called Lakeside, this two-week event made welcome truly live up to its name. The site boasted an outdoor cinema complete with free blankets and popcorn, and a Game Zone with minigolf, giant darts, laser tag and more.

Collaboration and teamwork

Lakeside was possible thanks to a close working partnership between the University’s event team and the Guild of Students (Birmingham’s equivalent to a student union).

Together, they created the concept. After their plan was approved, the two teams had less than two weeks to make it a reality.

That meant a massive and rapid amount of work: creating a web portal that would allow virtual ticketing; designing, printing and installing safety signage, uniforms and track-and-track systems; hiring stewards and co-ordinating vendors; and marketing the event to students before they arrived.

Calling the experts

LFX Events are regular contributors to student events on campus, and know the Vale site well.

They were perfectly placed to supply marquees (open-sided to allow airflow), lighting, sound and more.

Lakeside minigolf

Keeping it safe

Arrivals at the site were timed at 5-minute intervals, to ensure no queuing or bottlenecks. Students all had temperature checks on arrival, and were required to wear face coverings outside their own designated table areas.

Food and drink were ordered by app, and delivered directly to their tables with no contact.

All tables were booked in groups of up to 6 flatmates, ensuring no mixing between household bubbles.

Supporting the community

Local street food stars Digbeth Dining Club were invited to provide the food offer. These Birmingham legends are a collective of independent street food traders, offering authentic freshly-made food from around the world. With different traders every day, the students had the opportunity to try some of the most exciting food in Brum.

Digbeth Dining Club at Lakeside

As well as supporting our local independents, the event also allowed the University to offer casual work to second, third and fourth year students as stewards and hosts.

Outdoor events

The University of Birmingham has two sites for outdoor events: the Green Heart in the centre of campus, and the Vale Village a short stroll away. The events team can support you with a wide range of options for outdoor events – all created and delivered in line with safety guidance to give you peace of mind.

  • Range of sites for marquees, tents and stages
  • On-site bars and restaurants
  • Pop-up street food from a range of vendors, including Digbeth Dining Club
  • Farmers’ markets
  • Fireworks displays
  • Cashless ticketing
  • Outdoor heating
  • In-house AV team and electrical supply

Let's get together safely

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