The Honest Festival Survival Guide – How to do a UK season!

All the bits you don’t hear, real advice for prospective festival workers!

Being a seasonal worker is a way of life, as we’ve quickly discovered. It’s a complete lifestyle overhaul. We’ve been lucky enough to have friends and family that have given us beds or floors to set up camp on.

We’ve also met people along the way who use couchsurfing, hitchhiking and sharing networks. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

For us the biggest issue was being based in Scotland. Originally, rather naively we thought we could stay put and travel out to various festivals but the reality is that most paid jobs were all in England and Wales. Scottish festivals are just too small and often rely on volunteers to work on bars or as stewards.

Firstly we applied to work with various agencies which are listed below and did a group interview in Edinburgh to secure our jobs. We both have backgrounds in working in hospitality, kitchens and managing but you can go into this with no or little experience. Hey, it’s a great way to learn the trade!

The Whisky Shack @ Good Life Experience

The Job Hunt

Have a look at these companies to get you started…

HAP Recruitment – (Formerly Citrus Events) This was our main employer over the summer and they generally do a few festivals a weekend at the height of the season. They mostly deal with running bars and are also doing Oktoberfest around the UK this year.

SEED Staff – Our next biggest employer who we also volunteered with. They ask for a deposit for events which is returned after you’ve done the event. If you’re doing multiple events this deposit can be carried over. We did food concession with Seed but they also run lots of bars at events.

Flair – A good option for lots of events work and non -f estival work. Also seems good for plenty of volunteering opportunities at festivals and we heard they pay well for paid jobs. They also have more litter picking jobs.

Peppermint – These guys also run festival and events bars and work in conjunction with other recruitment agencies. Worth handing in your CV especially if you’re a manager or stock manager looking for consistent summer work.

Kendal Calling – Break time!


Whether you have a trusty festival-mobile to travel the country, get lifts from lift sharing websites or fellow workmates and /or hitchhike it is completely do-able. Some companies will even put on transport for staff as long as you can get to a nearby major city.

For example if you’re heading to Leeds festival then get yourself to Manchester, for Festival Number Six there was also buses running from Manchester and Liverpool for staff. Seed Staff also reimburse part of your petrol money which we gladly discovered at Boardmasters this year which is all the way over in Cornwall.

Leeds Fest – Always the last to leave…


You’re On Your Way… What Next?!

Now getting the job with one or several agencies isn’t too much of an issue, they employ everyone from the ‘no bar experience’ right up to trusty managers and supervisors. If you have a personal licence then bring it because you never know when you might get a job upgrade at the last minute and a little more responsibility will stand you in good stead.

There were several times this summer where our hard work payed off and we got guaranteed jobs at festivals where other people didn’t. This was Secret Garden Party’s last year and as is the nature of festivals the need for paid bar staff was cut at the last minute therefore staff couldn’t get a space.

By showing up and working hard, doing extra hours and helping with things such as breakdown of the bars we managed to secure that job and got an upgrade to assistant managers.

Always phone to confirm jobs and if there’s a deposit then make sure it’s paid and ensure they know about it!!!

Too many times did we see staff turn up for a job, maybe they’ve even traveled miles but if you’re not on that staff list you are going home. For every event you should have texts and emails confirming your place and giving you directions for when you get on site. It seems a simple thing but don’t turn up presuming to be on the staff list because you ‘expressed interest’ at some point but never phoned to confirm.

Lost at Leeds


Bad Behaviour

Ranty bit Number Two…!

Mostly working at festivals is fun, hard work and long ass hours but it’s generally a nice atmosphere and if you’re lucky you’ll see some bands and meet some folks to have a laugh with.

Some people though take the piss.

It’s not just my age and experience, and this isn’t about noise in the campsite because it’s a festival so it’s to be expected even if there is the occasional grumble from your colleagues or the security staff next to you who start at crazy o’clock in the morning. This is about theft and boozing on the job.

You’ll find that these companies are very strict but it’s all for a good reason, they lose ridiculous amounts of money through people stealing actual money from tills or not putting drinks through, so that’s from the customer. I’ve also seen overcharging customers, buying drugs, taking drugs and boozing behind the bar.

This just gives the majority of staff a bad rep and because everyone else is working hard and looking forward to a staff drink at the end it makes that person look like a dick.

It may seem like fair game and this will probably keep happening but the extent to which this happens ruins the experience for others and that was my biggest gripe. It’s also quite stupid because you will be caught at some point and don’t think others won’t tell the manager what you’re doing. Ass-hats.

Security are not to be messed with…

Be Prepared

Right if you’ve got a car or campervan you can pretty much take what you like. Generally staff camping is offered and it’s usually near the staff parking but do expect some long walks. Pack as light as possible or invest in one of those trolleys, they’re pretty awesome.

Different jobs will require all kinds of uniforms so take comfortable dark and black clothing for bar work and most food concession work. You’ll probably be allowed to glitter up so take some Vaseline and glitter!!

Also invest in proper hiking boots preferably with steel toecaps and wellies because you will need both at some point. Expect mud, people!

There is usually staff showers but sometimes the water doesn’t work or they’re pretty minging so take baby wipes and loo roll and dry shampoo. Think full on festival survival kit! We also took a cooker but got bored of lugging it on site after festival number two, we got fed twice a day anyway and worked 12-14 hours a day.

Don’t rely on a pop up tent to last a full season or on a stormy hill in North Wales. Take one with an outside covering and bring extra pegs. Also don’t be a dick and bring a 8 person tent for two of you, staff camping is usually a bit cramped.

Blow up air mattresses are the way forward as are emergency biscuits and a first aid kit.

Trusty Tent

Other Bits and Bobs

Ok, so you’re well prepared, you know how to conduct yourself and make sure you definitely have the job. Is there anything else?

Do expect to find creepy crawlies in your tent and fish a bug out of your ear.

Don’t expect to have plush loos and take a head-torch for early morning toilet dashes.

Do expect to meet all kinds of cool, awesome people.

Don’t expect to see the band you like. Ever. Unless you volunteer then it’s much more likely.

Do expect mud, to fall in said mud and be caught in the rain… waterproofs are essential!

Don’t expect a good camping spot, turn up early for that shit.

Do expect lots of post work activities which involve drinking and more drinking and get involved!


Final Word

Working festivals is truly something else, a once in a lifetime experience. You’ll see some bands and you’ll work bloody hard too. It’s difficult to get back to reality after working a season!

We wish everyday life was a festival. Organised chaos is how we would describe it, but totally rewarding. We’ll make our office a field any day of the week! x


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