The Secret to Free Festivals!


At this time of year I am faced with a conundrum. There are so many things I’d love to do with my lengthy and well earned summer, and yet my purse remains empty. Amongst impossible dreams of palm trees and sailing yachts are festivals. Everyone is going to one and they all insist that their festival is the best and most well endowed with mind blowing acts. Glastonbury, Reading, Isle of Wight, Tea in the Park, Bestival, Shambala, Secret Garden Party, Latitude, I have friends raving about them all, and I want to go. Badly. I’ve experienced that sun-blanched, hippie, festival feeling before and I’m hooked.


The solution came for me this year through Oxfam, one of many charities and organisations recruiting armies of volunteers to man gates and check wristbands across a whole hoard of festivals around the UK.

As a steward you are assigned to one area of the festival, where you will complete three 8-hour shifts. I was assigned with one of my friends to the entrance (we helped festival-goers decant vodka into plastic bottles on the way into the festival and picked up their drunk friends on the way out). Another pair of volunteers we met were working in the performers camping area and came back after every shift with stories of the bizarre conversations they’d had with famous people on the way back to their tents at 2am! Other than those three shifts you are completely free to enjoy the festival!

Oxfam are paid by the festival for providing stewards, earning the charity around £1 million every summer! The festival benefits, Oxfam benefits, the projects around the world that Oxfam fund benefit, and you get to go to a kick-ass festival for free! You are in effect helping the world by attending a festival for free! What more could you ask for?

There is a small catch: it’s not totally free at first. You are required to pay a deposit, which you get back on completion of your shifts. The amount varies on how much the festival you are applying for costs, but since you’ll be getting it back, it could be swindled from the bank of Mum and Dad, or would only take a few extra shifts at work to raise! This deposit will last you the whole summer, as long as the deposit is as much as the most expensive festival, so you could work however many festivals you like with this money. Hell, you could sign up for them all!

The online sign up is easy. It’s best to apply as early as you can, as some of the more popular festivals do fill up quickly, but going to a festival that you’d never even considered before is more likely to be more spontaneous and surprising anyway!

The perks (other than watching some of your favourite acts for free whilst saving the world by volunteering for Oxfam) include food tokens, the possibility of being backstage and camping in the Oxfam camping field, which although is usually further out than most fields, is far cleaner and has better facilities than the standard fields.

So stop resigning yourself to “you should have been there”‘s. Stop desperately and painfully watching these festivals on TV. Stop sighing over those photos of your tanned, garland-wearing, tent-partying, beer-in-hand friends! Take advantage of this “everyone wins” situation and actually go!



Second year Oceanography student with a travel addiction.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. avatar

    Maybe I didn’t read thoroughly, but you didn’t say which festival you worked at…?

    Anna Jenkins

    I was at Bestival!! 😀

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