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If our festival news has whet your appetite for this year’s offerings but your eyes are bigger than your wallet, worry not, we’re here to tell you how you can do festivals for free…

Ever since the dawn of festivals people have been trying to blag their way in for free. Before the giant impenetrable fence went up at Glastonbury, thousands of people climbed/tunnelled/jumped in for free (resulting in the odd broken bone or red-face) but festivals have wised up to that old game. Some spend thousands on security while others don’t reveal the location of their event until they send out the tickets to paying punters. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get in for free any more.

When you think about it, festivals are like mini towns or cities. They’ve got accommodation (albeit canvas based), irrigation (portable toilets), entertainment (bands/stages etc), cinemas, food courts, bars, hospitals (masqueraded as first aid tents), police (security) and other odds and sods depending on which festival you’re at (swimming pools, amusement arcades, museums etc). These kind of places all need staff and that’s where you come in. If you’re eyeing up any of this year’s festivals it’s well worth checking out whether they need staff before forking out.

From volunteer stewards to paid catering staff and event management interns to litter pickers, there are no end of opportunities at festivals. Not only could you get in for free but you could pick up valuable experience and work skills for future jobs and might even secure a permanent job at your favourite festival. It’s tough but it ain’t impossible.

Chris Tarren, looks after the 600 plus staff at End of the Road Festival. He said: “Volunteering at festivals is not just about stewarding. We have volunteers coming to work on the merchandise stalls, wash up in the catering tent or work as stage crew. We offer internships in the site office and event management side of things and take on 12 artist liaison volunteers. Everyone except the stewards get paid expenses and everyone gets fed. We have a dedicated staff campsite this year with clean showers and toilets and no queues! You do up to five shifts – amounting to about 15 hours. You can do more up front if you can come a couple of days early then have more time off over the festival weekend. The rotas are all interchangeable. “We’re looking for sensible people. We have an application form where we ask for info like your date of birth, whether you have done anything like this before, if you have a first aid certificate (which is usually a shoo-in). You also have to tick what jobs you’re interested in. If someone ticks every job on there they are clearly just
trying to get in for nothing and will just want to watch the bands. Others put ‘please can I volunteer on the main stage this is my favourite band in the world’ but we don’t really go for star-struck, autograph-hunters. We’re looking for people who want to come along because they want to get involved with the festival.”

Leigh Bazan is stewarding co-ordinator in the Oxfam South West office in Bristol, which provides volunteers for some of the region’s major festivals including Glastonbury, Beautiful Days and Camp Bestival. Oxfam’s stewarding operation is much more stringent (they look after 15 + events nationwide in an operation involving more than 2,000 stewards). They also ask all volunteers to pay a fully refundable £195 deposit, which they’ll get back once they complete their shifts. This is non-negotiable.

Leigh tells us more: “There are three arms of volunteering at festivals with Oxfam – there’s stewarding, campaigning and working in the shops. The last two are often taken up with people who are already involved with Oxfam but we’re always interested to hear from people interested in stewarding at some of the smaller festivals. He added: “You apply via our website and if successful must do a three hour training session (these are held all across the country). During the festival you are rota’d in for three eight and a half hour shifts over a five day period – Wednesday to Monday. Stewarding is all about helping things run smoothly in terms of public information and safety so we need flexible people. We have a shift swap board so if you’re down to work when you want to see a certain band there is a chance to swap with someone else. Sadly, we’ve had our fingers burned in the past with people volunteering, getting into the festival then not completing their shifts which is why we have the deposit scheme now. This is returned to the volunteer within four weeks after the festival if they complete their shifts.
Stewarding is a key service and a great fundraiser for Oxfam so we need to make sure we do it right.”

Essential web addresses for wannabe festival volunteers:
Oxfam (Glastonbury, Beautiful Days, Camp Bestival etc)

End of the Road: www.endoftheroadfestival.com/information/volunteering-and-stewarding/

Peppermint Bars (working at the bars for selected festivals www.peppermintbars.co.uk

VSC/Workers Beer Company – Work at events such as Latitude, Hop Farm, Uprise, Reading and Leeds – and at the same time help raise crucial funds for the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign – To register as a potential volunteer please contact vscassistant @ yahoo.co.uk with the names of the festivals you would like to volunteer at, including an indication on whether you are prepared to do waiter/ess service at the festivals if necessary.

Cash and Traffic Management require paid car park stewards and ticket sellers to work at major events this summer including Reading and Leeds Festivals, Global Gathering and The Glade. www.cashandtrafficmanagement.com

FESTAFF offers casual employment opportunities in stewarding and general festival/campsite duties. www.festaff.co.uk

Better Festival Group provide stewards for a number of events including Sonisphere, 2000Trees, Headstock, and Bloodstock. www.thebetterfestivalgroup.co.uk

Green Stewards provide stewards for a number of events. www.greenstewards.com