Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Oxfam festival steward experience- Glastonbury 2014

Last weekend was my eleventh year of going to Glastonbury Festival. Yes, I was the weird kid at school that tripped off to sleep in a tent in a field for a few days when I was nine years old.
Me at my first Glastonbury in 2004

I’ve always been keen to support charities such as Oxfam as I think the work that they do is great, and so volunteering at a festival seemed like the perfect way to still go to a festival whilst doing something for a great cause. In fact, Oxfam stewarding raises £1 million every summer.

In 2012 my dad and I tripped off in the camper van to the Isle of Wight to steward our first festival with Oxfam- Bestival.

Stewarding at Bestival in 2012
Since then we’ve never looked back, and this weekend we stewarded our third festival with Oxfam.

We turned up on Tuesday morning to some rather admiring glances as our baby blue campervan was yet to be trashed with mud. Needless to say as the rain poured down later in the week the glances became somewhat green with envy as we cuddled down in our watertight van.

After we’d got our shifts we had a quick walk round the site which is one of the best perks of being an Oxfam steward. Glastonbury is one of the, if not the, biggest festivals in the world but being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people on an hourly basis can sometimes seem a little claustrophobic.
In front of the Pyramid Stage on Wednesday

Being able to freely walk around the site as the organisers are putting the finishing touches on everything is a priceless feeling.

On Wednesday morning we were up at 5am to get ready for our impending 5.45-14.00 shift. We were put on Pedestrian gate B which meant checking tickets and letting people in and out of the festival.

In our bright orange tabards we trudged past hoards of eager punters waiting at the gates ready for them to open at 8am. I had no idea so many people come a long so early… but I suppose that shows the changing face of the festival.

We were put on the turnstiles and were counting punters into the festival whilst issuing them with their programmes and official guide. There was a lot of waiting around, and the anticipation in the air hummed with both excitement and worry. I suddenly became very protective over the site… “I don’t want these drunken punters ruining it! “I thought.

8am came and we were called into position when the big green gates were opened and the first excited (and probably very tired) punters ran in.

Eight hours slowly passed, my thumb was getting tired from counting people in, and my patience running out after trying to understand countless scousers, but the shift was nearly over.
Pedestrian Gate B- opening the gates

We had all spectrums of society pass through our gate, from geordies in hair rollers to a clearly disabled man pushing his wheelchair full of booze (which had to be the funniest).

The best thing about Glastonbury is that there are so many people you never know who you’re going to bump in to, and letting our friend, Louise, and her husband through the gate was one of those moments. It cheered our shift up though, that’s for sure. 

When our shift was over we dawdled back to the campervan for a well-deserved kip, and went out to explore the now very crowed festival later on that evening.

Thursday evening- tents filling up
Luckily two of our shifts were early on in the festival, and Thursday evening was our overnight shift. Wednesday had set us up for an exciting and fast paced role, but the eight hours between 10pm and 6am the following morning felt like forever as we let around ten people in to the site. 
Cold moment during the night shift

Early in the morning was a little more exciting as people were rolling in from their heavy nights out all the way up until 6am in the morning. As you can imagine, trying to explain to someone who’s partly incoherent and covered in mud that they need to keep their tickets and pass outs safe otherwise they won’t be allowed back in to the festival was a task in itself.

Friday was a day off, which meant a) sleeping and then b) partying… or as much partying as you can do on limited sleep. 

After a lazy morning we headed down to see Rudimental on the Pyramid stage with an ever looming black cloud plus thunder and lightning in the background. Before the set was finished the band were rushed off stage due to a localized power cut.

We decided to head to the cider bus (solution to everything) when the heavens opened. In all my Glastonburys I have never ever seen raindrops as big. Plopping into my cider, which was becoming more and more watered down, we ran for cover but I was already soaking wet.

Drying out clothes in the dance village post rain
Mud 1- 0 Glastonbury.

It was also the day of our first celebrity encounter at Glastonbury 2014, and I have to say I was least than impressed.

 We were queuing to go up the ribbon tower in the park, which looks over the whole site. As you can imagine, there becomes quite a queue as only eight people are allowed up at a time, and my dad and I had planned it perfectly so we’d catch the sunset.

As soon as we got to the front of the line the apologetic steward told us they were shutting it momentarily as Metallica were having a photo shoot at the top. Needless to say we were annoyed, as we’d queued for easily half an hour

After exchanging some angered words with the man in charge we got fobbed off with a free (very nice) bar of chocolate, and got a dirty look of Lars Ulrich (the drummer from Metallica) who seemed to be looking down on us peasant fans.

We gave them a miss on the Pyramid stage the next day.

Saturday was our last shift, and we were working 2pm-10pm. We were unsure of what to expect as I was positioned in the Oxfield (the area in which Oxfam were camping) and Dad was on response, which means you get called to an area if they require more stewards.

Saturday afternoon
Luckily the response was coming to sit with the bored and lonely girl by the gate to keep her company. The bored and lonely girl was me.

That Saturday afternoon felt like forever, particularly when we were stood cowering under a tree dripping wet from the continual rain that never seemed to pass: I’ve never been so wet in all my life.

Those eight hours were the worst of the festival, but once we’d finished we were able to go out and see some acts and elements of the site that we’d never have done previously.

Block 9
Sunday was our last day, and as you can imagine I was dying for a shower AND not having to put wellie boots on just to go to the toilet (ah simple things).

We had a great day walking round the festival but by 10pm everything had got a bit too much, and with worry that we would struggle to get the campervan out of the mud logged field I left with a heavy heart, but safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be the last time I would get to visit Worthy Farm.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff. Your enthusiasm for the duties shines through (most of the time!).