Festivals have surely got to be right up there as one of the best things in the world, right? Everyone is so chilled, happy, free and generally absolutely loving it, in spite of the usual weather-induced quagmire.
Of course, festivals and events don’t start and end with Glastonbury or Leeds Festival. Sure, they’re the big ones in the UK, but there are so many other types of festivals across the world, which are aimed at different age groups and people with different passions.
It’s all about film, art, literature, cabaret, sexuality, technology, music and pretty much anything else considered remotely cultural!
If a career in events and festivals sounds like your cup of tea, or rather, your plastic cup of warm cider, then keep reading. You could be the next Michael Eavis in no time!
A huge range of career options are available in the world of festivals and events, from marketing, journalism, administration and ticket sales roles, to more hands-on positions like the stage crew, schedulers and security officers.
To work in this area you’ve got to be massively organised. If you think Coachella gets organised by people that sit around twiddling their thumbs all day, listening to music, drinking freshly squeezed lemonade and wondering what to do next, then think again. These guys are proactive to the max.
How can I get into the festivals and events industry?
Most people start at the bottom and work their way up in this industry. You can even take on volunteer positions before moving into something more permanent. The majority of people will get there first taste of festival work through a summer job, working behind the bar, food stalls or as part of the post-festival clean-up operations.
However, most event organisers in the more senior positions usually have plenty of experience of working in events and, more often than not, a degree in a relevant subject, such as events management.
For all other positions, it’s good to show enthusiasm for what you want to do. A festival can run at a hundred miles an hour and every cog in the wheel needs to be perfectly in sync; then and only then, will a festival or event work as it should.
What different roles and responsibilities make up an event or festival’s team?
Event and festival organisers are responsible for the organisation and management of events from start to finish. They oversee it all, from devising the initial concept and going through the meticulous process of planning and arranging everything, to setting up the venue and coordinating the clean-up afterwards. If it’s a music event, you might also be booking the bands or performers, whereas a film festival would mean setting up the big screens and so forth.
Every event, regardless of its size, will have a number of staff working for the event organiser. Before the event, you have marketing executives and PR people promoting it, making sure it’s written about in the press and advertised in the right places. You’ll also have a sponsorship team, who will constantly be on the lookout for sponsors for the festival.
Then, you also have the guys who help in the preparation of the festival site, i.e. setting up the stage, the merchandise and food stalls. You have the writers and graphic designers who design the programme and write its content. You’ve even got the portable toilet people who, believe it or not, have a huge role in making larger festivals run more smoothly.
Working at a festival or event as it’s happening…
During the event, it’s a completely different kettle of fish. Everything has to be perfect and you’ve got to be prepared to work long hours and in pressurised situations. It’s fun though, so it’s all good. You could work on a merchandise or food and drink stall, sell programmes or help direct cars in the parking area.
Merchandise or refreshment sellers will require a license and permission to set up their stall on the festival land. Once all that’s sorted, you’re good to go. If you work at something a bit more glitzy like the Sundance Festival, for instance, good money can be made in waitressing or waiting on tables. You’ll need plenty of experience to do this, but it’s worth it. You might even get to meet one or two celebs.
How does volunteering at a festival work?
The post-festival period calls for an army of helpers. If it’s anything like Glastonbury, it will usually resemble some sort of warzone after all the punters have left the site: tents everywhere, food and drink containers all over the shop, discarded clothes, sleeping bags, plastic cups and beer cans.
Anyway, someone needs to clear this up and restore the field to how it was pre-festival. It’s not a pretty job, but you’ll usually get a free ticket to the festival and it will give you a good idea of how a festival operates behind the scenes.
Sure, you probably go to countless festivals every summer but that’s nothing compared to organising the thing itself and watching it come to fruition, for the benefit of hundreds – even thousands – of people. With a buzz like that, why wouldn’t you want to work in the festivals and events subsector?