How to get work at festivals

festival tips

Summer jobs: There’s nothing like planning ahead. If you’re a festival junky who needs their fix but can’t afford the tix, our guide to volunteering at festivals will get you into your favourite festivals for free.

Summer festivals! What’s not to love? Being outside in the sun (fingers crossed), cider in hand (admittedly probably lukewarm, but hey, it’s August…) and your best friends, with your favourite band rocking your wellies off – be it Glasto, Reading, Download, V or Bestival, the summer music fest is becoming a staple in music lovers’ yearly calendar. In the gloomy early months of the year, it’s those kicker headliner announcements that give festie junkies something to look forward to.

But, unfortunately, these festivals don’t come cheap, with many tickets to the bigger events costing you around £200 of your hard-earned cash – or at least your student loan. For those who need their fix but can’t afford the tix, there’s another option – volunteering.

There are plenty of positions out there which allow you to work usually around 3 6-8hr shifts between Wednesday and Monday, and offering free entry to the festival in return. When not on shift, your time is your own and if there’s a band on that you’d sell your granny to catch, you can usually work your shift patterns around them.

Speaking from experience after volunteering at Sonisphere festival last year, it could be a weekend you’ll never forget. From the party that is staff camping and the new, like-minded friends you’ll make to seeing your fave acts for free, to having something exciting and different to whack on your CV, festival work is filled with perks. Admittedly, there may be an initial investment of a deposit but this will be fully refunded after the festival, and the work itself barely feels like work, so you can usually soak up the atmosphere and have a laugh while you’re at it.

Campsite Assistants (CATs) and festival stewards are the most common roles available. They involve a range of activities, located in, as the name suggests, the campsite. You could be helping campers find their way to the loo, helping them put up their tent, or simply sitting down and having a chat and being a friendly face.

Where to get festival work

The Better Festival Group – born from the ‘Love Not Riots’ campaign, not only are they a great bunch of people (I should know, I’m one of them) but this is a group with a conscience and an aim to improve festivals for their attendees.

Hotbox Events recruits and manages the CAT festival staff and volunteers at the Reading, Leeds, Latitude and Big Chill Festivals. The Hotbox festival application usually goes live in early March each year; you can sign up to their newsletter on their website.

Festaff – hires staff for a variety of UK festivals – they haven’t updated for 2010 at the time of writing, but they have a newsletter that you can sign up for.

Oxfam festival stewards – There’s also the option of working for a charity – Oxfam hire stewards, which are very similar to CATs, and also campaigners, who promote the charity through fun initiatives over the weekend, so you can party for free and get that warm fuzzy feeling.

Workers’ Beer Company – hire bar staff (without the obscenely long shifts) in return for a ticket, and also donate a chunk of their profit to charity.

These are just some starting points – it’s always worth browsing sites of the festivals themselves for other opportunities.

A few words of advice though – make sure you know exactly what you’re setting yourself up for. I have a friend who volunteered to work Reading Festival a few years back, and the shifts he was asked to work were ridiculous – long hours with barely any time to enjoy the festival itself.

Also, unless you’re working purely for the cash, steer clear of a lot of festival bar work – another job that may not let you enjoy your weekend.

Be sure you check exactly what shifts you’ll be expected to work before you dive in. Other than that, there’s nothing to lose and loads to gain from working at a festival – so all you need to worry about is getting a funky festival tent and a pair of proper bitchin’ wellies!