Category: Stewarding

2019 End of summer round-up

As the dust settles on the South Downs following our mighty Trailwalker event at the end of September, here’s the season highlights in full.  

Oxfam’s 2019 festival season has been our biggest and best yet, and interest in volunteering for Oxfam at a festival has grown significantly year on year, increasing a staggering five-fold since 2017. 

Pink confetti falling over crowd at Glastonbury Festival 2019. Credit Sam Baggette/Oxfam

Oxfam festivals in numbers: 

In 2019 we delivered at a total of 17 festivalsand raised close to £1 million that will go directly towards ending poverty for good. We had one new addition this year to the portfolio: The Long Road -a country, Americana, and roots festival in early September. After a great festival together, we are really looking forward to continuing our relationship with Universal Music Live in 2020! 
 
Glastonbury also returned this season after its fallow year, and we took more volunteers than ever before to support the festival’s evolving operations. Our work on the ground expanded to include a few new gates, and a brand-new pass out system.

Oxfam volunteers. Credit Zara Canfield/Oxfam & Sam Baggette/Oxfam

As always, our onsite presence covers a variety of key stewarding positions, all of which keep the festival going public safe to enjoy themselves. Whether you have lost your group, need to locate somewhere onsite, or need medical attention, speak to anyone in an orange Oxfam tabard and you’ll be sure to get both reliable and friendly assistance. 

Challenging fast fashion:

At Download this year we launched Second Hand September our summer campaign tackling the impact of throwaway fashion by asking the public to pledge not to buy any new clothes for 30 days. The ‘biblical rain’ at the festival was simply too much for many, but it did not deter our campaigners who fought the mud, and torrential downpours to smash the signup targets.

Oxfam taking part in Extinction Rebellion march during Glastonbury Festival 2019. Credit Sam Baggette/Oxfam

At Glastonbury we worked with graphic artist, and print maker Anthony Burrill and the Giant Triplets to produce unique garments that festival goers could print and wear. This helped spread the re-use, re-wear, recycle message as far and wide as possible. We were also hugely grateful to receive celebrity clothing donations that were sold through the online shop from Kylie, Johnny Marr, Vampire Weekend, Billie Eilish, Loyle Carner and The Cure.

Sceenprinting at Glastonbury Festival 2019. Credit Sam Baggette/Oxfam

We then took the campaign to Latitude, WOMAD and Leeds helping us to connect the dots with our Festival Shop colleagues, and encouraging all festival-goers to shop second-hand. Throughout the summer we reached over 20,000 festival goers all of whom made a stand against fast fashion by pledging not to buy any new clothing for 30 days. Meanwhile, our festival second-hand shops raised an impressive £250,000 at a total of eight festivals, over £50,000 up on last year.

Oxfam shop at Glastonbury 2019. Credit Sam Baggette/Oxfam

The weather this season:

This season provided the perfect reminder of just how unpredictable the British summer can be, and also demonstrated the wonderful dedication our volunteer community. Saturday afternoon at Glastonbury was unparalleled as temperatures soared well into the 30°C’s, whilst in early August our esteemed partners at Boardmasters were unfortunately forced to cancel, due to the threat of high winds. On the same weekend at Boomtown, gales ripped up tents in the Oxfield, but the sense of community remained resolute and a temporary dormitory was created in our marquee, while more tents and sleeping bags were rushed down from Oxfam House, to ensure that those who lost their tents had somewhere warm and dry to sleep.

Boardmasters morning team. Credit Claire Coleman/Oxfam

Over the weekend of 21-22 September, we held the epic endurance event Trailwalker, partnering with the Queens Gurkha Signals and Gurkha Welfare Trust. After the cancellation of last year’s event due to excessive heat, it was with great pride and relief to see this epic 100km trek across the South Downs go ahead. And what an event it was, with close to 400 highly dedicated teams of four taking on this gruelling challenge to raise close to £1 million. Words fail me on how the QGS A team managed to complete the course in 10h 25m, whilst each of the 12 check points along the course had a party festival atmosphere all their own, welcoming each participant through with a cheer to help drive them on through towards the final furlong at Brighton Race Course.
Thanks to our dedicated volunteers and staff.

Trailwalker 2019 volunteers. Credit Mike Green/Oxfam

Thanks to our dedicated volunteers and staff:

In 2019 we recruited over 6,500 volunteers to support on a broad range of roles, and this year we saw more new supporters than ever before. Meanwhile, over the last 5 years the proportion of people choosing to volunteer for more than one festival per year has also grown and grown, and more than 10% of volunteers who volunteered in 2015 have returned every year since.
Lastly, everyone here at Oxfam wants to send a huge and heartfelt thank you to every single one of our amazing volunteers whether you were a steward, campaigner, or shop volunteer. Behind the scenes we must also not forget the Oxfam office team and outstanding coordinators that make it all happen. You are the essential bedrock of everything we do, and we are incredibly grateful for all your hard work.

What to pack for festivals this summer?

If you find packing for a festival a bit overwhelming, never fear! The Oxfam Festival Shop Team have compiled a simple checklist, with some of the items you’ll need for camping, sleeping and clothes to sleep you stylish, comfortable and dry!

We will be sharing some top tips on our social media over the coming months so make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Useful websites for festival packing tips: 

Go Outdoors:  http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/expert-advice/guide-to-a-successful-festival

Festival Safe: https://www.festivalsafe.com/information/be-prepared

 

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.

Be part of the team – About the roles

Oxfam Festivals has a wealth of opportunities to get involved with next  summer from stewarding,  campaigning and volunteering in a festival shop.  With many different roles and a variety of festivals across the UK, we hope that you join us as a volunteer next summer! Keep reading to learn more about how you can get involved with the #Oxfamily.

Stewarding

What is involved? Oxfam has been stewarding at festivals since Glastonbury 1993. As a steward you’re the eyes and ears of the festival, supporting the smooth running of the event. Stewarding responsibilities are varied, including helping festival-goers, checking wristbands, monitoring venues, and patrolling campsites. You might also find yourself working on accessible viewing platforms and fire towers.

What are the shifts like? You normally do three shifts over the festival, and each shift is eight hours long. Dependant on the festival you will usually do a one day shift, one evening shift, and one night shift across the course of the entire event.

Do I need any previous experience? We welcome volunteers from from every background, and while relevant experience is useful, we take on hundreds of new volunteers who are fresh to stewarding every year. You will receive a full training programme prior to arriving onsite, which will cover the stewarding basics, and ensure that you are prepared for every occasion.

Campaigning

What is involved? If you loving talking to the public and have a passion for making a difference in the world then campaigning may well be for you! As a volunteer campaigner, you will not only be raising awareness of Oxfam’s work, you’ll be inspiring people to help beat poverty too, in creative and thought-provoking ways. Campaigning is a predominantly roaming role within the arena, festival village and public campsites. We also have a campaigning hub with glitter, wristbands and space for the public to chat to us about Oxfam’s work. You will also get to meet hundreds of festivals goers, also other like-minded campaigners, whilst enjoying the festival!

What are the shifts like? In this role, you will normally do four daytime six-hour shifts, so the evenings will be yours to enjoy! (Result!) Unlike stewarding you will need to send us a short video letting us know why you would make a great Oxfam campaigner along with a short description.

Do I need any previous experience? Knowledge and passion for Oxfam’s work are desirable and you will need to be confident in inspiring the public. The campaign changes each year and you will be provided with all of the key info you need beforehand. There will also be a briefing when you arrive on site where you will find out more on the campaign, meet other campaigners and prepare yourselves with the support of the campaigning lead.

Shop volunteering

What is involved? If you have a passion for fashion and an eye for bargains then this could be the role for you. To join the festivals shop team you will need to have three months’ experience working in one of our high-street shops.

You will be joining the team to help sell our amazing festival stock. From wellies to hoodies or sunglasses and sequins, we curate our stock for each individual festival. Some of the best finds and amazing treasures are brought in from all our high-street shops. You could be helping set up and dress the shop, serving customers, handling cash, and packing up the shops fixtures and fittings. It all helps raise vital funds in our fight against global poverty.

What are the shifts like?  You may do three to five shifts across the course of the festival. There are a limited number of spaces and a selection process following your application.

If you have any questions about volunteering you can ask questions in our Facebook community forum, email us at festivals@oxfam.org.uk or call us on 0300 200 1266.

We hope to see you join us in summer 2019!

Oxfam Festivals Team

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! 

Application Basics

Oxfam Festivals has a wealth of opportunities to get involved with this summer including Stewarding, Campaigning and Shop Volunteering.  With many different roles across a variety of festivals around the UK, we hope that you can join us this summer! Keep reading to learn more about the ‘Application Basics’.

Stewarding:

To be prepared for your application you will need:

  • Access to the internet to apply online
  • A unique email address
  • A digital photo (passport style)
  • To provide a referee email address
  • Basic information about yourself (Name, Address, DOB, Medical information)
  • Your bank details to provide a one-off refundable deposit equal to the price of the festival ticket
  • Shift partner information if applicable – You can add up to 5 friends to be shift partners with you so that you work at the same time during the festival, via the online application:
    • You all need each other’s full names and DOBs for the application
    • We will try our best to make sure you are always on shift at the same time, however, we can’t guarantee your duties will be based in the same location

Do you have you do training?

Yes, we will provide all the training before you arrive on-site. We will ask for you to select a date for training within your application. This training is with other volunteers and lasts a few hours. If you cannot attend in person we can make exceptions to be able to attend online. The training must be completed before you can join us at any festival and we ask for this to be topped up every 4 years. There are also lots of very experienced volunteers who can show you the ropes.

Please note: Your festival place is not secure until you have completed all parts of your profile. Once this is done you will be emailed to confirm this at which point it is time to start getting excited and prepping for the festival.

Campaigning:

To be prepared for your application you will need:

  • Access to the internet to apply online
  • A unique email address
  • A digital photo (passport style)
  • To provide a referee email address
  • Basic information about yourself (Name, Address, DOB, Medical information)
  • Your bank details to provide a one-off refundable deposit equal to the price of the festival ticket

Once you have picked your festival and paid your deposit you will then be required to fill out an application form. This form provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you meet the skills and competencies outlined in the “What we are looking for?” section. Your application will be scored against these. We will be asking you the following:  

Why me?  Please give a brief description (no more than 500 words) of why you’re right for this role, giving examples of any skills and experience that will convince us to get you on board.

Introduce yourself – In less than two minutes, create a short video of yourself:

  • Telling us about one of Oxfam’s campaigns or issues we work on 
    • Why you think it is important 
    • How you would ask someone to get involved to support Oxfam’s work 
  • Please upload it as an unlisted file to YouTube and paste the URL address into the box below. If you are having any problems with this please email festivals@oxfam.org.uk
  • We will then be back in contact to let you know if your application is successful or not

Please note: To be considered for a campaigner place at Glastonbury you are required to volunteer at a second festival as either a campaigner, steward or shop volunteer. This is due to the high demand for places; we want to ensure all volunteers are dedicated to the role.

Do you have to attend training?

Yes, campaigner training is mandatory for all volunteers. In 2020 we will have pre-event training as well as an on-site briefing. Pre-event training is a great chance to talk through the campaign, learn more about the role on-site, and feel confident ahead of talking to the public.

Shop Volunteering: 

To be prepared for your application you will need:

  • Access to the internet to apply online
  • A unique email address
  • A digital photo (passport style)
  • You Oxfam shop number
  • To provide a referee email address- please note your reference must be an Oxfam member of staff who has known you for at least 3 months. Without this, your application will not be successful.
  • Basic information about yourself (Name, Address, DOB, Medical information)
  • The Festival Shop Team believe we can trust experienced volunteers to represent Oxfam in a professional manner on-site, and therefore a deposit is not required

Next steps…

Once you have filled in your application you will receive an informal telephone interview. This is a great opportunity to talk about your Oxfam experience and ask questions about the festival shop volunteer role.

So why volunteer with Oxfam?

There are loads of benefits to volunteering with Oxfam. You have your own secure campsite with other like-minded crew and volunteers, hot tea and coffee, phone charging, showers, and meal vouchers for each shift; a marquee in our campsite at many of our festivals which often acts as a meeting point and a great way to meet new friends. A one-off deposit gives you access to over 18 festivals; each festival you complete helps us in our fight against global poverty.

Steward at Boomtown
Steward volunteering at Boomtown

A full festival list will be available soon, but can you review 2019 festivals here

For further information please explore the rest of our website and read our FAQs

Start a conversation with other volunteers in our Facebook Chat here

Look forward to seeing you in a field!

Oxfam Festivals Team

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!

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

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!