A Beginner’s Guide to Festivaling with Oxfam: The Top 5 Q+As

This year’s festival season is sadly over, yet anticipation for next summer is already building. Welcoming hundreds of newbies to our Facebook page we know that, although it may be getting gloomier outside, festival fans still have their sights squarely set on summer. This is especially the case as, as the summer of 2019 approaches so does Glastonbury’s long-foretold return. So if you can’t wait to go Glasto …. or Boomtown, or WOMAD, or the 20 other festivals Oxfam saves spots at for that matter, but are wondering what festivaling with Oxfam is actually like – then this is the article for you. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of answers to of our top 5 most asked questions just for you.

If you haven’t already, make sure you register your interest to join us next year here.

Here’s your very own beginner’s guide to festivaling with Oxfam:

Q1 : What are the different ways you can volunteer at festivals with Oxfam?

A: If you’ve heard about going to festivals with Oxfam, it’s most likely you’ve heard about stewarding. Stewarding makes up the most of Oxfam’s volunteering spots and essentially means you’ll be ensuring the smooth running of a festival as its eyes and ears. This could involve checking wristbands, giving directions, patrolling the arena, spotting fires, and a general range of other helpfulness-based responsibilities. So if you enjoy helping people out and a bit of variety in your work, stewarding might be the one for you.

If it’s not, then never fear there’s still plenty of other ways to get involved.  If you have 3 months experience working at your local Oxfam shop then you could apply to volunteer at one of Oxfam’s wonderfully weird and wacky festival shops. If you’re practical and good at setting things up, logistics occasionally recruits on the Oxfam Festivals Facebook page.  If you’re passionate about social causes and have an outgoing personality, then you should consider volunteering as a campaigner. If you fancy learning more about the different roles before making a decision, then you can also follow this link for full descriptions and videos about what each role entails.

Spreading the love between stewards and campaigners – Photo Credit: Zara Canfield/Oxfam

Q2: What will my shifts be like?

A: Shifts vary depending on how you decide to volunteer, but whatever role you pick you’ll earn your entry through committing 24 hours of the festival to it. Stewarding you’ll do three 8 hour shifts and campaigning you’ll do four 6 hour ones. Shops and logistics place some of their shifts setting up before and closing down after the festival, but pretty much follow a similar pattern to stewarding and campaigning.

Stewarding shifts usually include one night shift (full disclosure), if you’re volunteering with a friend you can request them as your shift partner in your application, and the times and tasks of your shift will be told to you at an on-site briefing. There’s also a very active shift swapping board available in our Oxfam marquee, so if you’re desperate to see a particular band you don’t have to stick to the shifts you’re given. If you choose to campaign all your shifts will be in the middle of the day, so no shift swapping and shift partners are decided on-site. Both roles also involve a small amount of training before arriving at the festival. For stewarding this will be a couple of hours online or face-to-face, and for campaigning it will be reading up on the campaign and other information in your pre-season emails – easy-peasy.

Stewards finding the coolest spot to sleep off the night shift during one of this summer’s scorchers – Photo Credit: Jo Sherwood/Oxfam

Q3: What will I get out of volunteering with Oxfam?

A: As far as pros go not only is your entry free, just having to pay a deposit, but you can roll on this deposit to other festivals meaning you can do a whole summer of festivals for the deposit price of one. If you decide to do at least two festivals using this system then you also get another big pro of being on Oxfam’s priority list for Glastonbury next year, meaning you’ll be able to go without the hefty price tag and stress of refreshing for a ticket. Plus, on-site with Oxfam you’ll have access to plenty of festival luxuries including secure camping, free hot drinks, a meal token per shift worked, hot showers and phone charging – hallelujah!

Volunteering can also give a boost to your CV. If you’re interested in events management for instance then stewarding is advantageous in giving you an insight into how festivals operate. Stewarding also means that you are being put in a position of responsibility and working in a team, employable skills across the board. As a campaigner, you’ll learn how to deliver information effectively and how to confidentially approach and persuade new people. Again, these are skills that a lot of employers look for. Though most importantly, whilst you’re volunteering and boosting your CV, you’ll also be. At. A. Festival… Possibly the easiest and most enjoyable way to say you’ve volunteered – if you’re looking to boost your CV then why not do it whilst seeing your favourite artists?

Rubbing shoulders with the stars at Radio 1’s Signing Stage, another perk to volunteering with Oxfam Festivals – Photo Credit: Andria Hanson/Oxfam

Q4: Who is the typical Oxfam volunteer?

A: The great thing about going to a festival with Oxfam is that there is no typical volunteer. Aside from 18 being the minimum age requirement, there is a whole range of ages and backgrounds. From groups of students celebrating the end of exams to festival veterans who are back for their 75th go, Oxfam Festivals attracts all kinds of people. The ‘Oxfamily’ has a wide variety of members with one thing in common – the desire to have fun and do something positive. With this goal in mind, the Oxfamily are some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet. Meaning that even if you volunteer on your own, you’re likely to leave with plenty of new friends. If you want to read more about peoples’ experience with Oxfam and the Oxfamily as a festival first-timer, then you can take a look at our interview with 2 newbies.

Q5: When can I apply?

A: Applications are usually opened in the new year, but you can register your interest now so you don’t miss out on our opening date! Following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is also a handy way to ensure that you’re kept in the loop, and if you’re looking for more info on how to apply then take a look at this article for advice.

Snapped by an Oxfam volunteer at Glastonbury 2017 – Photo Credit: Kris Wright

Don’t let the rain get you down, register now and start planning your summer – its only 8 months, 1 week and 2 days away!

From the Field – Oxbox Out! 


    1. Hi Alison, thanks for your question. The deposit will be the cost of the ticket and is required as a secruity deposit from the festival organiser 🙂 The deposit is fully refunded 4-6 weeks after the completion of your shifts at your last festival. For example if you did Glastonbury and Reading it would only be one deposit for both (you would pay the highest deposit price) then we would refund after Reading festival. We hope this helps!- Oxfam Festivals team

  1. A great insight into what it’s like to volunteer at a festival. Hope I am luck enough to get involved – fingers crossed!

  2. This is my first year to register as a volunteer but after speaking with many volunteers over the past few years I am excited about the opportunity of joining the team.

  3. I am very much more at the veteran age and, being an equally veteran NHS mental health professional, I am interested in festival volunteering to support festival goers mental health and wellbeing. Is there a role for this, for me, with Oxfam? Thanks.

    1. Hi Wendy, thanks for your question. We do not have specific roles around mental health and wellbeing, however being a steward encompasses many skills and roles. As a festival steward, we are there to ensure the safety of the public, me the eyes on ears of the festival and make sure the festival runs smoothly. Although we do not have specific roles around mental health and wellbeing we always really welcome individuals who have a wide variety of experience working with others. Some of our long-term volunteers come from a similar background. We have a very large festival community and would recommend you join our group on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/oxfamfestivalsteam/ We hope to see you volunteering with us in the future 🙂 – Oxfam Festivals team

  4. Brilliant site!
    Wicked and clear info all around! I am looking to volunteer in the summer will be the first time getting involved in some of the many festivals we all partake in.
    In terms of trying to get shifts and jobs with a friend, will you be able to message managers or shift managers etc… or is it all down to the application form?

    Any info will be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Omar, we are glad you found the information useful and are looking forward to getting involved with us next summer. With regards to working with friends, you can apply to be shift partners in your application. We cannot guarantee you will be working on the same position and location but it will mean you will have the same time off together. Our applications are due to open early in the new year and if you have registered your interest here: you will be able to keep up to date with when and how to apply. Best wishes, Oxfam Festivals Team

  5. Hi there,
    My husband and I have just registered to volunteer for the first time and we’re both very excited at the prospect! We’re well into our 50’s now – my background is in nursing, business and performance (ex singer/songwriter) & he’s a barber, we both have our own businesses. We’re very much peoples persons and we have been ardent Oxfam supporters for years via our local Oxfam shop – they know us very well. Besides this I do a lot of voluntary community work and actually founded a festival in my hometown almost five years ago (link supplied below) in Holywood, N Ireland. We now have a team of volunteers and this year we had The Boomtown Rats (with Bob Geldof), Reef, Toploader and Ryan McMullan headlining. I have a lot of festival experience between attending them and running one, but I’m also very teachable as there’s always new things to learn and every day in my world is a classroom! Would there be room for two older fogeys to campaign for Oxfam please? We’d both be honoured to support such a worthy cause. I’m heading off to join the Facebook page right now. Thank you kindly, Mari

  6. Hi my name is Greig.
    But most of my friends call Me (Gringo !!!)
    Recycling is a priority for me and have been well known in the works skips salvaging various items to upscale or re-use.

  7. Hello!!
    I want to volunteer this summer as this is my first time register, I just want to ask that I am deaf and I wear cochlear implant and I was worry if that going to effect my application form? I know this volunteer will bring so much confidence for me and explore new people etc!
    Thanks Kate

    1. Hi Kate, Thanks for your comment. We would love to have you on board with us as a volunteer this summer. We strive to make volunteering with us accessible to everyone. For more information, please head here: https://oxfamapps.org/festivals/accessibility.php
      Any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We also recommend joining our Facebook group to chat to other likeminded people here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/oxfamfestivalsteam/
      Have a lovely weekend!
      Zara, Oxfam Festivals Team

  8. Hi,

    What is the purpose of the deposit? Are there any occasions on which you would retract the deposit and not refund it?

    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Stella,

      Thanks for your question. We are required to ask for a deposit from the festival organisers as a security deposit. This is returned 4-6 weeks after your last festival and relies on you having attended all your shifts satisfactorily. This includes being on time and returning your tabard when you have finished your last shift. There are more details in our FAQ’s but please be reassured that this is a one-off refundable deposit. https://oxfamapps.org/festivals/faq.php#q9

      We hope you will be joining us next summer!


      Zara, Oxfam Festivals Team

    1. Hi Caroline, we do not provide lockers but you will have dedicated staff camping which is separate from the public so you have a little more peace of mind. Most festivals do have their own lockers which you could hire on site with the public. I hope this helps. Thanks, Zara- Oxfam Festivals Team

  9. My daughter is an NHS nurse and wishes to volunteer in the role of a nurse. How does she/can she do this? Or does she just use the same application form as everyone else?

    1. Hi there. We don’t offer any medical positions with Oxfam. All the training one needs to volunteer with us is given by us in mandatory training sessions. There are a variety of health services that work at festivals. If your daughter is set on doing that then I’d recommend looking up the festival to see which one they use. If not, we’re always looking for more people to come and volunteer with us at Oxfam. Thanks, Sam – Oxfam Festivals Team

  10. Hello,
    I would like to volunteer, alongside my husband, for Glastonbury 2020.

    With such high demand this year, how likely do you think are we to succeed? Our strong preference would be to work our shifts for Oxfam.

    1. Hi Mary. We never know how many people are going to apply to volunteer through Oxfam at Glastonbury so I can’t give you a probability. It’s fastest finger first on the day that applications launch, which will be early 2020. Thanks, Sam – Oxfam Festivals Team

  11. If we apply to register for Glastonbury, can you register as a couple? Or would it be possible that I am accepted and not my wife and would we both have to get through to ensure we are accepted

    1. Hi Paul. You cannot register as a couple as the profiles are individual I’m afraid. Your best bet is to both be ready on the day of launch and cross your fingers. When hopefully you both get in, you can fill your profile and add each other as Shift Partners. This helps us in the office to roster you so that your time off is together, allowing you to enjoy the rest of the festival. Thanks, Sam – Oxfam Festivals Team

    1. Hi Claire, sorry for the delayed response. As long as you are signed up to our mailing list by registering your interest we will email you updates about when/how you can apply. We hope to see you next summer. Thanks, Zara- Oxfam Festivals Team

    1. Hi Jaye, thanks for your question. Some of our family-friendly festivals will allow children to attend. To find out which ones, please check the festivals section of our website first and if children are allowed, you will then need to check the individual festival website to see if your child needs a ticket and obtain this yourself if necessary (ages of adult and child tickets vary from festival to festival).

      Each adult volunteer can bring two children under the age of 13, but you do need to ensure you have adequate childcare whilst you are on shift.

      Each adult volunteer may also bring up to two children between the ages of 13-18 to camp in the volunteers’ area as long as you have purchased a festival ticket for them prior to the festival starting.

      If you would like to bring children to a festival please email us at festivals@oxfam.org.uk and we will provide you the child form to complete. Information required includes a photo for ID card, an emergency contact number and the name of the individual who will be looking after the children while you are on shift.

      Many thanks. Zara. Oxfam Festivals Team

    1. Hi Caron, we hope you will be joining us next summer! We will announce when our applications open in the coming months. Many thanks, Zara

  12. My daughter and I will be in England in June 2020 and we hoped to volunteer for Oxfam Glastonbury. We are both seasoned volunteers and regularly conduct voter registration drives and benefit work for the American Cancer Society. I also work security for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco every year controlling artist and crew access to the main stage and hold a security guard license. We are from California and my research indicates that we can volunteer for functions in the UK. Does Oxfam have any additional requirements for non-UK citizens? We also may be in a camper/small caravan. Should we be selected, can this be used in Oxfam’s camping area?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi there, thanks for your interest. With regards to volunteering with us next summer, this would depend on the type of visa you have. You will need to have the right to be a voluntary work in the Uk. If you have any other queries, you can email us at festivas@oxfam.org.uk and we’d be happy to help. Thanks, Zara- Oxfam Festivals Team

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