Volunteering is one of those means. There’s a “catch” for sure, in that you might have to get up earlier than you’d ideally like, or possibly be up later than planned. Your timetable might clash with a favourite musician (but hopefully you can always swap that shift), but ultimately, with key festivals these days costing nearing £200 for the ticket alone, volunteering your time can save you serious money, as well as actually be a fun way to gain entry to festivals. Also, when thinking about a festival such as Glastonbury, where getting actually into the event could be slim pickings for securing a ticket, volunteering gives you the assuredness of knowing you’re in.
I love music, and I used to frequently attend music events, particularly as a student. As well as general gigs, and one day festivals held in London, I’ve been to the Isle of Wight Festival, Glastonbury 3 times, Leeds festival, Camp Bestival, End of the Road, and Benicassim in Spain. I have Wilderness festival lined up this August and am pretty excited about that! I was a student for pretty much all of these former events, and the kind of money required for each 3-4 day event can be serious business, as you probably know. Travel, camping expenses if required, food/drink and spending money are enough on their own and if you fancy the idea of off setting some of this cost, well, read on!
My volunteering experiences
1)I attended Glastonbury on a voluntary basis in 2014 as a recycling crew member for the charity Kiota (https://www.kiota.org/). I think the option was to select a set shift pattern you felt worked best for you, and I chose the earlies. I think we started at 6am and worked until midday. That meant you had the best part of the day free, when everything was starting to come alive. The voluntary teams at Glasto have a cornered off staff campsite, which means you are guaranteed some peace and quiet away from the very noisy throngs! There is also access to incredible free food- in 2014 we were fed the most amazing hot vegetarian meals, and we had access to clean and hot showers. It rained and it was muddy, in typical Glasto fashion, and I realised that such huge music festivals are probably not for me BUT the entire organisation of the volunteering team I was with was amazing. We worked hard and had fun, and we knew that our litter picking was not only helping the environment but raising money for such a worthwhile charity. I saw Suzanne Vega and Beth Orton, just 2-3 rows in front of them, stood alone in what I think was the acoustic tent. As well as seeing Dolly Parton, they were especially special. How to volunteer for Glastonbury 2019? Well I recommend Kiota for starters. Check them out here: https://www.facebook.com/kiotarecyclingcrewglastonbury/
2)End of the Road festival, based in the very beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset, was recommended to me as a quiet, alternative festival. Quiet and alternative sold it to me, as I say above, with the realisation that Glasto was just a bit too much (that might be funny coming from someone who lives in London I appreciate!) Although I have to say, when signing up, I was a little unsure of it being the wisest of ideas as I literally knew only 2-3 names on the headliners list! I put myself forward as a steward for this event last year in 2017, and therefore knew to expect I’d obviously be talking to members of the public and directing people. I love talking to people, so that was fine! My photos below (top 3 being Glasto and bottom 5 being End of the Road) show sunshine and bare legs. Actually most of the time it was epically freezing and the worse weather I have ever experienced at a festival! We were perpetually chilled to the bone and came home sick! (That is for a separate blog on remember to be prepared for the British weather and what to take with you to festivals!!) As a staff member, again, we had a cornered off camping area and access to snack food such as bread rolls and soup, packets of cereal and milk, biscuits, crisps and sweets. Access to hot water and a microwave was available- also really handy if you were bringing porridge pots or pot noodles. The staff quarters to sit and eat was small and there often was not enough space- still, we welcomed it though, when we were hungry and cold!
What we did: on one day we had to steward a gaming area to ensure members of the public didn’t walk over a rounder game. On another day we had to man a small stage to ensure health and safety was maintained. On the first day we stood at one of the main gates and answered questions and handed out recycling bags to people arriving. We did one early, one late and one day shift and I remember they were super flexible about swaps, as long as they were told and also were happy to receive an email from you in advance saying “I really want to see x, please don’t schedule me to be working then!” It wasn’t taxing work, sometimes it was a little bit difficult when it was raining and freezing though- apparently it is normally just gorgeous weather there, so we just had a little bad luck in that respect!
My best gig from the event? Father John Misty! Seeing him on the main stage with the moon lighting up behind him was beautiful. If you like the sound of the lower key alternative events, check out Wicked Events as they were a super company to be organised by for this event and I see they actually work with a lot of smaller festivals that might take your fancy: http://www.wickedevents.co.uk/
Overall summary: neither event was a lot of work and both of these experiences, even in spite of the weather, were great. I met some awesome people, saw bands I did know and many I didn’t and worked with really professional teams who co-ordinate a lot of people to make the events even more special for everyone attending.
My top tips:
-The companies will probably be looking for stewards/recycling teams months before the actual event starts, so get in early!
-Be prepared to pay a deposit upfront which is made to ensure you complete your shifts
-You are getting a great deal, so be grateful for that and be happy! Otherwise the companies you are working with may not want to work with you again, in case you want to return to them!!
-Join the facebook pages for the teams you are working with!! There you will find lots of insider tips and information from people who have worked those festivals before.
-Find out what facilities for cooking/heating up food/access to hot water/free food the festival you are connecting to offers for staff. Can save you serious £££!
I’d love to know any festivals you have worked with, any charity or organisations you would particular recommend! Feel free to comment below.