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Get to a festival for free: stewarding

By Emma
Get to a festival for free: stewarding

Stewarding is a rewarding way to experience a festival on a budget

Every festival taking place this summer needs a bunch of enthusiastic stewards to be the eyes and ears of the site. Lewis Green tells us about his experience as a steward at Glastonbury for Oxfam.

What is stewarding?

Every year British charities hire thousands of volunteers to work as stewards at music festivals up and down the UK. The importance of these volunteers cannot be understated, as they help to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that everyone has a great experience. If that wasn’t enough, all those volunteers help to raise a heap of money for good causes both at home and overseas.

As an Oxfam volunteer at Glastonbury in 2011, I can say honestly say that there aren’t that many negatives when it comes to pulling on the fluorescent orange tabard. In exchange for 3 shifts each lasting 8 hours, you are provided with a free ticket to the festival, a pass into the Oxfam camping area, and free food tokens to get you through the week!

How do I sign up?

The whole process begins in spring. All the information can usually be found on the volunteering website. If it’s your first year stewarding then you’ll be faced with a first come first served frenzy until all of the positions are filled. As a quick tip, make sure you’ve got a reliable reference and your doctors details on hand before the sign-ups begin! You will need to pay for the ticket before the festival begins as a deposit, but as long as you fulfill your duties in a proper manner you will be reimbursed with the money.

Once you’ve secured a place, you’ll have to attend one of the many training sessions that happen up and down the country to get you ready for your important role as a steward. Once you’ve done that, you’re good to go!

How am I going to get there?

Most charities do provide bus services to the festival for its volunteers, but it’s also worth considering a lift share option. Using Liftshare.com, I was able to link up with other Glastonbury volunteers who were driving down to the festival from the same area on the same day. This is worth serious consideration, as the buses can get quite congested. Plus, the guys I was sharing with turned out to be great people!

What will I need to do once I’m there?

Once you’ve made it to the festival, you’ll have a brief meet and greet session where you’ll be provided with everything you need in order to do the job. You’ll also be given your shift times and your shift location. There are a variety of stewarding jobs that need to be done around the festival so you’ll be assigned a job at random.

Most likely, you’ll be helping to operate one of the many pedestrian or vehicle gates that control the flow of people in and out of the festival site. My job was to ensure that all vehicles entering the premises through the main vehicle gate had the proper documentation. It wasn’t rocket science but without people like us, the festival would have turned into a logistical nightmare.

The guys at Oxfam try to make it fair by giving all volunteers a morning, daytime and night shift so that everyone can also go and enjoy the festival. They also try to ensure that at least one of your shifts is on either the Wednesday or the Thursday, before the festival really gets into full swing. That way, you’ll get plenty of time to go off and see your favourite bands.

So how does volunteering as a steward raise money for Oxfam?

In exchange for the excellent work done by the volunteers, the festival provides money to Oxfam rather than giving wages to the stewards. In 2011, Oxfam raised £930,000 across 11 festivals because of the good work done by its stewards.

In what other ways is it good to sign up?

On a personal level, stewarding will also make your CV stand out from the rest of the pile, which we all know is vital in the current economic climate! Secondly, you get to go to a great music festival without paying for your ticket. Plus, you’ll meet lots of interesting, likeminded people. I’ve been to Glastonbury twice now, once as a paying punter and once as a volunteer. I’d honestly say that I had more fun as a volunteer.

Check out the following sites and find out how to bag yourself a free ticket.

Hot Box Events
Festive Lizards
Select Security and Stewarding

by Lewis Green

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