Interviewing Festival First-Timers

Oxfam’s long-awaited summer of festivals has finally begun! With Common People completed, Download downloaded, and Bearded Theory grown, groomed and exquisitely styled into hazy, hairy memories, three festivals are down with twenty more to go – that means plenty more chances to get involved. But what is it really like going to a festival with Oxfam? What does being a campaigner or steward actually involve? To find out we chatted to Zara and Mike, Oxfam festival first-timers, about their experiences so far this summer.


Zara – First-time festival Campaigner at Common People and Download

So Zara, what can you tell me about the campaign this year?

Well, we kicked off really well at Common People then Download, and the campaign’s called ‘Water for Life’. We’re talking about Oxfam’s WASH work around the world and highlighting to festival-goers, who have to walk for water across the festival site, how hard it would be to walk 8000 steps a day just for water that’s often dirty. Getting them to stand in solidarity and spread the word for the one in ten that still have to do this by posting a picture of their shoes with our #stepsforwater and texting STEPS to 70066.

So Common People was a good start to the season then?

Yeah definitely, we had a glitter stand at our base, that was fun to chat people and engage them with the campaign whilst glittering them up. Being a campaigner you also volunteer for 6 hours in the day then get evenings off to enjoy the music together so that was great too!

What was campaigning at Download like in comparison?

Download was different because it was more of a roaming role which meant exploring the festival more in the day, though like Common People everyone was really lovely! Download’s also more my music taste, I loved Avenged Sevenfold and Guns and Roses, plus the amazing Oxfam shop that I managed to pick up some bargains at.

Download festival

Aside from being able to hear some great music and explore the shops, what would you say the biggest perk of campaigning is?

I like talking to people, and campaigning allows you to open up important conversations. The campaign this year is so relatable as well, everyone understands that water’s important, so it’s easy for a relaxed chat. Also, it really gives you the confidence to talk to anyone about anything, and about the great work that Oxfam does – so it’s a win win! The facilities and extras are of course fantastic too.

“The meal tokens and free coffee were certainly a big perk for me!”

Without a doubt, and with the campsite you know you’ll always have somewhere that’s sociable but still have a bit of your own space, and there are showers, and the toilets are nicer – they have toilet paper which is helpful if you’re like me and drop your wipes down the loo!

Which festivals coming up are you most excited about going to?

Reading! Fall Out Boy and Dua Lipa are playing so definitely Reading, 2000 Trees, but I’m also excited to try festivals that may not be my usual thing like WOMAD, I’ve heard really good things about WOMAD.

(Photo credit: Emma Carney)

Mike, Head of Festivals – First-time festival Steward at Bearded Theory

What kind of things did you do on shift?

On the first day I was helping people find their way into the festival, and then checking up on them in the campsite. The second shift was an overnight shift in a fire tower looking out across the campsite. Another role was Oxbox response, delivering tea and batteries, whatever people needed – there are loads of other things you can do like checking wristbands but the main thing is representing Oxfam by being friendly and providing a good experience.

What did you like best about stewarding?

The variety of the work and also the opportunity to meet some really interesting people, they’re just such a welcoming community that’s passionate about helping people and also about music.

So the being part of the Oxfamily was a highlight for you?

For sure, on your shift you all come together and you’re working as a team to ensure people are safe and having a good time in a fun environment, so I really enjoyed the team side of it all. Everyone’s so passionate about the job and enthusiastic to help. One of my favourite shifts was in Oxbox going and delivering tea, I went around with a trolley delivering tea on the night shift and I’ve never seen people look so happy about seeing someone, it was great.

Which festivals coming up are you most excited about going to?

I deliberately picked festivals that are quite different, I’m looking forward to Latitude that has a really good comedy line up and we’ll have the water tank to support our Water For Life campaign, then I’ll be going to NASS which has a bit of a skater crowd, then St Paul’s which is very different again, it’s a one day Afro-Caribbean festival – so I’m looking forward to them all really!

Chatting with Zara and Mike, what became clear was how being part of a community like the Oxfamily keeps you coming back for more. What also stood out was the variety of ways to be a part of this community. Whether you feel your calling’s as a steward or campaigner, can’t wait to skate this way to RUN DMC at NASS, discover new underground bands at 2000 Trees, or embrace the wonderful world music festival of WOMAD – the Oxfamily will have a festival for you!

From the Field, Oxbox out!


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