One of the best ways to indulge yourself in live music for an entire weekend is to attend a music festival. Unfortunately like many pleasures in this life festivals come with a hefty price tag which makes it difficult for many music lovers to attend. I decided to try and have a frugal festival to see if I could still have fun on a budget.
I had heard many great things about the medium sized festival 'End of the Road' which is held at the Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset each year. I decided to visit their website which informed me that free entry to the festival could be obtained by volunteering to work as a steward. A £50 deposit would be required but after all shifts had been completed this would be returned. I quickly completed the online application form and waited to hear if my application had been successful. Only 9 hours passed before I received an email accepting my application and welcoming me to the team. The acceptance email also invited me to join the volunteers group on Facebook, this had many experienced volunteers who would warmly welcome any newbies such as myself and answer any questions we may have.
While I waited through the summer for the festival to begin I received several emails from Wicked Events (the company arranging the stewarding and security). These emails advised me of my shifts and also gave me the facility to swap shifts with other stewards. This was exceptionally thoughtful of Wicked Events because it allowed stewards to arrange shifts amongst themselves, giving every steward the opportunity to see their favourite bands. I also received a 15 page pdf file of the ‘Volunteers Guidelines’. After reading this document I became aware that being a steward came with responsibility, including dealing with lost children. It started to dawn on me that I had a job to do and was not just getting free entry to a festival. However there were perks to being a steward, for £1 a day stewards could help themselves to tea, coffee, soup, biscuits and toast from the stewards office.
As the festival drew closer I decided another way to save money would be to take food and drink with me which I could consume on the campsite. I perused the shelves of my local supermarket for foods that would be convenient, cheap, practical and compact. I enjoy food which means I’m likely to continue eating even after my hunger has been satisfied. Therefore I avoided luxury snacks like crisps and chocolate, replacing them with nuts and dried fruit. My logic being that these snacks would last longer as I would be less likely to binge on them. Another important point when choosing food was that it would need to stay fresh all weekend in a hot tent. Individually wrapped portions of food such as ‘Heniz Baked Bean Snap Pots’ and ‘Ambrosia Rice Pots’ would easily keep fresh but when individual portions were not available I selected foods that would keep fresh after opening. A jar of hot dog sausages and bread rolls would prove to be perfect, the jar could be opened and resealed whilst the brine would ensure the remaining sausages stayed fresh. Please remember most festivals will not allow you to take your own food into the festival, all food and drink was taken to be consumed within the campsite.
Day 1: My first shift was at 9am, I had been instructed to meet our team leader and the rest of the team outside the stewards office which was a very short walk from the campsite. I was the first to arrive which gave me a good opportunity to meet with our nonchalant team leader Jacob. Being the first there also gave me a great opportunity to meet each steward in our team as they arrived. It was required that all stewards in our team worked in pairs, but choosing a partner was difficult because each person seemed friendly and interesting. I decided to teamed up with Richard who seemed to be the most confident of all the stewards, he also had previous experience stewarding at other festivals. Our job for the day was to drive temporary fence posts into the ground which would indicate one of the many fire escapes. Our shift finished at 2pm and I headed back to my tent for a drink and some lunch. As I sat by my tent wondering how to spend my time Richard came to ask if I would like to join him and another volunteer Matthew to explore the festival grounds. This moment was uplifting I had made new friends and could enter the festival early thanks to my stewards wristband. Nothing at this stage was happening but it was interesting to watch the festival slowly come to life as people slowly arrived.
Day 2: My second shift started 7am, I made my way to the stewards office to meet with my fellow stewards. We decided that shifts may be more interesting if we switched partners, having someone new to talk to will help pass the time. I teamed up with possibly the happiest steward in our team Catriona. We were given the responsibility of letting cars that displayed the correct pass into the festival grounds. This was a pretty cool job, it wasn’t very taxing and we mainly dealt with delivery drivers and band members. To help pass the time we would smile at passersby and invite conversation whilst checking they had the correct wristband on. As Catriona and I leisurely worked a festival director noticed our efforts and asked if we would be happy to work at this same location for each shift we had been allocated. This suited us but also served a useful purpose to the festival. Keeping us in the same area for each shift ensured we knew what to do, and because we worked the early shift we could give a detailed brief to the next group of stewards who would take over from us.
My shift finished at 12 noon and the first band of the day were due to started at 12:30pm. With more enthusiasm than a Labrador puppy I quickly purchased a coffee and made my way to the Garden stage. As I sat enjoying the music and finishing my coffee I became very aware that the nearby bar stocked many different types of ale from local breweries. The bar not only stocked delicious ale but it was a lot closer to me than the beer residing in my tent. I also concluded that if I purchased beer from the bar I would not miss any music. This logic also applied when my stomach started to request food. I could walk all the way back to my tent to eat cold beans and hot dogs whilst observing the festival from a distance. Or I could stay in the festival and buy a warm authentic curry from the ‘Curry Shed’. Well it was no competition, the food available all looked tempting and I was enjoying the festival too much to leave even for half an hour.
Day 3: Another early start, but Catriona and I knew what to do so we made our way straight to our stewarding spot. We enjoyed another sunny morning of directing cars, and speaking with friendly festival goers. As my shift drew to an end I heard the sound of smooth atmospheric folk drifting over the festival. I quickly followed my ears to the Garden Stage where I saw 'Fossil Collective’ performing an unscheduled set. Yet again my enthusiasm for music and complete disrespect for my own body found me back at the bar (which was conveniently opposite the Garden Stage) buying my first beer of the day. And just like the day before I found the temptation to dine at one of the many food stalls overwhelming. But before I could purchase an Indian wrap from the Tandoor Kitchen I had to withdraw some money from a cash machine.
Day 4: I stood in my usual stewards position feeling disappointed with my failure to have a frugal festival. I explained to Catriona that I had brought food from home to save money but this remained largely untouched because I had sucome to the tempting delights the festival had to offer. Catriona replied to this with one piece of valuable advice “you need to bring food that you actually want to eat, you need to splash out in the supermarket so you actually want to walk all the way back to your tent to eat it”. This advice was invaluable, I had tried to make savings in the supermarket when infact I should have ensured I purchased quality food that was delicious.
Conclusion: I failed my little experiment I have not got the will or discipline to enjoy a frugal festival. But I learned a lot and being relieved of the ticket price was a great help. If you’re planning on having a festival on a budget I would recommend one of two thing, either:
1. leave your money at home to remove temptation and take food you’ll enjoy eating.
2. Take money but budget for each day so you don’t overspend.
I may have left the festival with empty pockets, but I certainly didn’t leave with an empty heart. As a steward I met so many interesting people who were all welcoming and open. Many stewards had arrived alone which made them keen to make friends and embrace the experience. I was particularly lucky to work with three great people Jacob, Richard and Catriona who made every shift enjoyable. I looked forward to getting up each morning and working with my new friends. Being a steward gave me a unique view of a festival, I found this more enjoyable than I could ever imagine and I will definitely apply to be a steward next year.