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Volunteering at a festival vs. paying for a ticket – which is worth it?

So lots of festivals have started to announce their line ups for summer 2015, and if you’re like me you’ll be scrutinising each one to decide which is worth spending your money on, for what will hopefully be the highlight of the summer. One way to get that experience throughout the season is to volunteer with an organisation, but this does have its pros and cons. I discovered this last year when I volunteered at two festivals for the first time, and I’m going to pass on that wisdom with you now:

So what’s number one on most peoples’ priority lists?

 Money  – if you volunteer at a festival, you get access to the site, camping and music for free. Seems like a no-brainer, right? You do however have to factor in that most organisations will ask for a deposit, and for Oxfam this is the price of the ticket itself. Of course you get the money back after the festival, but it’s a question of whether you can survive that few months down £200 or so. If not, then a company like Festaff only charge a £20 deposit (and £15 admin fee), so that I suppose is a cheaper alternative in the short term. Though whatever you do don’t try and use a provisional license as ID or you’ll also have to fork out a £100 deposit which they keep along with your ID for the weekend (I might still be a little bitter about that).

Don’t get me wrong, you’re still going to spend a lot of money even if you don’t pay for the ticket (you can never have enough flower crowns, okay?), but I have two words for you: free food. Yep, volunteer and you get one meal per shift and daaamn is that hot meal precious when you’re camping in a cold field in Yorkshire for 6 days.

Campsite – Now, going to a festival can be tiring at the best of times, and I like my sleep, so going back to a tent in a peaceful campsite away from the madness and noise of the main festival is bliss. Of course this isn’t for everyone, as a lot want to be in the mix of the madness and making that noise, and if this is you then having to camp away from the action may be a bit of a pain. But if you like sleep, it’s like a dream. You’re also much less likely to get anything stolen, and there’s clean port-a-loos and free tea and coffee 24/7. Need I say more?

Music – Personally, I go to festivals for the line up, so having to work shifts that will at some point mean missing some bands is the biggest negative I have towards volunteering at a festival. I missed Arctic Monkeys at Leeds which was a bit rubbish, but it was to work the Sunday night silent disco shift where I just got to wear the headphones and dance around, so I can’t really complain. And at Kendal Calling I didn’t miss any of the headliners, a plus for smaller festivals there for sure.


If you are one of those people who go to festivals for the experience rather than the music, then it’s a difficult one; because on the one hand, if you don’t care about any of the bands, you won’t mind when your shifts are and you can just go and party when your shifts are over, but at the same time is it worth doing two or three 8 hour shifts (which can be pretty tiring and/or boring as hell) just to get drunk with your friends in a field? Although equally is it worth £200 odd to get drunk in a field with your friends if you pay for a ticket, anyway? That’s your call I guess.

So I guess what I’m saying is, after five years of the same old festival routine, working for the ticket was a nice change. Perpetual drunkenness gets old after a while, for me at least. Also if you work for Oxfam you are essentially giving to charity, as your wages go straight to them, so that’s a nice bonus for your conscience, as well as the great experience. Roll on this summer and much more festival fun. 


Edited by Amelia Bauer-Madden

Current third year English and History student, with a love of music, and lots of opinions. 
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