a guide to working at festivals

The Indispensible Festivals Guide

By Robert Donovan | Published: Fri 3rd Apr 2009

There is a lot of work, paid and unpaid, to be found on festival sites. Generally there are people working at the festival site for at least a month surrounding the festival. In the case of bigger festivals there can be people on site for up to 3 months. The jobs on site are also incredibly varied ranging from picking up litter to building the site infrastructure.

Firstly when deciding what role you want to fulfil on site you have to work out what you want to gain from the work. The first decision here is do you want to work for cash or will you be happy working for your ticket?

Working for your ticket:
There are lot of options when it comes to working for your ticket and the conditions vary depending on who you work for. You will normally work somewhere around 24 hours and one evening – so miss one headliner – of the festival.

You can work for a good cause like Oxfam or The Workers Beer Company when doing this the money that you would have earned gets paid, by the festival, to the good cause. So not only do you get to enjoy the festival but you get to enjoy the feeling of making a positive difference to the world at the same time.

The other option is working for the festival itself. Festivals will often recruit volunteer stewards or litter pickers either directly or indirectly though a company. For details on this you should check out the website of the festival you want to work at.

Paid work:
There is a lot of paid work on site. However for most of it you will need some experience or qualifications for instance if you have a forklift licence there is a lot of work out there for you. To get this sort of work you should either search for event contractors, this could get you onto the circuit for a summer, or contact the festivals you want to work for directly and see who they use.

Unskilled paid work:
There is unskilled paid work to be found on site. This normally breaks down to litter, traffic management, stewarding and security. Although since the introduction of the SIA licence to get a job in a security role you will need to be badged up. This sort of paid work normally involves long hours - shifts on site are normally 12 hours on 12 hours off, although this is coming down – and you will have to work every day. This sort of work isn’t a walk in the park, you will be worked hard. However it is interesting, rewarding and you will make a lot of good friends doing it. There are several agencies who you can sign up too who supply this sort of staff to festivals and you can generally make a whole summer out of it travelling from show to show.

There is other non skilled work available on site but it isn't as easy to come across. Traders always need staff for their stalls, if your interested in that then sites like gumtree normally have adverts. Other roles like runners are normally dished out by the production company so some enquiring emails could give you some leads.

Whats in it for me? Other than your free entry to the festival and if your that way inclined pay you will also normally get secure camping, fed or at least access to the crew café which is priced more reasonably, better facilities including hot showers, to see the other side of festival life and you will make lots of interesting new friends.

Top Tips:

Plan Early – With festival popularity on the up there are more people out there who want jobs at them. If you want to work, for money or your ticket, getting in with your application early will give you a much better chance of being accepted.

Email - If there is a festival you want to work at it is always worth emailing them to see what jobs are going. Even if they are advertising some jobs on there website there are lots of jobs that go unadvertised.

Ask – If you are at a festival and you see someone doing a job that looks like fun then ask them how they who they work for and how they got it. Most people on site are friendly and will give you advice. This is also applicable if you are doing one job but fancy doing another next time.

For the list of festival jobs available, click here.

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festival information by: Robert Donovan

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