Oxfam stewards Glastonbury

Oxfam Festival volunteering: 7 need-to-know questions answered

In my last blog post, I discussed general aspects relating to volunteering with Oxfam. You’ve read to the end and clicked the link for part two, so I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re interested. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

  1. How do I sign up?

Go to the Oxfam Festivals website when registration opens (usually early in the year). If you have completed two festivals the previous year, you will have “priority”, so will be able to log in and choose your festivals earlier than people volunteering with Oxfam for the first time. Pay your deposit, complete your profile and attend a training session before your first festival. Done!

  1. What will be expected of me?

Complete either two or three (usually three!) 8-hour shifts, with 15 minutes tacked onto the start to allow for an adequate handover. Hand your hi-vis tabard and any equipment, e.g. radios, back and your deposit will be returned in due course.

If you are going as a group, up to six of you can sign up to be shift partners. This means Oxfam will do its best to put you all on the same (or similar) shift pattern, so you can enjoy your time off together.

  1. What sort of things will I be doing on shift?

Working at gates, information points, in general and accessible camping, up fire towers, roaming the arena, on accessibility platforms or maybe even in the carparks. There are probably other roles, but these are the main ones I have done in the past.

Me in my hi-vis tabard on the main stage accessibility platform at Reading 2018
Volunteering on the main stage accessibility platform at Reading 2018, before the arena opens to the public.

There are also opportunities to supervise groups of stewards or to work in the shift-leading team. This looks great on CVs and LinkedIn profiles! 😉 Speaking from experience (as someone who was very reluctant to supervise or be on the shift-leading team), Oxfam are really great at easing you in. At some festivals, you will be a steward on your first shift, so you can shadow your supervisor. Or you will be positioned in a quiet role or given a relatively easy shift pattern. You can also turn up a little earlier, if you want, and chat to the supervisor about to come off shift.

Everyone is really supportive, and there are plenty of people to ask for advice if you are unsure about anything.

  1. What do I need to bring on shift?

First and foremost, food and drink. Plus a mug and water bottle. There’s nothing worse than being hungry or thirsty mid-shift. Your mug will be needed if the Oxfam buggy turns up offering hot drinks. A water bottle is great for hot days – after all, you’re never too far from a water point at a festival.

Wear layers, as shifts can start in the morning and end in the mid-afternoon or begin in the mid-afternoon and end late at night. Bring waterproofs in case it rains (and this is Britain, it often does!). My choice of footwear is usually either a sturdy walking boot, comfortable trainers or good-quality wellies, depending on the role and the weather that day.

  1. When do I find out my shift pattern?

Once you get there. There are pros and cons to this, but there are usually opportunities to swap shifts with other stewards. I generally get to experience a good amount of the festival. Yes, there may be one or two bands I end up missing. But if I really loved the line-up and there was a band I absolutely had to see, I would buy a ticket instead.

  1. And what do I do off shift?

Once your shifts are done, your time is your own. Personally, I go to festivals with a good line-up, so I have plenty to do in my downtime. As I like rock, punk and heavy metal music, but also comedy, poetry and yoga, this tends to be festivals such as Download, Reading, 2000 Trees, but also Latitude and Wilderness.

Some campervan owners choose to do the festival for a “free” pitch. They complete their shifts and then tour the local area. Others see it as a cheap summer holiday, so they do several festivals back-to-back, without being overly concerned about the lineup. And some are dedicated fundraisers, so they do as many festivals as they can, knowing that Oxfam will benefit from their work.

  1. But how exactly does Oxfam benefit?

Each festival pays Oxfam to supply stewards. Oxfam then fills the roles with volunteers, so it can keep the money. According to the Oxfam Festivals website: “For every festival or event we work at, each steward raises almost enough money for Oxfam to provide clean water to 25 people for 1 year.”

So there you have it. If you have any more questions, feel free to post them in the comments.

See you in the field? 😀

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