How FIXR solved the issue of queues for Beckenham Fireworks
First held in 1946, Beckenham Fireworks is one of the oldest and longest-running bonfire night events in London. Once a relatively small event, recent years have seen the annual display become hugely popular - with this year's edition welcoming 10,000 attendees.
While this rapid growth has meant raising huge sums for local charities, it also brought with it logistical headaches of managing ticketing and access control for thousands of people, resulting in overwhelming queues and a need to find a solution that simplifies the entire experience for organisers and attendees alike.
In 2023, Beckenham Fireworks joined with FIXR to run the first ever fully-ticketed edition of the beloved event.
We spoke with one of the organisers - Chris Martin, Secretary of 5th Beckenham South Scout Group - about how FIXR helped reduce the queues, simplify payments, and transform the event for the better.
About the event
It's all run on a voluntary basis by members of the scout group team, and my role is the technical side: ticketing, website, administration, paperwork, and also running the main gate on the night.
We have two fireworks shows: a quieter display popular with parents of young children, and the main display. But there's also a funfair and lots of food and drink stalls.
When the scout group took over running the event about six years ago, it was a fairly local event, we took cash on the door, made a few thousand pounds for charity, and everybody was pretty happy.
All the proceeds go to charity; both to ourselves as a scout group but particularly to charities based around youth and hardship in the local area. Last year we made about £90,000.
Going fully ticketed with FIXR
Since taking over running the event, a lot of local larger displays around us have shut down, so we started getting more people turning up; dealing with increasingly large amounts of cash and credit cards.
In 2021 we basically brought the whole of the town to a halt with people queuing to get in. We had to close the gates because it was too busy and we got concerned about safety.
The issues involving the crowds - and particularly handling cash and credit cards - meant that in 2022 we tried selling half the tickets in advance and the rest on the gate.
We still had queues round the block and we had to make a judgement on how crowded the park was getting, and shut the gates when we felt it was getting too full to stop letting people in.
So this year we went to fully ticketed with FIXR.
Selling out 10,000 tickets in advance
Last year, we estimated we had about 12,000 people. So we did some crowd safety analysis and had discussions with the council, and they limited us to 10,000.
We sold out about three days before the event, which was pretty much perfect. It gave us time to put up banners at the park and publicise on the website that it was advanced tickets only.
Maximising the people into the gate isn't actually the objective. If things get too busy and too crazy, then people start getting unhappy and we don't like that.
Our main aim is to keep things as simple, safe and straightforward as we can.
Simplifying the event experience
Solving the issue of queues
We didn’t have any queues which I was absolutely staggered by.
Managing the queues outside the park has been our biggest concern in previous years. That problem has completely gone away now.
If anything, we had too many people on the gates to scan tickets which is a nice problem to have. We had people outside to manage the queues with no queues to manage!
Going cash and card free
It was really nice that we didn't have to deal with cash this year.
When we first ran the event, it was cash only. We had a trailer where the money was piled high on the table and we were counting it as quickly as we could.
We had about £30k or £40k in cash to either put in a night safe or take home. It was just an absolute nightmare. Credit cards started to help with that, but they still take a long time to process on the gate.
Using the FIXR Entry Manager App
Compared with the system we had last year, the speed of the scanning was chalk and cheese basically. Especially being able to scan more than one person in at once. The scanning was extremely effective.
Through my day job, I'm very attuned to systems that have issues with scaling and I saw absolutely nothing that concerned me at all about FIXR. Everything just worked well at the scale we’re at, so we have every confidence in it.
Accessing real-time data
It was really useful for the people managing the event to know how many people were actually in the park and how many we’d admitted so far.
My concern was that because people had tickets, they'd all turn up just before the main display. But because we could see how many people we’d admitted, we were able to see that actually we’d already got 80% of the people in the park already.
Working with the FIXR team
Custom pricing for charity events
We talked to another ticketing company, who were very aggressive about calling us up, but when we said “we're a charity, can you give us a good deal?”, it turned out to be not a very good deal at all.
So I had a few phone calls with other ticketing platforms, and FIXR was very good, very responsive, and ticked all the boxes in terms of what we were looking for.
Setting up the ticketing wasn’t complicated and it did everything we wanted. The software worked really well, the booking system worked well. The whole system worked perfectly. We had one issue with cookies, but I was able to report it first thing on Monday morning and you fixed it by the afternoon.
Normally at the end of every fireworks event I get three or four emails from people complaining about something, and we had none this year so that was excellent.
Obviously we're not professionals, we don't do this kind of thing very often, but the advice that FIXR has given us, and the help that you’ve given us has been absolutely excellent.
Thank you to everybody, we really, really appreciate it.
If you'd like to find out more about how FIXR can help make your events a success, please get in touch below - we'd love to hear from you!