Festival volunteering- the Oxfam experience

With winter well and truly upon us, festival season could not feel further away, but nothing cures the January blues better than making summer plans, and for me, summer = festivals.

Credit: Oxfam

Credit: Oxfam

Despite their wonderful traits- of which there are many, going to big name festivals is becoming increasingly expensive.

Although events such as T in the Park, Bestival and Reading & Leeds offer great value for money in terms of the amount of acts performing, a treasured ticket to one of summer’s highlights comes at a hefty price tag. With most of the main contenders averaging around £200 a ticket, before travel, food and other “expenses” (basically alcohol and baby wipes), a summer of back to back festivals is pretty much out of the question for students. Or at least I thought so. When I was hungover, depressed and tired on a Sunday morning way back in October 2013- the last thing I expected was for that miserable morning to be a blessing in disguise.

Like so many others I was left disappointed at my failed attempt to get a ticket to what many describe as the “highlight of British summer” – Glastonbury Festival. After an initial period where I just felt sorry for myself and sulked, I finally got researching into what could get me into the holy ground of Worthy Farm.


After a bit of clicking around, I came across the Oxfam Festival Stewarding website. The homepage was plastered in photos of happy and smiley volunteers and now having volunteered with Oxfam, I can see why. Oxfam take thousands of people every year to festivals all around the country- from Boardmasters on the beautiful Cornish coast to Tramlines festival in Sheffield city centre- there’s something for everyone and the process is really straight forward.

  • Firstly, choose what festivals you’d like to volunteer and there’s no restriction on how many you can do! If you originally sign up for a few but later on decide you want to do more- that’s completely fine.
  • You’ll be asked provide a reference and to pay a deposit which is equivalent to the ticket price of the most expensive festival you attend. The priciest ticket is for Glasto at around £215, so even if you sign up for 10 festivals, the most you would have to pay is £215. Fab.
  • If you’re planning on volunteering with friends or family, you can request to be ‘shift buddies’ with up to 5 people. This means Oxfam will try their hardest to ensure that you and your friends are on shift at the same time, so you’ll be able to spend your free time together.
  • Once you have signed up, if you’ve never volunteered with Oxfam before you will be asked to attend a training session. These tend to be around 2/3 hours long and are held in different cities across the UK where you have the chance to meet fellow volunteers and learn more about the various roles and health and safety procedures. Once you have completed one training session, you won’t be required to attend another one for four years.
  • Before you know it the festival will come round and you’ll be ankle deep in mud, with a drink in one hand and a festival programme in the other. Oxfam normally have their own camping field, where you’ll have access to free hot water, toilets, showers (blissful) and Oxfam catering which is de-licious. Dependant on which festival you attend, Oxfam will provide you with a number of free meal tokens to help you save some cash over the course of the festival. Just another perk of the job.
  • The majority of festivals require you to work 3 x 8 hour shifts over the space of about 5 days. The majority of people will be allocated as ‘stewards’ and jobs tend to include checking wristbands and vehicle passes etc. At Glastonbury, I did one day, one early morning shift and one overnighter but this may vary from festival to festival.
  • Even if you’re on shift somewhere different to the people you came with, everyone is so friendly that you’re bound to make friends with people you work with. It’s called the Oxfamily for a reason! It’s also not uncommon for people to come on their own as it’s so easy to make friends!
  • If you turn up on time to all of your shifts, and complete them without problems, you can expect to be refunded your deposit around a month after your last festival.
  • Finally, reflect on how amazing your festival-packed summer has been and start looking forward to next year!

If you’re interested in volunteering with Oxfam this summer- register here to keep up-to-date with the latest news. Loads more information about stewarding can be found on Oxfam’s website, so do something great for charity this summer and get festival volunteering! See you in the fields!

Photo Credit: Oxfam Deutschland via Compfight cc

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Leeds Met PR student with encyclopaedic knowledge of The OC. Fanatical about festivals and free stuff. Guilty pleasures include bad puns and property television. Check out my blog erinmullispr.wordpress.com

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  1. 2

    Hi, great informative article! i also looked into this, but as someone who’d have to travel to uk for this, I wondered when those training sessions were held, I heard there were several dates, but are they right before the festival or several months before?
    All the best Xx

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