Tulleys Farm, near Crawley in West Sussex, is located on the edge of the Sussex Weald in the Southeast of England. The farming business was founded by Bernard Beare in 1937 and continues to be run by the Beare family to this day. Over 40 different crops are grown on the 120-acre (48.5ha) farm. The farm has expanded into other areas over the years, including a major pick-your-own business, while a farm shop and tea room were added in the 1990s.
Since then, Tulleys has fully branched out into the entertainment business, offering seasonal events and attractions from March to December including sunflower picking and pumpkin harvesting in the summer; the annual Halloween festival held each October; and other Christmas events.
The Halloween festival, entitled Stocktober Fest, has become the largest scream park in Europe attracting over 100,000 guests every year. The farm also has several elaborately themed Escape Rooms with a licensed bar and lounge. The Tulleys Christmas event includes an ice rink and traditional farm activities. Other attractions include a drive-in cinema, Tulip Farm and tailored corporate experiences.
Running these large seasonal festivals is a major challenge requiring approximately 500 staff throughout the season, most of whom are 16 to 18-year olds. High quality customer service is essential if visitors are to enjoy a good experience - one which will encourage them to return and recommend others to visit. Staff, therefore, need to be highly organised and properly managed to enable all the attractions to operate efficiently and safely.
A reliable communications system is absolutely essential to ensure everything works well. Communications solutions need to provide reliable coverage across the farm and within its 50 different buildings and containers. It also has to have the capacity to support a large number of users.
The ability to make group calls is vital so staff can be coordinated efficiently, and time isn’t wasted trying to find the right person for a particular task. The communication system is also the key to organising a quick response to any incident or emergency.
Tulleys Farm has tried a number of different communication solutions over the years including traditional fixed line phones, mobile phones and even social media platforms. But these were not fit for purpose, and mobile phone coverage across the site proved to be too patchy and unreliable to be trusted. Tulleys therefore turned to a two-way radio solution.
This solution didn’t immediately solve all of the communications problems. Some of the radios Tulleys had deployed in previous years suffered from limited coverage and poor audio quality. In addition, the location which is often wet and muddy during the October events meant some of the radios could not cope with the conditions.
Tulleys asked Hytera's partner Wall to Wall Communications, with whom it has worked for 10 years, to come up with a reliable new solution. Wall to Wall Communications recommended a Hytera Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) system. Tulleys invested in 2 Hytera RD625 DMR UHF repeaters, which provided reliable wide area coverage across the site and 20 PD605 DMR handheld radios.
The system offered 16 different channels, so separate talk groups can be created, each with their own channel. This ensures that those in particular job roles only hear the communications relevant to them and their teams. The Hytera radios supported individual calling and has a priority emergency button as well should anybody need to call for help.
Tulleys hire approximately 500 Hytera DMR radios for use across the main events ran between March and December. Managers and team leaders use PD785 handheld radios, security guards and stewards are issued with PD605 or PD705 handheld devices, while press and PR staff use PD505 terminals. The control centre are also equipped with MD785 desk-based radios.
The Hytera PD605, PD705 and PD785 radios are extremely rugged and robust. They are all IP67 certified, ensuring they are highly resistant to dust, mud and water ingress, so they are easily capable of standing up to the English weather. The radios are also built to STD-MIL-810G standards, which ensures their durability against extreme shock, vibration and temperature, enabling reliable and secure communications in any situation.
Chris Bailey, event/operations managers at Tulleys Farm, says it would not be possible to run the events without using radio communications. “Customer service is paramount in everything that we do. The only [other] way to communicate would be with a mobile phone, which we have tried in the past. But what we found is that the network signal just isn’t strong enough for a mobile phone, whereas using the Hytera radios and a base station, they never ever drop out of signal, so we’ve got communication that is effective all throughout the year.”
Chris adds that there are over 50 different containers on the farm, which are used as staff rooms and break rooms, but the Hytera radios are able to transmit into and out of them, whereas it is impossible to get a network signal on a mobile phone. The radios are also simple and easy to use, so the mostly teenage staff, who have no previous experience of using radios, can quickly learn how to operate them.
As the events and attractions evolve over time, Chris asks Wall to Wall visit each year so he can explain exactly what is needed and what needs to happen. Wall to Wall then designs and sets up the system for that year using the Hytera kit and devices. Wall to Wall also helps with all of the sign in/sign out sheets and barcode system, so managers know who is picking up or dropping off a radio.
A further advantage noted by Chris is that in terms of good customer service, the radios look smart and professional. “It doesn’t look like everyone is on their mobile phones trying to communicate all the time.” In addition, he says that health and safety advisors have guided Tulleys to deploy radios, as their reliable signal and emergency alarm button means they are the best tool for alerting and responding to anyone in need of help.
He adds that he would advise any company to consider using two-way radio for their communications needs, particularly if they are in the events industry. “We’ve tried all sorts in the past from social media platforms on site, telephones, all different types, but radios have become the best fit. I’d highly recommend Wall to Wall for anyone looking to use or hire some radios,” says Chris.