Category: From the Field

Tips and Tricks: From the Field


With the summer drawing to a close, our volunteers have amounted a vast supply of tips and tricks. Drawing from their collective knowledge on how to complete a successful camping mission, we’ve compiled a list of core advice to help you navigate next year’s festival season. Below are our top 5!

1. Think before you pack

Our volunteers take various techniques when it comes to what they bring to a festival. We ran into Richard steering a wheelbarrow through the Oxfam camping. Curious about its purpose, we asked if he had any tips to share. It soon became clear that Richard was a packing pro as he shared this advice with us:

‘Make sure you’re well prepared for all weathers and not being cold at night! I have an air bed with two duvets. And make you don’t pitch your tent on a slope, get there early to get the best spot.’ – Richard

So make sure your tents is not on a slope, think ahead for what you’ll need – but also how you’re going to get it into the campsite! A big tent is also a good idea, and from experience, we’ve found that if a tent is sold as a two-man it will probably be a better fit for one, or alternatively two child-sized men. So if you like your space and aren’t particularly little, one up your tent size for a better fit.

Richard outside his tent, which was fully stocked up with even a table inside!

Richard did also remind us that he drove to the festival. A good thing about camping with Oxfam is that the car park is usually close, allowing you to prepare for every eventuality with a car. However, if you’re reaching a festival by train or bus then two wheelbarrows may not be an option for you. Now it’s time to think about packing smart and how to re-use items. One volunteer said about using old clothes as a make-shift towel for the showers; another suggested a water bottle that flattens to save space. General advice though has been just to use your common sense. Think logically about what clothes and food you need, and how to stop it getting wet if it rains on the way in!

‘We saw people in the queue to Boardmasters when it was raining and their stuff got wet in their bag, so bring a waterproof or bin bag to put over your bag so your stuff doesn’t get wet!’ – Saph

Saph getting ready to explore at (the thankfully sunny) Bestival

A waterproof is always a good thing to pack, as rain is not uncommon, but the best advice is …

2. Be prepared for all weather!

Whilst pictures of British festivals are usually characterised by heavy rain and swamps of mud, last season we were blessed with nearly continuous sun. Reaching scorching highs, it is important for your safety to prevent overheating and keep cool. With the trend of very cold winters and very hot summers likely to increase, due to climate change, the message of staying safe in the sun is ever more poignant. Darren, one of the stewards, showed us his heat survival kit consisting of a hat, suncream and lip balm with spf, alongside sharing this simple but crucial advice:

‘If you can find some shade then stand in it. As soon as you realise you’re not feeling well then act on it, sit down and get some water.’ – Darren

As it gets hotter throughout the day we, in Britain, tend to forget the basics of hats, sunnies, suncream, shade and water. This often results in sunburn or even sunstroke.

Pack warmer clothes than you think you’ll need, because it gets cold at night. A cosy sleeping bag, a fluffy jumper and your favourite pyjama bottoms are all a bedtime must.

Wayne, who’s jumped in at the deep-end of festival volunteering, contributing to 5 last year and an outstanding 10 this year, gives great advice to sum up this section:

‘Just the same as life in general: be prepared. We live in the UK so there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing – we’ve got a double climate so it could be sunny in the morning and raining in the afternoon. Pack for rain and pray for sun.’ – Wayne

3. Protect your valuables

Oxfam staff camping is one of the most secure you’ll find at a festival, with stewards constantly on the gates monitoring who comes in and out. Nevertheless, it’s always good to know some tricks for preventing theft. Three girls with some advice to give you peace of mind are Lily, Niamh, and Holly. Here’s what they told us …

‘When you’re asleep, put valuables at the bottom of your sleeping bag!’- Lily.

‘Get a decoy purse with an old card, some coins, so that if anyone is looking in your tent, they’ll take that one.’ – Niamh.

‘You could hide your stuff in a wetwipe packet too, or use a bin bag – put some empty bottles and stuff on top. No one goes looking through a bag of rubbish!’ – Holly.

4. Don’t forget the basics!

David: “Bring your own proper pillow. The small plastic ones are rubbish. Also a lantern that you can bring to hang in your tent for night time.”

Steve: “Bring toilet roll and bio-degradable wet wipes – basic tip but very necessary.”

David: “And bring your tent, someone forgot theirs around us!”

It may seem obvious – but make sure you have the basics with you. Additional to a lantern or torch, toilet roll, and a tent, also remember the essentials of a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Make sure to check what the festival says about bringing aerosol deodorant too, as some ban it as a potential fire hazard. We’re sure that after a few days both yourself, and the others around you, will appreciate the necessity of a roll on.

To avoid having precious alcohol confiscated too, make sure to check the festival’s restrictions. These generally limit the number of cans you can bring and very often ban glass bottles, so don’t splash out on a bottle of spirits as you’re likely to be sorely disappointed.

Remember that Oxfam camping has a number of festival luxuries not provided for regular punters. There’s hot water, so pot noodles and cutlery is a good idea, and tea and coffee is provided so a mug is also a must.

The last basic is …

5. Be ready to make new friends!

Wayne says: ‘bring a positive attitude!’. Wayne has lived up to the challenge of ‘fill your summer with festivals’ with his ten this year.

‘Bring a pillow, a good sense of humour, don’t be shy, just talk to your neighbour and share things around.’ – Jones

You don’t need to go to ten festivals a year to appreciate the value of this advice. Almost everyone we spoke to told us how much they’ve enjoyed getting to know other volunteers, and how welcoming the ‘Oxfamily’ is.

IWD 2019- Three Ways UK Festivals Are Working To Be More Inclusive

It’s easy to get bogged down in the doom and gloom of the current global climate, so in honour of International Womens Day we decided to bring attention to three great organisations that are working to make the music industry more inclusive of women, non-binary and trans people. It might even help a few of you musicians out!

Keychange Initiative

First off the is the Keychange Initiative, who made headlines in 2018 by getting 45 festivals, including Kendal Calling and our very own Oxjam, to pledge a 50/50 gender split in their lineup by 2022. They are an international organisation dedicated to accelerating the change in the gender divide of the music industry. Glastonburys’ Emily Eavis, responsible for booking all of the main stage acts at Glastonbury, is a Keychange Ambassador. To find out more about the Keychange Initiative and the incredible work they do click here:


Next we have ReBalance, a scheme run by Festival Republic, the company behind Download, Latitude and Reading and Leeds. ReBalance is a three year programme that started in 2018 which offers female artists funding for one weeks recording in a professional studio. A new artist is chosen every month, at the end of the year selected artists chosen by a panel of industry professionals will be offered a slot at a Festival Republic or Live Nation Festival. Not only this, but they’re offering sound technician apprenticeships in order to address the severe imbalance of women in the technical side of the industry. To find out more or how to apply, follow this link

Yorkshire Sound Women Network

YSWN is a local organisation started by women in the sound technology industry in order to address the gender and racial inequality in the industry.  ‘Our mission is to support a flourishing industry which welcomes, encourages and progresses the inclusion of women at all levels from studio floor to board room, and reflects the diversity of its participating communities.’ They provide women and girls with the opportunities and access to facilities that will help them to break into the sound technology industry. They welcome women, non-binary, agender and gender varient people in their meetings. For more info click here

Also have a look at for events celebrating International Womens Day 2019!

The music industry has always been notoriously unrepresentative of minorities, but in recent years steps have been made to lesson the gender divide. These are just two examples out of hundreds of incredible organisations fighting to make the music industry move in a positive direction towards equality.

Venus at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds
Photo by Amber Morris, @a.m.art_



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! 

Thank you from Oxfam Festivals!

A massive Oxfam Festivals THANK YOU  to everyone who donated their time with us this year! From stewards, to logistics, to shop volunteers, campaigners and our festival interns, we couldn’t have done it without you! Here’s a quick round-up of how you’ve helped Oxfam beat poverty this summer

Thanks to the hard-working volunteers who have collectively given over 100,000 hours of their time over the summer. By volunteering your time Oxfam Festivals are able to raise money that can help Oxfam’s fight towards ending poverty. By just giving a  small amount of time you have made a big difference. Given this, we believe its time to say …

THANK YOU  to all our passionate campaigners! Making your way around festival sites come rain or shine, asking people to spare some of their valuable music-watching time to hear how Oxfam provided clean drinking water to 5.5 million people last year, you’ve made us stop and think about how others still don’t have the essentials we take for granted. Taking part in our ‘Water For Life’  campaign this year you’ve spread the word to 11,000 people, with 6,000 of them signing up to hear more!

THANK YOU to our creative festival shop volunteers! With stalls tailored to each festival’s unique punters, you have enabled thousands of music lovers to look as wonderful and wacky as the festival gods intended. More than this, if you volunteered with shops this year then you’ve contributed to raising over £200,000! This is a huge amount of money, and we want you to know that all that time sorting stock and selling into the late hours has certainly not gone to waste.

THANK YOU to our non-stop logistics team! Working behind the scenes making sure we all have hot water for those vital cups of tea, setting up our staff camping and undertaking countless other crucial tasks, you are the unsung heroes of Oxfam Festivals. The cogs that run the machine, year on year you have ensured that anyone volunteering with Oxfam gets to experience a fun and well-prepared way to enjoy festivals. Thank you!

THANK YOU to our helpful stewards! As the backbone of Oxfam Festivals, the money raised from each of your shifts is what keeps us going. From supervisor to first-timer, at every level of our stewarding operation, you are fundamental. Checking wristbands, keeping an eye out for fires, monitoring viewing platforms and of course giving plenty of directions, you are the people that enable a festival to run smoothly.  Looking out for festival goers day and night, its fair to say that we could not have done it without you!

THANK YOU to our wonderful festival interns! This year the team have been supported by 7 interns across Admin, logistics, marketing and film. Our Admin interns Dan and Emmy were crucial in supporting staff and volunteers throughout the 2018 season. Each had a major project to look after with Dan ensuring all our volunteers were trained ahead of their festivals and Emmy took on the reasonable adjustments role to ensure that all our volunteers were able to access their chosen festival.

Whilst our logistics interns Tom and Elliot have done everything from packing our logistic vans for every festival to setting up before everyone gets to site. They have spent many hours in storage king with a constant smile on the faces and boundless amounts of energy!

Then we have Jo who has been our marketing intern supporting our social media, the running of our campaign and writing our fantastic blog posts (all but this paragraph!). Jo has also helped us recruit hundreds of new volunteers and has become an expert in applying glitter at festivals too!

Also, not to forget we also had some fantastic film interns Linn and Rose who helped us capture the essence of what Oxfam Festivals is at Common People, WOMAD, Bestival and Boomtown.

Finally…THANK YOU to the entire Oxfamily! With the addition of new festivals has come new volunteers. This summer a whopping 6,000 of you joined us across 21 festivals. Not only has Oxfam provided places at the most festivals ever, but more importantly you’ve taken them on in record numbers! With the largest amount of volunteers that Oxfam has experienced in Glastonbury’s absence, we can only thank you for your overwhelming support and dedication. Thank you for also creating such a warm and inviting atmosphere for your fellow festival goers and Oxfam volunteers alike.

As this article probably suggests, we simply cannot thank you enough. A sentiment that is best summed up by our Head of Festivals, Mike:

Check out the full blog written by Head of Festivals, Mike here

And on that note, from the field…

Oxbox Out!

Register your interest for 2018

Throwback to Leeds Festival 2017!

Have you ever wanted to volunteer at Leeds but were not sure what the festival itself was like? Read this first-hand account by Nat Baker about her experience as a ticket holder and how she loved it so much she decided to apply to be a festival shop intern for this summer!

Leeds festival is one of my favourite festivals to go to, maybe it’s because I’m biased due to living in Leeds and being partial to a classic ‘Yorkshire’ chant, or maybe it’s due to the wide variety of genres, from metalcore and pop punk to dance and drum and bass, the infamous Piccadilly Party or the relentless, Relentless stage to see you through to the early hours. Either way, this year (2017) was my sixth year at Leeds Fest, so they must be doing something right.

I usually brave arriving at Leeds Fest on the Wednesday, facing a five-night run in my trusty four-man tent (they say four-man, but it’s just about adequate enough to stuff in two people and their supplies). This year, however, I attended the Heavy Music Awards in London on the Thursday night, sadly missing the unique choice of acts and bands on show Thursday night, this year including The Pigeon Detectives on the Festival Republic stage and Mista Jam on the Relentless stage. Luckily I (just about) managed to catch the night coach from London to up North. Finally, hours later, I turned up slightly worse for wear at the entrance to Leeds Fest where I was excited to see what the day had in store for me. At least arriving two days later meant less time to wait for bands.


So I made it to Leeds Fest early Friday afternoon just in time to see Architects, the kings of metalcore (not those who design buildings). I’ve seen Architects about five times before and they never fail to blow my mind. That day was no different. Complete with flames, Architects ripped apart the main stage with a heavy, exhilarating performance. I wish I’d seen the face of an
unsuspecting Giggs fan waiting for his set after. We caught a bit of Giggs and then swayed along to some Oasis bangers from afar whilst Liam Gallagher played, I’d already seen Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds perform at Kendal Calling 2016 so had already had the pleasure of watching Wonderwall played live.

When it came to Friday evening there was, of course, a clash of headliners, the dreaded music festival dilemma. It was between MUSE on the main stage and Neck Deep on the Pit stage, both bands I’ve seen before. We decided to catch the start of MUSE’s set so I still got to see some of my favourite songs played such as ‘Plug In Baby’ amongst many other MUSE classics before
heading off to watch Neck Deep. It was a packed out crowd and a great atmosphere whilst Neck Deep played songs from their new album ‘The Peace and The Panic’. To top it off Sam Carter (vocalist of Architects!) came out and performed during Neck Deeps ‘Don’t Wait’ which he features in and that was a great way to finish off our Friday evening before we awaited the opening of the silent disco.


By Saturday morning your tent has usually sunk into the ground beneath you, your once immaculate clothes now smothered in a thick coating of mud and you’ve had to engage in a quest for new wellies as you’ve lost them in a mosh pit somewhere. This year, however, we were blessed with beautiful sun all weekend, and on Saturday enjoyed some sunny main stage sets from Rat Boy, Mallory Knox and Jimmy Eat World. For some reason, just before Two Door Cinema Clubs set, Joe Thomas (Simon from The Inbetweeners!) was brought out on stage which was, random, but amusing nonetheless. As the sun went down, we ventured back over to the Pit Stage for the penultimate act of the day, The Amity Affliction, who were a pleasure to see live despite playing a smaller set. I always find myself feeling old at gigs nowadays, usually nursing a drink at the back, but when The Amity Affliction started playing ‘Don’t Lean On Me’ I couldn’t help but crowd surf (I feel sorry for any poor soul who had to hold me up whilst I clambered over the crowd).
Saturday headliners were again a difficult choice: Kasabian, You Me At Six, Fat Boy Slim and Billy Talent. In the end, it had to be punk rock legends Billy Talent. They annihilated the Pit Stage in a gleam of red, with anthems such as ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Fallen Leaves’. After a short, well-deserved rest back at camp it was time to again to brave the walk to the silent disco followed by the inevitable venture to Piccadilly Party.

Ah, the dreaded Sunday morning of a festival. Not only am I always gutted that another festival I’ve waited all year for has come to an end (especially since Leeds fest is usually the last in the season for me), I’m also at this point rather groggy to say the least. This morning in particular was not a good one for me, I’d stayed up till 6am watching the McGregor vs Mayweather fight, they’d shown it on the big screen at the alternative stage so there was a great atmosphere and it was a nice added touch (not that I know anything about boxing).

I couldn’t think of a better band to brighten up the Sunday festival blues than the mighty Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. A band this dynamic always manage to construct the most gargantuan circle pits and this time was no different, with the circle pit running all the way outside the NME stage and back in again around the other side. After this took place, Frank initiated a female only crowd surf, and I was up and away again!  The bands hit ‘I Hate You’ from the album ‘Blossom’ is always great to hear live, mainly because you’ve got thousands of people in a tent screaming
“I HATE YOU!” at the same time. Also completing my Sunday was Defeater on the Pit Stage, who although only pulled a small crowd, still made a big impression, as well as the tremendous PVRIS on the main stage.

Finally, as Sunday night drew to a close and people started heading back to their tents to pack up and leave, I headed over to the Pit stage one last time (I think I spent more time under the Pit Stage tent than my own tent by the sounds of it). Thankfully for me, the last band I was seeing at Leeds Fest 2017 was my favourite band, While She Sleeps. Reigning from my hometown of Sheffield, they’re the best of the best (I’m not biased at all…). I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them live over the past seven years so to see them headlining The Pit stage was a real treat, especially with their performance of ‘Seven Hills’, which is named after Sheffield, of course. Their gig really went off with a bang (literally, there were confetti cannons) and it was the perfect conclusion to the weekend.

Leeds festival 2017 was jam-packed full of brilliant heavy bands, early morning excursions to Piccadilly Party and surprisingly the lack of torrential rain. Now we’ve crossed over into 2018, I’m eagerly awaiting the next line up announcements for the festival, and can only hope the line up is as good, if not better than 2017. I can’t wait to make my return to Bramham Park in August 2018 for my seventh appearance at Leeds Festival and this time, I get to go with the Oxfam Festival shop.


It’s now coming to almost a year since I started my social media internship with the Oxfam Festival Shop. I’ve accompanied the festival shop at Nass, Kendal Calling and I recently returned home from Boomtown. It’s been wonderful to see the shop and all the funky garms in action raising loads of money for charity after sorting through them, choosing the perfect clothes for each individual festival and taking photos of them to post on social media for so long! I’ve been doing some filming to try and capture the essence of each festival, and despite having a few mishaps (crowdsurfing during Limp Bizkit at Boomtown, but forgetting to press play!) I’ve managed to capture a lot of great footage that I can’t wait to share with everyone. Leeds will again be my last festival of the summer and although I’m sad that festival season is again coming to an end, I look forward to so many more fantastic festivals with Oxfam in the future. Bring on summer 2019!

Off to IOW with Des!

A bright Wednesday in June, waves lap against the sides of a ferry as it makes its way through the clear horizon, to the promise of a new world. Drawn by the siren call of this sunny microcosm of sound, Oxfam’s off to the island for its first year of stewarding the Isle of Wight Festival. ­­­Reporting back to base we chat with one our brave explorers and veteran steward, Des, about his experience stepping out on this unchartered territory. What can he tell us about this thriving society that has existed in 50 years of summer? From hosting the legendary likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Amy Winehouse what have its people become? And ultimately, what may we learn from living among them as Oxfam stewards?

What was the ferry over like?

Well normally I miss the ferry because I get there late, but this time I was in such a rush that I was driving in a pair of flip-flops. I got there with half an hour to spare and said to the people at the terminal that this is the first time I’ve not missed the ferry, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself! So I had time to chill out and take some pictures like the one of the archway. Entrance to the Isle of Wight ferry- Photo Credit: Des Fitzgerald

I always like getting the ferry because it’s part of the fun, it’s like going on holiday! On the way as well there were a few dinghies, I think they were in a regatta or something, and it was just a really nice view, you knew you were going to the holiday island! I was so excited because I wanted to go to the Isle of Wight festival for years and years and had never been able to go and suddenly out of the blue Oxfam were doing it!  So by the time I got there I was in really good spirits, and in my flip flops, I was one of the very first to arrive on site and it was like being a pioneer!

Des’s view of the Regatta whilst approaching the island- Photo Credit: Des Fitzgerald

How many years have you been stewarding?

I’ve been stewarding for 13 years, the Isle of Wight will be my 75th festival and the 70th I’ve supervised at.

So what keeps you coming back to steward with Oxfam?

Well, it’s a whole variety of things! I started off thinking this is just a great way to enjoy the music. It’s also working and socialising with people I would otherwise not always meet, I find that inspiring, and I think there’s also a refreshing outlook of newcomers on the team and that keeps me young! I think it’s satisfying and fulfilling to know you’re making a difference as a team, both to the festival goers and also for the vital humanitarian work that Oxfam is doing.

Des to the far left, with his happy stewarding squad-Photo Credit: Des Fitzgerald

Having stewarded for so many years with Oxfam you must have a lot of experience going to festivals, what makes the Isle of Wight special for you?

The Isle of Wight for me is the iconic festival island, you see the footage of Jimi Hendrix and all those artists times ago, and it’s always been a holiday place – and for me I keep going back. It’s a very unusual and special place, it feels like you’re going to Narnia! And all the local people are very nice and easy going, and the weather was hot.

How about it being the festivals 50th anniversary, did they do anything special for that?

There were all sorts of things, and from talking to the organisers all the artists really wanted to be there and felt like it was a special occasion, an important thing to do – Liam Gallagher was even in quite a good mood! They had an exhibition of Fender guitars and Fender had actually made a really beautiful guitar in the Isle of Wight turquoise for the anniversary that all the artists signed and the auctioned off for charity. They had these banners they put up of all of the festivals that had been, so you could see all the artists names on them, they had a Strawberry Fields anniversary cow – you could see there was that extra bit of effort. They also had a day where everyone dressed up in gold, I didn’t think anyone would dress up on that hot Saturday, but actually it was a good celebration party.

From right to left: the signed Fender guitar, the couple who won the gold competition and the anniversary cow- Photo Credit: Des Fitzgerald

The Island has a looks like it has a lot of interesting areas to explore, From the Big Top to the Octupus’ Garden and Speakers’ Corner, when you were off shift where was your favourite place to hang out?

I only actually discovered it later on, but this place called Kashmir that I thought was really nice, Octopus Gardens was really good, there was a kiwi Camp place and that was good – it had lots of games, but I think the Kashmir tent was my favourite.

The line-up this year looks amazing too, it’s got a real mix! Indie favourites like the Killers, Kasabian and Depeche Mode, some classic hits like CHIC and Sheryl Crow that are perfect for a boogie, plus current chart-toppers like Camila Cabello, Rita Ora and Chase and Status.  What genre did you enjoy the most?

It’s a really difficult question, because sometimes there are a few bands I like on the bill, but I liked almost everyone there and it was a real mix! I was looking forward to seeing Liam Gallagher especially though, indie bands and old rockers, Manic Street Preachers and Van Morrison I was really looking forward to seeing and they were great. I also like strong female singers – Camilla Cabello was good, Sheryl Crow was really good. The Pretty Things, a real sort of trancey band from the 60s who played the first Isle of Wight festival, were in the big top on the Sunday and I thought that was a really special kind of moment.

Liam Gallagher on the main stage- Photo Credit: Des Fitzgerald

Finally, what’s the best thing that’s happened so far at the festival?

Everyone dressing in gold and celebrating the 50th anniversary together in the sun, and the sunsets, the sunsets were amazing! Musically, I think Van Morrison would take a lot of beating, but also just the reaction to us as Oxfam stewards from festival goers – so out of all that I’d say just the overall anniversary vibe!

An amazing sunset over the Isle of Wight- Photo Credit: Des Fitzgerald

So what have we learnt from chatting to Des? Firstly, that over its 50 years, the Isle of Wight Festival has still not lost it. With its gorgeous sunsets, welcoming crowds, the range of exciting artists and thoughtful little touches, there’s no doubt that the Isle of Wight is still the holiday island! Secondly, it’s that the experience of stewarding with the Oxfamily can become a bit of an addiction, so why not try one and see if it leads to a 75th? Also if you feel like developing your skills and becoming a supervisor in the future just like Des you can take part in our training in the future!

Lastly a massive thank you to Des, for not only providing all the photos used in this post and giving his time to be interviewed but for the all the time he has given to Oxfam Festivals! Pioneer of the Isle of Wight, and veteran of 13 years of stewarding, THANK YOU DES!