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Working at festivals

The work is hard but fun, and for a good cause

With pricey summer festival tickets hard to come by, why not score a job and get in for nothing?

Getting free tickets to some of the best music festivals this summer and a special campsite away from the thousands of stinky punters sounds too good to be true. It's not — but only if you're prepared to deal with rubbish for a few hours a day or make lattes for hungover revellers.

Across the UK in summer there are dozens of music festivals, all of them needing support staff.

Food and drink outfits usually require experienced personnel (see box below), but if you don't fit this bill one of the easiest ways to get in on the act is to be a litter picker.

The good news is, unlike the star of the film Kenny, you won't have to shove your hand down a portable dunny to find a lost wedding ring.

Matt Gilkes, the assistant events manager of Network Recycling, says "our job is to recover as much recycling from the waste [collections] and stop it going to landfill.

"You get to walk around the festival with a warm feeling knowing you are contributing to the festival and doing something good for the environment as well as being at a great festival."

Bigger festivals use volunteers (on shifts, usually four to five hours per day) to:

  • pick up litter, separating out any recyclables as you go;
  • empty bins;
  • sort the recyclables; and
  • give out bags at the main gates.

Paid staff clean the site after the festival, with volunteers welcome to stay on and earn some cash."You have to be physically fit and not mind working outdoors in all weather," Gilkes says.

"The work is hard, messy and often at anti-social hours, but fun and for a good cause with a great crew and family ethos."

Volunteers receive a full adult pass, meals while on duty, and a secure camping area that has showers and toilets, which Gilkes says "are not as smelly as the public loos!" Some festivals provide a crew catering area, with music and spaces to chill out.

Volunteers need to pay a deposit (which will be refunded once you complete your shifts) and be on site a day before the festival starts to attend a training session. Positions are often available until a few days before the festival begins — so if you've got a few spare days but no spare cash, rubbish could be the answer.

See www.eventrecycling.co.uk and www.event-jobs.net

Bean there

Callum Hantler has been serving up coffee at summer music festivals around the UK for more than a decade and is always keen to hear from Antipodeans and South Africans who know the difference between a long black and a flat white.

Hantler, originally from Hawke's Bay in New Zealand, owns an organic coffee and juice bar and is gearing up for Glastonbury from June 27, his first festival of the summer.

He does a festival every week during summer and, along with other festival stall-holders, is on the lookout for paid staff. You need to have worked in a busy food and drink retail outlet previously, and barista skills are especially sought after.

Hantler employs a lot of New Zealanders because, he says, "the coffee culture is a lot more advanced [in NZ] than in the UK". Hantler reckons his staff love life on the road. "They like going to a different festival every week," he says. "There's plenty of time to see the music... and they get a free ticket."

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