5. Programming Performances

The key to successful programming for an event is variety.

5.1 Programming Activities

The programme needs to be attractive to many different people and needs to provide a range of activities that will encourage passive and participatory involvement.
Most activities should appeal to a general audience, whilst others should focus on the needs of particular groups; children, the elderly, cultural and special interest groups.
When planning for these specialised interests, take care to consider the special needs of the group.  The special needs of any group can be discussed with representatives of the group itself.  Hawkesbury Social Atlas provides a comprehensive demographic profile of the Hawkesbury showing who lives in the community, including their ages and their diverse cultural backgrounds.


Local schools, kindergartens and playgroups may have suggestions or resources that they are happy to share for children's activities.  You should aim to have both active and passive activities which are workable, coordinated and interesting.  Children's activities need experienced staff.  This will make the delivery of activities much easier and safer.  Remember that children have a short attention span so games shouldn't run too long.  Make sure you organise to supply adequate resources for your activities.  For example, drinks after physical activities, smocks for painting and so on.


Youth clubs, scouts, girl guides, high schools and colleges can all be approached for ideas and participation. Each group will have a particular skill or resource that can be used in your event programme.

Older Adults

For resources, participation and suggestions visit local groups that service the elderly community, eg. Senior Citizens' Clubs.  Most Community Centres have programmes for the elderly.  Leisure centres quite often have programmes and clubs specifically for older adults.  Suitable seating must be provided and refreshments need to be accessible when older adults are participating in the event.

Professional Performers

Finding professional performers is a matter of using whatever contacts you can to get in touch with the performer you want.  Visit other events and festivals and talk to performers who appear suitable for your event. Ask them what they charge and if they would be interested in performing at your event.  Gather contact phone numbers whenever possible may be able to help you, or look up the website of Artfiles www.artfiles.com.au for a comprehensive listing of artists and performers in the local area.

Cultural Diversity

When looking for groups to perform, look at the cultural groups within your community and develop the public's appreciation of their performances by getting the MC or group to talk about the history, significance or custom of a particular dance or display.
As a mark of respect for the traditional owners, many organisers now begin their events with a Welcome To Country ceremony, which is a way of acknowledging the traditional owners of the land.  A Community Support Fund exists to enable Indigenous artists, performers and speakers to attend community events.

5.2 Some Ideas For Activities

  • Aerobic displays
  • Antique Fair
  • Art shows
  • Badge making
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Banner making
  • Bicycle races
  • Boat races
  • Bowls tournament
  • Brass bands
  • Cake decorating
  • Candle making
  • Celebrity games
  • Children's rides
  • Choirs
  • Church groups
  • Clowns
  • Colonial and international games
  • Competitions
  • Craft expo
  • Dance groups
  • Danceathon
  • Disco
  • Displays
  • Drumming display
  • Egg and spoon races
  • Ethnic crafts
  • Ethnic food and games
  • Face painting
  • Fashion parades
  • Fencing display
  • Festival ball
  • Festival breakfast
  • Fireworks
  • Flag displays
  • Flower show
  • Folk dancing
  • Fortune-tellers
  • Fun run
  • Garden party
  • Garden show
  • Gem display
  • Glass blowing display
  • Go-cart races
  • Hat parade
  • Have-a-go games
  • Historic walks and tours
  • Horse riding
  • Indigenous arts & crafts
  • Inline skating display
  • Jazz bands
  • Jewellery making
  • Jumping Castles
  • Kite making and flying
  • Lantern/torchlight procession
  • Leatherwork
  • Local & school bands
  • Local produce
  • Martial arts display
  • Mask making
  • Masquerade ball
  • Maypole dancing
  • Mini-farmyard
  • Mini-Golf game
  • Model machinery
  • Music workshops
  • Musical comedy
  • Musical instrument making
  • Opera
  • Orchestras
  • Outside Radio Broadcast
  • Paper making
  • Parades and processions
  • Performance workshops
  • Pet shows
  • Photographic exhibitions
  • Photography workshops
  • Police horse or dog display
  • Pottery
  • Puppet making
  • Skateboard display
  • Stamp collectors corner
  • Stilt walkers
  • Storytelling
  • Talent quests
  • Tea dance
  • Teddy Bears' Picnic
  • Theatre Productions
  • Tug-O-War
  • Video making
  • Vintage car display
  • Welcome To Country
  • Wine tasting
  • Wood chopping competitions
  • Writing groups

The activities you choose are entirely up to you, but for high levels of participation and involvement the diverse nature of your community must be acknowledged in the event programme.

5.3 Programming Performances

Programming the right acts and presenting them in the most effective way can make or break your event.  The choice of acts will be determined by the objectives and the budget of your event.  The theme of the event will play a major role in determining the type of performances you will choose.
To programme effectively, you should spend some time finding out who your audience will be, what interest groups they represent and what part of the day they are most likely to attend.

To keep the programme interesting, you should provide sufficient contrast between acts.  At peak audience time you should present your headline act.  Usually this is toward the end of the programme.  The stronger acts should be closest to the main event.  The time allotted can be negotiated with each act.  Most acts have an optimum length and the act itself is usually the best judge.  However if you are not sure, ask colleagues or others in the community about performance times for particular groups.  They may be familiar with the performance and recommend an optimal performance slot for the group.
As well as taking into account the performance times, time should be allotted for the changing over from one act to another.  Ask the performers how much change over time they require at the beginning and end of their act, and if they will need assistance with their equipment to get on and off stage.
To keep the audience entertained while the next act is setting up, it is customary to:

  • play 'change over' music appropriate to the event through the PA system or
  • have an item that can be performed on the ground in front of the stage or
  • on stage in front of the equipment eg. a dance group

A store of cassettes or compact discs, check which is appropriate, should be ready for this occasion and given to the sound engineer at the start of the event.  Most large PA systems have cassette and compact disc playing facilities as part of their standard equipment.  If you are hiring a smaller PA system, you should alert the sound engineer that you will require a cassette deck or compact disc player on your confirmation of hire. 

Make sure you put all equipment requests in writing and post/fax them to your sound engineer.  This will avoid any confusion on the day.  See 6. Stage Equipment.

Check when you book your performers what equipment they will need to play their backing music on, and what other sound equipment they require.  If the act uses a backing tape, make sure the tape is with the sound engineer during the previous act.  You should also make sure a person who is familiar with the act is with the sound engineer to tell them when the tape should start and how loud it needs to be.  The music should be cued up at the starting point on the tape before it is handed to the sound engineer.
For a bigger event, it may be worth your while to hold a meeting that all performers, the stage managers and the sound engineers attend.  Performers can be asked to fill in a stage layout diagram, showing where they stand and listing what equipment they will bring and what they need.  This allows the sound engineer to discuss performers' particular needs before the event, to spot any potential difficulties, and to come away with a list of equipment they'll need to operate the sound.  It also allows the stage managers time to identify exactly what their job will entail before the day.

Multiple Stages

If you wish to run multiple stages, then you need to take these things into account:

Unless the stages are acoustically and visually isolated from each other, do not run stages at the same time. If you do, you risk dividing your audience between the stages and allowing one stage to drown the other out.

Having a number of stages can be beneficial to your event for a number of reasons:

  • you can prepare on one stage while another stage is being used. In this instance, visual and/or audio contact is essential to ensure one stage continues neatly into another

Different stages can provide different styles of entertainment and therefore cater to a broader audience:

  • you might have a children's stage, an acoustic stage and a rock music stage

Ensure the comperes/announcers at each stage acknowledge the presence and importance of the other stages.

Do not promote competition between the stages.

5.4 Street Parades

Parades can be very colourful affairs and create a focal point for gathering together your audience and leading them into the area of central activity. Costumes, banners and floats can be made by groups in the lead up to the event and be great fun too. Keep in mind that a great deal of time is required to organise partial or whole road closures for a parade see 4.1 Operational Requirements.
When organising a parade, it is important to structure it carefully or consider employing a choreographer. Consider the theme, any signs you want in the parade and the best order for those taking part. Parades need a lot of colour, movement and participants.

There are specific requirements needed by Council and the RMS relating to Traffic Management if a street parade is to be part of your event. See 4.1.2 Traffic Management.

5.5 Fireworks

Fireworks can add drama and excitement to an event, and make a particularly suitable finale. You are advised to seek a professional, reputable company and to follow all safety guidelines described in 3.9 Fireworks.

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