I’m absorbed by the burning desire to travel. To go on adventures and explore all of this world. The summer of 2012 (gosh, that sounds like a lifetime ago!) was one of my best summers yet. I worked 4 festivals across the UK, went to 1 festival abroad, and another 2 trips abroad. Lately, my wanderlust desire is burning more than ever. So, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at the summer of 2012 and what it’s like to work at music festivals. It’s a great way to enjoy a festival if you’re low on money, doing it alone, or just curious of seeing a festival from behind-the-scenes!
Towards the end of my first year at university I was itching to go to a music festival. But none of my friends were as willing. They were either busy with work commitments, lack of money or just didn’t fancy trading their home comforts for muddy fields. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. So, I decided to suck it up and go alone. Just like my friends, as a first year university student without a job, money was on the tight-side. I decided to work a music festival instead. That way, instead of spending £150+ to attend a music festival alone, I was paying a fraction of the cost. All I needed was a means of getting there, a little bit of money for whilst I’m there and to work a couple of shifts. It seemed like a fair trade.
So much work goes into festivals to ensure that all those festival-goers have the best time imaginable. This means that there are so many different roles available to work. Some positions will be volunteer based whilst others will be paid. But most will include free food and drinks vouchers. Oh and let’s not forget that you’ll be attending the festival for free. Some of the positions you can do include: accreditation, steward, park & ride assistant, programme seller, bar staff, catering, artist liaison, and so so so many more! With such a wide variety of roles available, you certainly wouldn’t be stuck for choice!
Okay, I really don’t think I need to highlight the benefits of working festivals. But just in case you need a little persuasive nudge, I’ll do it anyway. Obviously, the biggest benefit is that you’ll get to attend the festival for free (in return for working hard). You will have to pay a deposit before you go, usually ~ £150, which is refunded once your shifts are completed and the festival is over. If you ask me, that’s totally fair! Otherwise, everyone would be signing up to work festivals, skipping their shifts and just enjoying the festival for free.
Another benefit is having a separate campsite away from the hustle-bustle of the main camping areas. The staff camp sites can still be just as fun but in my eyes, they’re safer than the usual camp sites. At Beach Break Live, there was heavy rain and after a night of dancing in muddle fields with new-found friends, I returned to find my tend had collapsed and flooded. It isn’t a festival without a little tent mishap! But, the guys camping next to me were kind enough to let me crash in their spacious 6-man tent for the remainder of the weekend. I doubt that generosity would have been extended to me in the main camping areas. Staff camping meant I could enjoy my weekend without the worries of my tent. Well, apart from that one flooding incident but I learnt from my mistake and upgraded to a tepee for the rest of the festivals!
With staff camp sites, come staff showers and portaloos. If you’ve ever been to a festival you’ll know all about the nightmare of festival toilets. And if you haven’t, well I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories (poo girl from Leeds festival, anyone?). So, having staff toilets is a major benefit. You can enjoy the festival whilst enjoying being relatively clean, or sparkling clean compared to the other festival-goers. Hooray!
If you’re going alone then working festivals is great. You’ll meet other festival-lovers, some of whom will have also gone on their own. It’s so much fun and a decision you won’t regret. Going on my own, I was really nervous and had no idea what to expect. But everyone else that I met was beyond lovely. These people may be strangers but whilst at the festival, you completely forget about that. Everyone is there to work hard and player harder. So, leave your ego at the door, let your hair down and have some fun!
Now let’s take a little peek at my own experience. I worked at Beach Break Live, Bestival, Festival Number Six and Freeze Festival. I also signed up to Lounge on the Farm but had to cancel due to extortionate train prices (over £300 for a train? no thanks!). Beach Break was the first festival I worked at. In fact, it was the first festival I’ve ever been to. Considering that I was going alone, it’s safe to say I had no idea what to expect and was seriously nervous. I just threw myself into the deep-end was utterly excited. At Beach Break I worked as a programme seller. In this role, I earned commission which helped pay for food and drink over the weekend. Top tip: if you’re programme selling, stick to the main arena and be bubbly! Rather than having to work set hours, I simply had to meet a sales quota each day. It only took me a couple of hours to meet my quota and then I was free to enjoy the festival, run wild and have fun.
Bestival was the next festival I worked. Sometimes my spontaneity takes over and my planning skills go out the window. It wasn’t until I started my journey that I realised how gruellingly long it was. It’s in the Isle of Wight, so I should have guessed really. As a result of my poor planning, I got to the festival site late…so late that they weren’t letting any more staff in. After 2 hours crashing out the festival gates, I managed to use my powers of persuasion and puppy dog eyes to get in. Don’t be put off by my poor planning, it’s all part of the fun. After all, it wouldn’t be a festival without the odd hiccup here or there! At Bestival I did bar work. You’re in the middle of it all and close enough to enjoy the music and have a laugh whilst working!
My most spontaneous festival was Festival Number 6. I got home from Bestival and 2 days later had booked to work at Festival Number 6. At day later and I was heading up to Wales. This was, hands down, my favourite festival. Festival Number 6 is held at Portmeirion, a beautiful, magical village with an amazing architectural history to match. At this festival, I worked as Artist Liaison, which was by far the best role ever. This gave me a true insight into the hard work that goes into festivals. Just thinking about my time at FN6 gives me butterfies and instantly fills me with nostalgia. Take me back please! The hours I did at this festival were the longest but I got to have a behind-the-scenes view of it all as I was responsible for ensuring everything was perfect for the artists on the I stage. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work this role and would do it all again in a heart beat! It was even worth having no phone signal and no way home (hello hitch-hiking!).
After FN6, I went back to university. After 6 weeks of being back at university, I was itching to go to another festival. So, off I headed to Freeze festival to work as accreditation. This festival was slightly different to the others, as it didn’t offer camping. So for the duration of that weekend, I stayed with a friend in London. Freeze Festival, if you haven’t heard of it, is a snow sports festival. To say this festival was chilly was an understatement, it was so freaking cold. But the festival cheer and excitement definitely kept me warm and enthralled.
If you’re going to work a festival, you have to be prepared to get stuck in. But it’s a decision you won’t regret. I had the best summer possible and would highly recommend it to anyone! The only thing I’d change is that I’d take more photos. Stupidly, I barely took any photos of the entire summer. And the ones I did take, were on a rubbish (now long gone) Blackberry phone, a disposable camera that spoiled, or were with other people. People always tell you to put down the camera and stop living life looking through the lens. Personally, I love being able to look back at them and see my memories in photographic form. If I was blogger back in the summer of 2012, I would have made sure I got the most envy-filling, breath-taking photos. But that being said, despite the lack of photos to look back on, working festivals is one of the most memorable and best things I’ve done.