This time two years ago, things in my life were a little bit different. On a gap year from university, I spent my days waiting for Waitrose to reduce their food while spending a lot of time getting into awful programmes on the Food Network. However, I did have one thing that was the light at the end of the tunnel (or the light that lit up my tiny studio room in Bristol) – I was beginning to make my festival plans for the summer.
2015 was the first year that I worked at a festival. I was the world’s worst bartender at Somersault festival, I was the smiling-yet-somehow-already-grubby looking girl who safely secured your wristband at Reading, I spend Wilderness festival waiting for literally any work that they would give me and then I spent Boomtown selling phone chargers with several broken ribs. For some reason, however, this was the start of my love affair at working at festivals.
There’s something about being behind-the-scenes that you don’t get when you buy a wristband. Whether it’s spending the Tuesday night before Glastonbury begins in a staff bar that’s not ridiculously overpriced making best friends with people who you met approximately two hours before, or making deals with gin stalls so that they can have as many crumpets as they wish in return for one more G&T, it’s special.
The start of the year is the perfect time to begin your preparations for the summer. I’ve never volunteered, so I can’t speak for those who are hoping to work a few shifts for Oxfam or other large-scale companies who exchange tickets for a couple of hours work. However, I can tell you about the best ways to secure paid work.
The first year, I had no clue. After Wilderness and Somersault, who I worked for Citrus Event Staffing who now run under HAP Recruitment, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Working for a company such as Citrus is good because you can pick and choose events that you’re interested in. However, after they overbooked at Wilderness, I was left with no shifts and no money to even cover the cost of me travelling to the festival. Something else to consider is that for most recruitment companies, you need to be able to travel to an interview. Although these are held all over the country, booking yourself in requires a bit of forward-planning to ensure that you get accepted onto their books before the season begins.
Gumtree is the place to be if you’re serious about spending the season working. They sometimes have occasional work, which is how I found Charge Candy, the company I worked for at Boomtown, however, the majority of adverts are looking for staff for the whole season. The occasional work, however, normally request people to help out in exchange for a wristband and a fixed rate per day. In order to apply, the postings normally tell you what you should include, but making a one-size-fits-all covering email is one of the most efficient ways to apply. This type of work is perfect if you’re looking for some last-minute work, however, you need to be able to pack up and leave, sometimes within 8 hours!
After my first year working, things went a little south. Although I’d spent the previous year attending and working with someone, this year I had to go it alone. This might sound incredibly scary, and for someone who spent most of the year too anxious to do anything, it was entirely out of my comfort zone. However, this was the best choice I have ever made and I would recommend working alone to anyone who is considering festival work.
I applied to work at Glastonbury at the start of February after finding a listing on Gumtree (again, this is the only thing I would ever use Gumtree for, but it’s honestly invaluable when looking for work of this variety). Within two months, I’d been confirmed and had sent off my details to secure my place. Arriving at a festival that large by yourself is incredibly daunting and isolating, but you need to realise that you’re not the only one who is in that position. I spent 9 days on site, significantly longer than the Wednesday – Friday option that ticket holders have. In that time, I made friends that I still speak to today and had experiences I would never have had if I had not gone.
When looking at job listings, there are a couple that you might be apprehensive to apply to. I went to several interviews with people who were looking for staff, but they just weren’t the right fit. One of the main things to consider is the length of time you’ll be spending with these people. After leaving Glastonbury, I worked with the same company at NASS festival. Waking up at 5:30 and sometimes not finishing your shift until 2:00am means that you’re with the other workers for hours on end, so it is essential to make sure that you get along well with them.
For my final festival of 2016, Wilderness, I found the job listing on Facebook. Conveniently, my Grandparents live relatively close to the festival site and, as someone who was bored and slightly poor, I decided that I could utilise my time in other ways. Searching keywords such as “Wilderness festival job” or “Wilderness festival job”, I was rewarded with a job posting for a tea and crumpet company. This last minute job was one that I loved and also allowed me to reconnect with some people who I’d made friends with earlier in the summer.
So that brings us to 2018, the last festival season that I could and would work. Working at festivals isn’t a viable option forever. However, as a student who wanted to spend some time at home, as well as at their favourite places, it’s a choice I’m glad I made. I worked twice last summer, once at NASS and another at Boardmasters, both for a pizza company. This was the perfect way to spend my last working festivals as I had an amazing time (despite the fact that I can’t understand drunk, Scottish people all that well).
The important thing to consider when applying for work is that it is trial and error, in addition to the fact that you can’t apply for enough jobs. I’ve had friends who have applied for the same positions I have to not be offered work and visa versa. If you’re looking at Gumtree, having an email template that you can copy and paste saves time, but it is important to make slight alterations each time to ensure that your application reflects the listing. Job sites such as Indeed may offer work, but often you’ll have to live in close proximity to their headquarters, which can be annoying.
Another vital thing to consider is your transportation. You won’t always be given parking access, and trains can sometimes be expensive. Asking in advance what they recommend in terms of getting to the location will prevent you having mishaps later on. When thinking about this, paid work is sometimes very little money for the amount of effort that you’re going to be putting in, so you have to consider whether you would rather purchase a ticket. During my time working at festivals, I attended two festivals, Glastonbury and Bestival, on a paid ticket. The experience is completely different but was essential for me to do as I intended to go with friends.
If you’re considering working, I’d advise you to do it. It is one of the best decisions that I’ve made and I can’t say enough positive things about it. Obviously when your tent is floating in the world’s biggest puddle; both of your boots are coming off your feet in mud; you’ve got £10 to get a ferry to the Isle of Wight and feed you for a weekend, you can feel a bit disheartened and that the last thing you ever want to have to do is return to your cold tent, but the good times make it all worthwhile.