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Orinoco -

We once talked about counting tents & vehicles at juggling festivals.

Mïark suggested getting a shot of the campsite from a drone. Well at this year's BJC a chap called John did just that. I grabbed the best still & used the video to help me determine what was a tent & what was not. By my reckoning we have:

302 tents (the different colours were just to help me keep count)
42 live-in vehicles

The video was recorded at 11:00 on Sunday morning, 9th April. With the Gala Sow held at the beginning of the week I believe this would be close to the festival's peak attendance point.

The undotted big blue tent in the bottom left quadrant served as the TWJC bar, & was not used as accommodation.

I think the large white tent in the middle of the top left diagonal might possibly be two small tents both under one gazebo but I can't be sure from the photo & it doesn't appear on the video clearly either. I counted this as one tent.

Determining the area of the campsite is a bit tricky. At the moment neither Google or Bing's satellite imagery is up to date. When it does update to show the go cart track it will be very easy to use the tool ^Tom_ pointed out to calculate the area. According to the interweb Google's satellite imagery is on average 3 years old, so it may be sometime before it is updated.

You can't use the pitch markings for scale. An official sized pitch may legitimately be anywhere between 90m*45m=4050m2 & 120m*90m=10800m2. Fortuitously my tent is pitched close to & pretty much in line with the long side at the bottom, I know that my tent is 1.5m wide. So around that point on the Y-axis of the photo we have a scale of 16 pixels ≅ 1m, meaning that pitch is approximately a mere 66m long.

What can we extrapolate from this photo?

  • We had plenty of space this year.
  • We don't use space efficiently, & almost certainly never will.
  • Tent density is highest closest to the vehicle sized gate nearest the main building which was located between the blue & white van at the top of the photo. There was another pedestrian only gate just off the bottom of the photo a bit to the left of my tent, but this was further from the main building & much further from the toilet block by the athletics track. There was another vehicle sized gate off to the far left of the photo.
  • Groups of people like to pitch their tents in circles, this is most evident in the top right quadrant.
  • People also like to pitch close to an edge, if they are like me it is so they can get to a clear walk way without having to pick their way through everyone elses guy lines in the dark while intoxicated.
  • Some people are happy to carry their stuff a longer way to get some peace & quiet. The tents on the far left are at the furthest possible point away from the main building. This assumes they camped there for noise reasons & not for another reason I can't think of.
  • In hindsight, the vertical fire lane should have connected up to the top vehicle sized gate. The horizontal fire lane should have been offset from the goalposts as we would unlikely have been able to uproot them easily to allow a fire engine access.


Original video
Undotted still

Orinoco - - Parent

Should also note this does not include the crew camping area which I think contained half a dozen more tents.

Orinoco - - Parent

  • I need to camp more than 6m away from John to avoid his snoring.

John R - - Parent


(Don't think I was near you, anyway, so must be a different John. It is a good name.)

unigamer - - Parent

This was an interesting analysis, I saw the video earlier but it didn't occur to me to try something like this.

I was a couple of tents away from yours and chose the location because it was close to an exit and the signs on the first day directed me to that area as quiet camping. I'm not sure if people paid much attention to those signs but it was generally pretty quiet although you have given a name to the snoring! Fortunately I remembered to pack my headphones and played airplane noise through a white noise app to block it out.

^Tom_ - - Parent

Google's imagery just magically updated for me.
Well... only on Google Maps, and not on the area calculator interface to Google Maps (go figure...).

That pitch is approximately 99.65m long by approximately 59.64m wide (or 5940 m^2).

I claim that to first order guesswork, you could fit almost all of those 302 tents into the football pitch. Giving a tent density of about 1 tent per 20m^2 (including fire lanes).

My best measure using Google maps for the width of the goal posts comes to about 7.3m (and regulation goal posts have an inner separation of 7.32m). The length/width of the pitch is actually easier to measure -- therefore I have confidence in the measurements.

Fire lanes look to be slightly narrower than the goal posts? 6m would be my guess for the horizontal fire lane, more for the vertical one, but maybe they were accurately measured out by someone? (and maybe the discrepancy is a result of camera angle only?)

That would give us an area of (L - vw)*(W - hw)
where L = 100m, W = 60m, vw ~ 7m, hw ~ 6m,
which gives a football pitch (but not fire lane) area of about 5000 m^2.

Richard Loxley - - Parent

We had plenty of space this year.
We don't use space efficiently, & almost certainly never will.

I'm not sure I agree with those statements, from a fire safety point of view. Most of the tents are close enough that if one caught fire, most of the other tents within one of the 'quadrants' would also go up in flames. The fire lanes help stop the spread of fire, but it would be better to have more space between tents, or more frequent fire breaks. Thankfully we're lucky that we've never yet had a tent fire at a BJC.

The problem is even worse with the live-in vehicles. I've been informed that fire regulations stipulate six metres between occupied vehicles - we had only one metre gaps this year. If they had been spaced according to the regulations we'd have only fitted 20 vehicles in the same space.

As it was, we ran out of allocated space for the live-in vehicles even with the close spacing. The cycle-track at the bottom of the photo was reserved for unicycling. At the top of the photo the cycle track was fenced-in about half-way along. That fence was extended on the first night to give a little extra space (the three vehicles top-left are in the extension, the rest are in the originally allocated area).

So really we need twice the space we were given if we're to conform to the fire regulations for live-in vehicles :-( And possibly a bit more for tents too.

Orinoco - - Parent

Have you seen these fire regulations? A lot of 'regulations' are bandied about but all I can find are a lot of guidelines which vary greatly between regional fire services. I don't think there are any hard & fast laws that we need to conform to hence the variation in guidance.

So far I have seen guidelines that make no mention of gaps between tents. Others suggest leaving 1m, 3m, 4m or 6m between tents. Leaving 3m between mobile caravans & 6m between static caravans. Leaving 25m between tents & buildings. All tents must be within 25m of fire extinguishers etc.

I can't think of any other festivals where a strict distance between tents policy is enforced. Even the UK's largest festival which you'd expect would have the most scrutiny evidently allows close quarters camping. Like you 'I've been told' (& repeated to others without questioning, oops) that fire lanes need to be 6m wide to allow access of a fire engine. However, according to this document the fire service require a 3.7m wide access route to within 50m of all areas where fire fighting may be needed.

If it was law that tents have to be spaced 6m apart I think that would end camping festivals in the UK. Arranging 306 2m2 tents in a perfect 17*18 grid all spaced 6m apart would require a camping field 136m*144m or nearly 20000m2! Just think how many potential BJC sites that would eliminate.

That's not to say we shouldn't set up our sites with fire safety in mind of course.

Many of the guidance documents quote that a tent can be destroyed by fire in 60 seconds. If that is the case then unless the campsite is right next door to a fire station setting up access for a fire engine is not going to help. However, watching videos of tents burning on YouTube I think the 60 seconds claim is based on old canvas tents, most modern tents which are made from fire retardant fabric seem to take 5-15 minutes to catch & burn. Ironically I think this makes the situation worse. A longer burn time means it takes longer for a person sized hole to appear to bail out of/be dragged out through by your mates and a longer burn means it is more likely to ignite a neighbouring tent.

As can be seen from the four empty areas on the field, people will pitch their tents close together even when there is ample space to spread out. I think it is human nature to site your tent for convenience over fire safety. I also think we are all conditioned to bunching up to a degree due to previous experience with postage stamp sized camp sites.

If I'm honest I don't feel fire is a significant risk at a BJC. I'm mostly interested in fire safety planning as a means to show venues that the juggling community is a safe bet to host.

^Tom_ - - Parent

I don't know how official this is, but I've just found:
after about 20 seconds of Googling.

Some quotes include:
"For every 1000 m^2 it is recommended to make an open area of at least 6 meter width to the next section."

"The ground has to be arranged in such a manner that the free distance between each camping unit is a minimum of 3 meter; preferably 4 meter."

"Portable fire extinguishers and/or fire hoses have to be placed around the site. The traveller distance to a fire extinguisher should not exceed 25 m"

"Minimum distance between a caravan and a neighbouring vehicle or awning should be 1.8

Of course the best approach would be to simply approach the local fire officers if a venue doesn't have extensive experience. (Newark Showground, for example, presumably have enough experience with camping events to be able to inform helpfully).

Orinoco - - Parent

That was one of several documents I looked at. I must've missed the bit about 1.8m between vehicles. Interesting that that one recommends a smaller distance between vehicles than tents, it's usually the other way around. This further illustrates that there doesn't appear to be any concrete rules.

^Tom_ - - Parent

The caravans are to be 4m apart, but the awning/vehicle doesn't count towards that. But a tent fixed to the side of a caravan does.

Little Paul - - Parent

"If I'm honest I don't feel fire is a significant risk at a BJC"

The only campsite tent fire I've ever witnessed in person was at an EJC - it took out 2 tents, but would have been much worse had it happened at a time when there were fewer people around outside the tents to jump on it immediately.

The cause? Someone with a tea light candle just outside their tent, changing the gas bottle on their stove, mistreating it and sending a plume of gas towards their tent which went up, and then ignited the tent next to it.

Jugglers are capable of being idiots too.

As for fire lanes, I rather think those are less about allowing fire engines to reach tents than they are about letting ambulances get close to those who are covered in molten nylon sleeping bag...

unigamer - - Parent

The other benefit of fire lanes being that they split up sections of tents so that if one lot goes up it should take longer to spread.

I do agree with Orinco that the "regulations" seem to be rules of thumb and there is no proper legislation. Unfortunately it's one of those things that's not a problem until you have a problem, then the organisers will be scrutinized. I was not a fan of the guidance to Perth 2016 that suggested cooking should only be done in a tiny little marquee in which the wind could blow through. It seemed to disregard that people cook safely in tents all the time.

It's Him - - Parent

When at 6am you go back to your caravan and find a trio of numpties fire juggling in the camping field you don't feel quite so certain that we won't have fire issues at BJC. That was Nottingham 2011 I think. We have been lucky. I have no doubt that it just takes one person to be foolish in the wrong place for us to have a tragedy. Which BJC did someone burn a tent at the end of their fire show? It went up extremely quickly.


Richard Loxley - - Parent

You're right, I haven't seen evidence of such regulations - I've just gone on what Ron told me during Perth BJC, and again this year when we discussed the caravan spacing at Nottingham.

Ron claimed this year that the 6m gap between live-in vehicles was a UK regulation, and not a local fire brigade stipulation for Perth. I'm not sure of his source though.

I've had a look, and I've found a few official references but nothing concrete for our application:

(1) Government guidance to consumers:
This says "Ensure caravans and tents are at least six metres apart and away from parked cars, to reduce the risk of fire spreading". Although not a legal requirement, that kind of government advice probably ought to feed into the convention's risk assessment.

(2) Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960 Section 5 Model Standards 1989: Holiday Caravan Sites Schedule of Conditions
This is for permanent caravan sites, but does state "the minimum spacing distance between caravans made of aluminium or other materials within similar fire performance properties should be not less than five metres between units, 3.5 metres at the corners. For those with a plywood or similar skin or where there is a mixture of holiday caravans of aluminium and plywood, the separation distance should be six metres". This might be the source of the mandatory 6m belief. Whether it applies to temporary sites is another matter.

(3) Testing of the distances specified in the 1960 act to see if they could be reduced (NB. they only tested static caravans not touring caravans, but concluded the distances were needed):

Ultimately it's down to the convention, but they should consider:

(a) any actual law (they'd need proper legal advice I guess)
(b) any stipulations from local authorities for the site licence
(c) their own risk assessments to ensure the attendees safety is maintained
(d) whatever their insurance company demands

jamesfrancis - - Parent

I pick my camping spot primarily to avoid large circles of tents or large tents in general. There is nothing worse than being woken up at the ungodly hour of 10 in the morning by some hippy with a guitar or someone shouting about the rules of jousting (both of which happened to me last weekend despite my best endeavors in camp spot selection).

I also try and pick a spot far enough from the toilets to avoid the smell but close enough to make the 7am 'shouldn't have drunk so much beer the night before' rush. Obvious that wasn't an option this year since the toilets were at least 200m from everyone's tents assuming you didn't vault the fences. We discussed that this wouldn't actually by allowed in the Netherlands as there are guidelines for festivals that toilets must be within a certain number of meters from the all camping spots, but we had no idea whether such guidelines existed in the UK.

If you ever want a lesson in camping space optimization I can recommend the Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium. They only open up a small section of the field at a time and do this by walking slowly forwards with an outstretched rope with hoards of festival goers held at bay. Then as soon as you think you have enough space behind you, you dive on the spot and quickly claim your territory. It works out like a giant game of tent Tetris trying to negotiate with your neighbors to rotate their tent 25 degrees so you can fit your tent into the space. You end up with a lot of slightly overlapping tents with maybe an A4 piece of paper size gap of grass every few meters. Makes getting back to your tent a perilous experience and I didn't even want to consider the fire risk.

7b_wizard - - Parent

 [ Trolling, please ignore (hate myself for hitting "post", but 't is stronger than me): ]   When I walk through the convo, there is but one concern - I have just discovered: some cars are bigger than others.   :o]p 

rosiejane - - Parent

This is excellent!

Just a snippet about the fire lanes, I think this varies on the fire department of the area, in Darton the fire guy told me that they would never take a fire engine off the road so the fire lanes are more about spaces and people access than engines.


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