Volunteering at a music, film or art festival can mean getting free tickets, discounts or ‘crew’ perks, as well as gaining an insight into how major events are put together
Volunteered at a festival or want to share your volunteering experience? Let us know in the comments below
How does it work?
There may be moments when you’re dancing – in the mud, to an obscure post-grunge rock band with a man who looks distinctly like the Labour politician Tom Watson – when you begin to believe that festivals come together by magic. But you’d be mistaken. In fact, the great summer parties are a feat of hard work and meticulous planning, with hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people coming together to set them up and ensure they run smoothly. However, turning a profit can be tough and many festivals – both arts and music – depend on volunteers to ensure they go ahead. As a result lots of organisers offer fans free tickets, benefits or discounts in exchange for helping out. It’s a great way to get into the often pricey events on the cheap and the perfect opportunity to plan out a summer of partying or travelling in both the UK and abroad.
Do I need experience?
In most cases no experience is necessary but training will sometimes be provided.
What will I do?
Most festivals get their volunteers to help out with tasks such as giving out wristbands, car parking, monitoring gates, litter picking or just keeping an eye on things. If you already have experience in things like first aid or stewarding you could end up taking on a role with more responsibility, such as managing a team of stewards. Depending on the role you take on you will be expected to work a series of shifts over the course of the festival. Oxfam, which manages the stewards for all of the UK’s biggest festivals, usually requires volunteers to do three eight-hour shifts and you receive a food token for each, as well as plenty of free tea and biscuits.
Will I miss my favourite band?
Well, you will almost certainly miss some of the fun, although you should be able to swap shifts with your fellow stewards if your hours end up clashing with your dream performer. If you agree to do early and late shifts – such as helping set up prior to the festival and/or helping with the clean-up operation afterwards – you could find yourself free to enjoy the entire festival without working. And many people find festival volunteering a fun experience in itself; you get to make new friends and help bleary-eyed ravers find their missing glowsticks.
How much does it cost?
It’s free. Though in most cases you will be expected to pay a deposit to make sure you turn up to your shifts rather than disappearing in a flurry of cocktails and fancy dress after five minutes. Of course, while you save money on the event itself (and many organisations offer volunteers food vouchers) you should still budget for your food and drink.
Where can I do it?
Lots of places! Countless music and arts festivals around the world rely on volunteers so it’s worth checking websites or contacting organisers directly if there’s a particular festival you want to get involved with. See examples below.
Advice for a first-timer
“I would do it with a friend as you can usually get paired up with them,” says Natalie Ward, who volunteered to steward at Glastonbury festival in 2009. “And bring lots of snacks and a waterproof as you may end up standing in the rain for hours. But it’s really fun; you get to meet lots of new people and you usually get to stay in your own campsite with showers and more space. And with tickets costing £180 now it’s great to have a free ticket; it takes a lot of the pressure off to have fun and you can just enjoy yourself.”
Where do I sign up?
If you want to get yourself to any of the big-hitting British festivals (think Glastonbury, Bestival, Womad, Reading and Leeds), as well as a bunch of great smaller ones, such as Shambala and Boomtown, then you need to apply through Oxfam. The money Oxfam generates by running the service goes back into its charity work and it raises £1m each summer through festival work. Applications to steward open in spring but you should register your interest now in order to get a reminder. You will need to provide details of a referee and pay a deposit in order to apply. For 2013 the deposit was up to £205, depending on the festivals you chose, but you only need to pay one deposit even if you plan to volunteer at several festivals.
• For information and to register your interest visit oxfam.org.uk/stewarding or contact the Oxfam festival team on 0300 200 1266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Work Exchange Team
In the States, the Work Exchange Team does a similar job to Oxfam, organising festival volunteering opportunities for music fans across a large number of American festivals, including the Californian music and arts festival Coachella and magical dance rave-up Electric Forest in Michigan. Again, you earn your ticket through shifts and the roles you take on will vary from festival to festival.
• For more information and to sign up visit workexchangeteam.com
The week long “music, film and interactive” festival and conference in Austin, Texas, has become the darling of the hip, tech-savvy, entrepreneurial start-up world. It’s a huge event that runs each year thanks to 3,000 volunteers. The festival welcomes out-of-town volunteers, making it a great way for a newcomer to dive into one of America’s great modern cultural events. Out-of-town volunteers need to work a minimum of 30 hours throughout the festival as part of the conference crew or complete a minimum number of shifts with the production teams, with roles involving everything from technical support to registering visitors. Depending on the hours you work, you will earn wristbands giving you access to various parts of the festival. Limited hotel discounts are also available for volunteers.
• For information and to register visit volunteer.sxsw.com
If you want to combine amazing music with a beach holiday, electronic bass-fest Outlook – this year featuring Lauryn Hill and Busta Rhymes – is one of several in Croatia that takes volunteers. Roles include everything from box office to decor, and applications open in the spring.
• Visit outlookfestival.com/get-involved or contact email@example.com for more details
A leftfield festival in Ireland, which combines top musical acts (last year the line up boasted Fatboy Slim and Björk) with art, performance and comedy. Volunteers need to pay a deposit equal to the value of a weekend ticket, shifts last six-to-eight hours and volunteers need to clock up 24 hours over the course of the festival. Registration for this year’s event is not open yet but visit electricpicnic.ie/volunteers12 for updates or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
It is one of the world’s most-respected independent film festivals and every year more than 1,800 volunteers help make it happen. Sundance, which takes place in Utah each January, requires volunteers to help run everything from shuttle stops to theatre entrances. Volunteers from around the world are welcome to apply and will get the chance to see world premieres of new indie flicks in return for their hard work, as well as getting food vouchers and a golden ticket to the staff and volunteer opening night party. Applications open in August.
• For more information visit sundance.org/festival/volunteer or contact email@example.com
This rapidly expanding rock and electronic music festival in Germany relies on volunteers to help its 20,000-capacity event run smoothly. Volunteers must be able to speak German but the work providies an insight into the backstage workings of a large event and the organisers give out certificates for anyone using the experience as a step into the music industry.
• For information visit meltfestival.de/en/meco/volunteers
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663875/s/377f18d3/sc/38/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Ctravel0C20A140Cfeb0C250Chow0Eto0Evolunteer0Emusic0Efilm0Earts0Efestival/story01.htm