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Volunteering in the Wilderness

Last updated September 9th, 2015

Do you like the idea of working at the boutique camping part of Wilderness festival? Held at Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire at the beginning of August we sent some of our students and alumni off to volunteer at the festival. We asked Bethany Albiston, who took our PG course last September, to tell us all about it …

Why choose volunteering at a festival?

I love festivals and I really enjoyed the festivals module that we did as part of the course. I’ve always been a music festival lover and I actually once said I’d never want to work at festivals because it would stop me enjoying attending them. Now I’m a bit older I’m more interested in the scheduling and organisation, especially for arts festivals. The family vibe at Wilderness is completely different to the vibe at a music festival and I really like working in that environment.

Did you get to enjoy the festival?

I was mostly working! I worked for 8 hours on the first day, 8 hours on the second day and 16 hours on the last day. As soon as I arrived I picked up on the hectic pace in the team and got busy with helping wherever I could. I’ve already had some brilliant festival experiences this year and my priority was to make the most of the volunteering experience while I had the opportunity.

So has your passion for festivals now translated into a career?

I hope it will! Wilderness is the first festival I’ve volunteered at. It is not easy to get into festival management so I was thrilled when the opportunity came up.  There were only 5 people looking after all the boutique campers, which surprised me. We had to work really closely and communicate really well to keep on top of everything.

Will working at festivals will change your experience of attending them?

I helped out with some of the preparation for the Innocent Unplugged festival this year in May. Sadly I couldn’t attend or work at the festival itself, but I spent a long time putting all the tags on the festival lanyards. Now whenever I go to a festival with lanyards I wonder who spent the time assembling them. I don’t think I’ll ever quite be the same again!

What is your favourite festival?

My favourite festival is Snowbombing in Austria. You get to go skiing during the day then it turns into a series of gigs in the evenings. The focus is very much on amazing bands and DJs and it attracts some world class acts – I absolutely love it.

Do you have any advice for others who want to work in festival management?

It isn’t an easy career to get into so make sure you get some volunteer experience. Also make sure you take in what it really means to organise a festival so it runs smoothly.
The main thing I’ve learned about festival management is that teamwork is crucial. Even the different suppliers who maintain different tents at the festival work as a team and support each other. One of the operators had problems with their lighting and another company lent them some light bulbs to resolve it, even though they are essentially in competition with each other.
At the end of the day, it’s the experience of the attendees that matters above all. All staff and suppliers need to pull together to make it memorable so the festival goers tell their friends about it and come back next year.
Featured image from Wilderness Festival website

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