The Best Things in Life are Free

It’s 5am on a freezing Saturday morning, and I’m talking to a group of stoned farmers about plagiarism. Where else could I be but Glastonbury? Even more oddly, I’m completely sober, if a little tired – and also clad in an attractive neon orange tabard and a giant see-through poncho. There is a reason for this.

Over the summer I spent large amounts of time in fields up and down the country at a variety of festivals, and all for wonderfully free – by volunteering as an Oxfam steward, you’re raising for a good cause (what would have been steward’s wages is donated to the charity) as well as living on the cheap. It’s a really brilliant way for skint students not to miss out on the festival season, but surprisingly few people know about it.

All it takes is a simple online application, a deposit which you get back if you show up for your shifts, and a reference from your last job. With one deposit you can steward at as many festivals as you like. And they even give you meal tickets.

There is, of course, the matter of the three 8-hour shifts. It is admittedly very annoying that there’s a chance you’ll miss someone you really want to see – my Glastonbury experience was sadly lacking in Jay-Z’s hip-hoppy goodness. But considering the other option was having paid £160 for a ticket, I figured I would live. As it happened, the shifts themselves were nearly as fun as the rest of the festival. They could get tedious if you’re not a little inventive, but they can be quite an experience. No one objected to our ‘length of time stood on one leg’ competitions while attempting to direct crowds of festival goers, or our races up and down the queuing barriers made more challenging by the ankle-deep mud.

When I first read my Glastonbury shift schedule, I groaned to see an 11pm-7am slot. Sprinting from Amy Winehouse’s inebriated melodies to get to our post, we soon discovered the only way to fight the Arctic temperatures was to keep moving. Within a few hours, we’d made up a ‘12 Days of Glastonbury’ song (with actions) and an Oxfam dance. Myself and a friend bravely tried to teach the rest of the stewards and security guards our dance, though we probably would have had a more enthusiastic response from the cows which inhabit Glastonbury for the rest of the year. We were then relegated to the remotest stretch of car park, a fact I’m certain is completely unlinked to our spirited attempts to get the supervisors to boogie on down. There, we reached never-before-seen levels of cold and muddiness, forcing us to regale the few passers-by with new and improved versions of the Oxfam dance. At one point the crowd watching us, in a baffled but amused way, included two people with video cameras, a car full of security guards and a tractor.

By the time we were relieved we were slightly delirious from accumulated sleep deprivation but by no means regretting our decision to sacrifice some of our festival time. My point being, it’s not hard work. Not that I’m encouraging people to slack off – but it has to be conceded there’s a limited amount of effort you can put in to saying, “Re-entry this way please!” For the cost of a ticket, I’m more than happy to spend a few hours carrying out menial tasks.

If I hadn’t heard about stewarding I would have spent the summer sat at home, lamenting my poverty, while my friends jaunted off to wondrous musical destinations. Don’t let this happen to you next summer! Embrace the neon tabard of goodness, and jaunt with the best of them!

Lucy Hayes


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