student life

Your summertime guide to working at festivals

Working at a festival is something that every student should do at least once. Wherever you go, it’s hard work, but active, fun, diverse and great for networking and meeting new people.

Working at a festival is something that every student should do at least once. Wherever you go, it’s hard work, but active, fun, diverse and great for networking and meeting new people. Most festivals will take you on a volunteer basis  – no pay, but you’ll be reimbursed for your travel, they’ll provide accommodation and they’ll feed you (which is always a bonus).

There are loads of different festival opportunities out there, so don’t be afraid to do something a little different. Guaranteed, you’ll have a great time and keep going back for more.

Literary Festivals

Every town in the UK seems to have their own literature festival these days, and no matter how small the festival, there are always big names. Your duties at these kinds of events usually involve setting up venues, directing audience members and overseeing book signings.

There’s a lot of crowd control involved and general stewarding duties, but you’ll get to interact with a lot of interesting people. At bigger festivals like The Hay Festival there will be more technical duties like handling the microphones for Q&A and helping to man VIP areas.

Reccommended: The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

Runs the first two weeks of October in Cheltenham. Always full of famous names and a huge range of jobs to do. They’ll house you, feed you and pay your travel and the festival team are a cracking bunch of people.

Top Tip: These festivals are great for people doing English and Event Management degrees. If you’re bookish, go for the publishers and people managing the authors, rather than the writers themselves. They’re usually friendly and willing to chat, and you can pick up some useful phone numbers that way.

Music Festivals

If you love music but don’t want to pay a fortune for a festival ticket, volunteering is a great way to get behind the scenes at the festival and still see some great live shows. Most festivals are genuinely very considerate about letting people see the events that they want to.

As long as you commit a good amount of time every day and work hard, you’ll be able to get yourself into the show you really want to see. Music festival work will involve stewarding and crowd control, but can also include helping out with food and drink outlets.

It’s always best to be open to trying anything and don’t refuse jobs because it seems hard. The harder you work the more you’ll be recognised, and the greater your perks will be in the end.

Reccommended: 2000 Trees Festival

A smaller and cosier music festival this is a great introduction to volunteering and the kind of work that’ll be expected of you at bigger festivals.

Top Tip: Make yourself known to the festival organisers from the start, and let them know you’re willing to do anything they need you to. These people are fun, friendly but highly experienced and the kind of contacts you want to make for the future. Most event managers work many of the other major events throughout the year – Glastonbury included – so make friends. You never know where it’ll get you!

Food & Drink Festivals

Like literary festivals, every small town has their own food and drink festival these days, and they’re a great way to spend a few days doing something different. If you’re a foodie then you’ll love seeing all the different presentations, but if you’re a management student or interested in events it’ll be a real taste of how to plan things around a theme. Food festivals have a huge focus on local businesses, so if you’re passionate about your local town, definitely get involved.

Reccommended: Love Food Festival

Runs in several locations throughout the country and has a real range of things to do, see and eat. If you’re interested in running events, you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to organise transport and set up stalls and festival sites, as well as planning events for adults and children alike.

Top Tip: Once again, staying behind the scenes can be the best move here. The chefs and stall holders will be interesting people, but their agents and other organisers are the most useful contacts for future work and insight into the industry.

All festivals are good fun, whether you’re camping out to see your favourite singer, or waiting in line for an autograph from a celebrity author, but being in the background is often the most interesting way to see an event. Festival work takes up a few weeks at a time but is invaluable experience for your CV.

Within one summer you can build up a whole range of work experience, and most festivals will remember you and be happy to have you back.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.