Festivals for free
Jumping the fence may get you in for nothing but it could give you a broken leg or a one-on-one battle with Scary Security Man. Here are some safer, legit ways of getting yourself to a festival for free.
Promote a brand
Ah, sponsorship. These days, commercial festivals are a bit like enormous corporate-awareness parks as every brand strives to get in touch with that tasty young demographic (i.e. you).
The good news is many of these companies need bodies on site to help ‘promote their message’. See who the big sponsors are at your chosen festival and give them a call. You might have to wear a crap T-shirt and hand out useless trinkets to wasted punters, but at least you’re in for free.
Chefs to the stars
Do you know how much a rock star eats? Not much, but boy, the roadies, stage crew and other site workers certainly make up for it. Catering at festivals is big business with often hundreds of mouths to feed over a number of weeks before and after the weekend.
The catering firms regularly need extra help, especially over the festival weekend. You may need only minor kitchen experience – as well as chefs, they need pot scrubbers and waiting staff, too.
The downside – you have to work your socks off and may not get to see as much of the festival as you’d hoped.
Pulling pints for the punters
It doesn’t sound as glam as being backstage, but the beer tents need enough hands on deck to make sure the punters are well watered. The Workers Beer Company runs beer tents at large-scale festivals and needs around 2,000 volunteers each year to work at the likes of Glastonbury, Homelands, Reading and Leeds.
Volunteer for a charity
Most festivals allow relevant charities on site to promote their messages. These charities sometimes need help working their stands. Just remember, don’t take the piss. If you’re going to volunteer to work for a charity, then work for them. Approach the organisations you really believe in – that way you’ll enjoy the work and they’ll see that you’re passionate about it. You should get some time off to see the bands after your shift is over.
If you’re a caring soul, you could see if Samaritans needs anyone to work in its tents. Samaritans run special areas at most of the big festivals, providing around-the-clock emotional support to festival-goers.
Safety stewards, litter pickers and car parking attendants
Hundreds of thousands of people roaming around fields off their faces means two things – lots of litter and lots of security issues. If you fancy donning a sexy fluorescent vest, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
Oxfam recruit volunteers to steward at The Glade, Glastonbury, WOMAD, Reading and Leeds, to name a few.
For paid work, try DC Site Services, who need litter pickers, safety stewards and traffic management staff at heaps of festivals and events. Cash and Traffic Management (CTM) recruit car parking staff for lots of the big festies, too. If you’re prepared to work hard while you’re needed, you’ll have time to wander round and catch some bands too.
This one is a bit trickier as it requires you to have medical skills. If you’re a health professional you can join the teams of volunteers providing specialist health care at festivals. Festival Medical Services is probably the biggest organisation, starting out back in Glastonbury’s early days and now sending medical teams to Glastonbury, Reading, Homelands and Creamfields.
Considering the huge capacity of most festivals, organisers are often very scrooge-like when it comes to allocating press passes. Unless you work for a well-known national publication or specialist music media outlet, you will find yourself battling hard for accreditation. Running a fledgling fanzine on Glasgow post-rock outfits just won’t cut it.
Most big magazines and newspapers do use freelancers for reviewing purposes so if you can prove your worth to the entertainment editor, then you may have found a way in. What won’t work is ringing the festival press office and trying to pass as a journo for an established magazine. They’ll be on your arse before you can say: “I used to write for NME. No, really.”
Get on crew
There are other ways of blagging that all-important backstage pass. Artist Liaison crews need lots of extra bodies to mop up muddy dressing rooms in-between acts and cart endless riders around to keep the prima donnas (*cough*, sorry artists) happy. Places fill up quickly, so approach festival organisers early to find out who is responsible for recruitment.
OK, this one may not work. Word of mouth tells us that arriving on site weeks before the festival, just as the fences are going up, presents its own employment opportunities. Construction crews may find themselves needing extra labourers and if you happen to be there at the right time, you’ll find yourself a job – and a way in for free. Time it wrong and security will send you on your way.
Photo of girl looking at crowd by Shutterstock.
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
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