New Venue Discussions

Following on from the flooding issues at BreachLAN #65, I’d like to ask the community your thoughts on venue in the future. I’m going to lay out my thoughts on what I think is best, discuss my thoughts and try to explain my point of view in a way that everyone understands. You’re welcome to disagree, and if you do disagree, you are invited to air that disagreement publicly.

I won’t bite. I won’t be mean. I won’t take it personally. I won’t make any jokes. I just want to hear what our community has to say about this issue.

I’ll start this by saying that as of yet, no decision has been made, and no dates confirmed with anyone yet, but we’d like to start getting in touch with people very soon, so time is of the essence on this discussion.

The issue of potential flooding at Corbie can not be ignored. It happened once already while we’ve been hosting events there, and it very nearly happened again during BreachLAN #65, causing it to be cut short. For all it’s positives, this is an issue that has proven more frequent than anticipated.

We did have an alternative venue lined up, and had we known about the second round of weather warnings we would have taken up that offer. I only found out about the second wave of weather warnings about ten minutes after finishing setup on the Friday. Had I known earlier in the week about the new weather warnings, I would have undoubtedly taken up the offer of an alternative venue. For that, I can only apologise. That was my mistake.

Before we start talking about a new venue, I’m going to lay out a few things that we look for in a venue, as well as highlighting some of the things we don’t normally get at venues, that we do get at Corbie.

If you think you know of a venue that would fit our requirements, please let me know in Discord. I will investigate all leads that people provide me.

Absolutely Essential

Without these things, a venue is not suitable for a LAN party event.

  1. Uninterrupted access from approximately noon on Friday, to 5pm Monday.
  2. A suitable amount of indoor space.
  3. A suitable amount of car parking.
  4. A suitably high specification electrical supply, at least 2A available per person spread across multiple 13A outlets.
  5. Prepared to negotiate against standard prices for unique, long form factor events.

Obviously, Corbie has all of these.

Highly Desirable

These things all make a venue much more attractive

  1. Management committee willing to consider our unique requirements, and assist in making accommodations.
  2. Showers.
  3. Secure car parking.
  4. Within range of a variety of takeaways / delivery restaurants.
  5. Fast internet.
  6. Separate kitchen area with kettle, microwave and basic utensils.
  7. In-house tables and chairs.
  8. Within 5 miles of the city, or AWPR.
  9. Short distance between car park and customers desk, without stairs or other significant obstructions.
  10. Ability to lock ourselves inside.

Corbie has almost all of these, even if the showers require us to work around the football schedule, this is just a minor inconvenience, and recently the Internet connection has been upgraded (at our request) to full fibre, netting us a sturdy 75Mbps downstream. If we go to another venue, it is highly unlikely we will have showers and it is even less likely we will have Internet that performs this well.

We can also lock all our vehicles behind a sturdy gate at night-time, lock the front door for most of the time and black out all the windows, which is fantastic for the security of all our belongings.

Nice to have’s

These things are nice for us to have, but are not essential.

  1. Stage.
  2. Separate sleeping area.
  3. Multiple separated ring mains.
  4. Ceiling rigging points for ceiling installed light effects.
  5. Within 5G area.
  6. Within 15 miles of the AWPR.
  7. Blackout windows, or the ability to easily black out the windows (for avoidance of monitor glare, and for security).
  8. Central heating

Corbie is 2 minutes from the AWPR, and is within 5 minutes of a chip shop, chinese takeaway, Subway, supermarket and another generic takeaway, as well as being in delivery range for Dominos Pizza. If we need it, it’s also within 5G range of the AWPR so we can have 5G backup for our Internet connection, if we need it.

Must not

These things immediately make a venue unsuitable

  1. Insisting they have a member of their staff on duty to supervise the entire time.
  2. Not allowing overnight events or people to sleep on the floor.
  3. Insisting on using their in house catering / beverage suppliers, and being unwilling to allow people to bring their own food.
  4. High levels of passing foot traffic and unknown members of the public walking in.
  5. Coin operated electric meters.
  6. Unwillingness to negotiate with standard pricing tiers.
  7. Existing bookings that are unable to be cancelled.

The number of venues I’ve talked to that insist on having one of their staff members on site the entire time, and who have no interest in negotiating a more reasonable price to accommodate our event is quite disheartening. Regarding point 7, we typically struggle moving venues because if a venue already has a booking for an event, they won’t cancel it to make way for us, even if we are promising three huge bookings a year, and the existing booking is a one off for only a couple of hours.

Number six is especially important to us. Most venues operate on a per-hour price structure, which is typically in the region of between £15 and £35 per-hour. Corbie is ordinarily in the region of £25 per hour, and if they were unwilling to consider our unique event and requirements and create a different pricing tier for us, there’s no way it would be financially possible to host an event there. It would cost almost £2000 just in hall hire charges. We need management committees that are willing to approach us differently. It’s one of the reasons why I’m always so nit-picky about leaving any of our venues immaculate. We need to create minimum hassle, not to be needy customers, pay our bills quickly, not disturb or disrupt the local community or other user groups, and leave it tidier than we found it.

It helps when venue management committees see us as a group that doesn’t require any effort from them other than checking we’ve paid our bill.

The other thing Corbie have done for us is get themselves registered with an actual postal address, which has enabled them to get regular domestic recycling bins delivered, another thing they did for us to make things better.

A little more detail about what a high quality electrical supply actually is

In point 4 of my Must Haves, I said that a venue must have a high quality electrical supply. What does this actually mean? This is quite a dry technical discussion, so just skip over it if you aren’t that way inclined.

I greatly prefer having a brand new electrical system with an RCBO (Residual Current Breaker with Overload) protecting each ring main. An RCBO combines the functions of an RCD (Residual Current Device) and MCB (Miniature Circuit Breaker)

To summarise very quickly, an RCD protects against earth leakage faults, and a MCB protects against overload faults. An RCBO, combines both into a single unit.

In the past, you would have one single RCD protecting multiple MCBs, meaning that if any one of the circuits developed an earth leakage fault, all circuits under the RCD would be tripped.

All Class 1 electrical appliances have some earth leakage, but due to the massive capacitors in the power supplies, desktop computers have a higher than usual earth leakage. Most earth leakage systems trip at 30mA. It is not unusual for a desktop computer system to have 2mA of earth leakage by itself, meaning in reality, 10 – 12 computers per RCD device is about the limit.

With a brand new RCBO installation (like we have at Corbie), we can plug our mains cables into different ring mains to split the earth leakage over multiple RCBOs and greatly reduce the risk of a nuisance trip. We’d probably hit the current limit of the ring main before we got anywhere close to the earth leakage limit, which is a much safer and much more predictable situation to be in.

The reality of Corbie

By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out that I like Corbie. Without putting words in his mouth, I’m fairly confident Dex is in strong agreement with me. We’ve both been going to LAN’s for almost two decades, up and down across the country and the reality is that venues as good as Corbie just don’t come along often.

It’s a perfect venue, with an ideal management committee, who just leave us alone to do our thing, collect their money afterwards, everybody wins. No hassle. No mucking about. Just a nice easy stress free experience with people who treat our event with respect and are very accommodating to our requests.

Plus not to mention how lovely and warm we can make it without spending hundreds on the heating. Granted in the summer it can get stuffy, but there are worse problems to have.

Going back to Logie Durno

Going back to Logie Durno is not out of the question. We did not burn any bridges on our way out and they gave us a good reference for Corbie. I have just a some thoughts about that.

Firstly, there are no on site showers. I’ve grown used to on site showers. I like it, a lot. I despise not showering every day and having to take time out of the LAN and incurring extra expense to shower in the communal showers at the Garioch Sports Centre is something I’d rather not deal with again.

Secondly, it’s MUCH further out of the city than Corbie. It’s a good 25 minute drive. Plus, the town with all the takeaways and supermarkets in it is much further away.

Thirdly, we had issues with some of the local teenagers shining laser pens into the hall, poking their noses around where they weren’t wanted, racing their bikes around the outside near all the vehicles and just generally being annoying twats. If I remember correctly, we had to call the Police on them twice.

Fourthly, see my note above about power circuits. Corbie has a new RCBO system. Logie has a much older system that nuisance tripped with some frequency. If I recall correctly, I don’t think they had any specific earth leakage protection and relied on an earth fault causing an overcurrent fault to trip, something that is quite dangerous if someone is being electrocuted by the fault.

Fifthly, remember the huge heaters they had in the roof? In winter we’d spend almost £100 – £150 just in heating. Given what has happened to electricity prices recently, there is absolutely no doubt that we would have to add significant further cost to the LAN ticket. The better insulated, lower ceiling, gas central heating of Corbie is infinitely superior to keeping things comfortable.

And finally, I think Logie is just too big for us now. Until we get more attendees at LAN, I think that Logie will feel very empty.

Maybe you think differently? Maybe you don’t care about the issues I’ve raised and would prefer the extra space and atmosphere of Logie? Would you like us to get back in touch with Logie? If there was an extra expense going there, would you be willing to pay more for your ticket to cover it? Please, let me know in Discord. Again, I won’t bite.

Do you know any other venues we should consider?

If you think you know a venue that would fit our requirements, please post it in Discord. We’d consider any of your suggestions, and we’d explain in public any steps that we would take to use that venue, anything we find out while researching it and any other decisions we make along the way.

We have a couple of other venues already under consideration and will let you all know how discussions with any of them go. There is one I have in mind specifically, the new super secret venue that if we get it will be quite possibly the best LAN venue on the planet, almost custom designed for our needs. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, so until I have something positive to share, I’ll be saying nothing. Just know that I have an idea and if it comes to fruition, you will all be very glad.

Conclusion….for now.

I was quite angry at LAN and quite frustrated at the situation. While in that situation, I may have said some things in frustration that I have since reconsidered. Now that I’ve had a chance to calm down and gather my thoughts more objectively, I’ll lay out my position for everyone.

Future flooding at Corbie is inevitable, it’s going to happen again and we should be looking for a new venue. However, let’s not rush it. Let’s compare what we’d be giving up due to the possibility of flooding, vs the likelihood of it actually happening.

If you, our community, want us to rush to another venue to completely mitigate the flood risk, that’s fine. Tell us, and we’ll do it. (But you need to tell us, speak your minds, be frank and honest. We don’t care, we need your opinions.) If you don’t tell us anything, the only conclusion I can draw is that you agree with my thoughts as I’ve laid them out.

The chance of this situation happening again in March, is unlikely. March is typically quite an unpredictable month for rainfall. Looking at the rainfall data from the past few years, it ranges from 40 up to about 170mm of rain for the month. The thing is, for the week before Breach65, and then the weekend of, there was 210mm and 30mm respectively. Even if the wettest March on record was to happen again, entirely overnight, we would be nowhere near the levels of rainfall we’ve seen over the past two weeks.

Corbie has a lot of highly desirable features. If we rush to a new venue, there is no telling what we’d have to give up to make that happen.

My opinion is, unless we are able to secure a booking with my super secret new venue by the end of November, I think we should take a chance on Corbie in March. I don’t think there is much chance of it flooding in March, and even if it does look like it might happen a bit closer to the time, remember, I was able to find a new venue within 24hrs of looking this time. I can do it again.

Yes, it severely hindered enjoyment of the LAN this time, and yes, it was a great cause of stress. But I’m prepared to take the chance that it won’t happen again, at least for the next one or two events.

This will give Dex and I time to thoroughly research and investigate alternative venues, chase new leads you guys provide for us, speak to new people and make sure we’re only changing venue once.

Your Thoughts?

But as I’ve said already, we need your thoughts.

Please don’t think we’re just asking for your opinions, and then going to do what we want to do anyway. That’s not how this works. Dex and I run the LAN for our guests. You dictate to us how the event runs, not the other way around.

Please, air your thoughts in Discord. I’ve set up a new channel to contain this discussion. I ask that you keep it very strictly on topic.

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