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Erecting a Marquee
Traditional Canvas Marquee (Push Up Pole Marquee)

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There are two slightly different types of traditional canvas marquees. The "pull up" and the "push up". The "pull up" marquee involves erecting the main centre poles first and then 'pulling up' the roof sheets which have already been draped over the ridge poles by using block and tackle attached to the tops of the main centre poles.

This article deals with the second type, the "push up" marquee; so called as the roof sheets are attached to the main centre poles while the structure is laying on the ground. The marquee is then 'pushed up', poles and roof sheets all together. The term is slightly misleading as once the structure gets more than 30 degrees off the ground (or above a man's reach) the main force is actually pulling it upright with block and tackle (or a Landrover if you have one handy)!

Traditional marquees smaller than 30 feet wide are often "push up" and larger marquees 40 feet wide and above are more usually "pull up" due to the ease of erecting these heavy structures. Large "push up" tents are not so common, except for the American style PVC  traditional tents, which are much lighter.

Marking out the site for the marquee and laying out equipment

Detail of lacing the marquee roof sheets

All traditional marquees are labour intensive and slower to erect than clear span marquees (aluminium frame marquees). Much time is spent measuring and marking out the site (see photo above left). Preparation is essential as once the marquee is lifted it is helpful to have all the stakes, side ropes and side poles in place as once the structure is upright it acts like a giant sail in the wind. The photo above right shows the detail of lacing the roof sheets. 

 

Lacing up the marquee roof

The above photo shows lacing up of the roof sheets. With "'push up" traditional marquees the ridge poles are attached to the main centre poles at ground level. The poles are then propped up at the ridge end to allow access for laying out the roof sheets and lacing them together.

A traditional marquee ready to be lifted

The above photo shows the marquee ready to be lifted. The top is propped up and will be lifted as far as the men can reach, it will then be pulled the rest of the way upright using block and tackle or mechanical means (landrover or truck). Note that the bottoms of the main centre poles are enclosed with temporary stakes to stop the poles sliding when the marquee is erected.

 

The marquee in the upright position

Detail of the side poles and ropes

The photo above left shows the marquee now in an upright position and loosely supported using the main guy ropes. The next stage is pulling out the roof sheets and inserting the side poles (photo above right). The corner side poles are usually done first and loosely supported using side line tackles (small block and tackle). The side line tackles are used in the corners and where there is a join in the roof sheets. Most other side poles are supported using normal side lines.

The process of inserting the side poles is time consuming, as they first need to be done without much tension. After all the poles and side ropes are in place, the marquee erectors will go around the structure tensioning each rope individually until the whole marquee is rock solid and the side walls can then be attached.

Few marquee companies still use traditional canvas pole marquees and we thought it would be good to have a record of how these marquees are erected. Hopefully, there will continue to be a place for these elegant tents.


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