The VF Guide to Festivaling On A Budget 2012

Less money needn't mean less festival fun this year...

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

Chris Eustace - 12 April 2012


Why not volunteer, and work for your ticket? The person who’s on hand in your campsite, the one who checks tickets or who serves cider at an obscenely early hour of the day? That could be you.

Most roles likes these will require you to work shifts, usually on a 24-hour system. Volunteering with Oxfam as a steward, for example, will require you to work three shifts of 8 hours 15 minutes, doing anything from checking tickets to monitoring crowds at stages to staffing a festival gate, and you’d be free to enjoy the festival when not working.

Oxfam needs stewards to go to Reading & Leeds, Bestival, Camp Bestival, Download, Latitude, WOMAD, Beautiful Days, Boomtown Fair, Shambala and WOWFest this year.

They’re also bringing their festival shops to Isle Of Wight, WOMAD, Latitude, Leeds and Bestival this year, but you’ll have to have experience of volunteering in their shops to be considered.

Lewis Brimblecombe documented his Oxfam experiences at Glastonbury 2009 and Reading 2010 for VF, through being stationed in the campsite to stewarding the BBC Introducing stage, and though he cautioned that the role “combined long periods of boredom with moments of exhausting activity”, it was “well worth it.”

Click here for more about stewarding for Oxfam, and here for more on their festival shops.

Many organisations will have their own camping area, with hot showers, toilets and free or cheaper food, and sometimes even free transport to and from the festival. 

Another charitable route into the festival is through VSC and The Worker’s Beer Company, who will be at the likes of Hop Farm, Latitude and Reading & Leeds this year. A bar shift of 6-8 hours a day and the rest of the fest is yours to enjoy, and as with Oxfam, the £6.50 you would have been paid goes to a good cause (in VSC’s case the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign). You can register your interest by emailing or phoning 0207 420 8963.

Peppermint Bars are also offering both paid and voluntary work for festival season on their website.

Don’t, however, give in to your festivalgoing mates’ pleas for a cheeky free pint – we've heard of overgenerous workers getting their wristbands cut off before being unceremoniously ejected from the site for doing that.

A lot of the smaller festivals will have info on volunteering on their own websites, but if you want to stick to the big boys, Festaff are also currently recruiting for workers for the likes of Creamfields, Camp Bestival, Isle of Wight Festival, Rockness and Download, with a chance of some paid hours too.

Click here for the Festaff site.

Paid Work

If you’re after getting paid, you may need the relevant qualifications – e.g. an SIA licence for security work, or a forklift licence. It’s worth finding out the event contractors or agencies festivals use for these – you could end up doing a whole summer of festivals, but be prepared to work long hours.

Production companies might also be a source of festival employment, and even Gumtree could be your friend, if you’re after work on one of the stalls.

Be quick though - demand for these spots is huge, so if you’re looking to work or volunteer this year, you’d betternot hang around.

It’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of jobs aren’t unadvertised, so a few enquiries could also pay dividends. Failing that, it’s always worth asking people you see around the festivals this year how they got their job.


If you want to find out exactly what goes into making a festival happen, or fancy a career in the festival or music industries, the Reading & Leeds festivals are offering two 12-month apprenticeships and ten 3-week internships into pretty much every facet of what they do, including Marketing, Artist Liaison, Sponsorship, Technical Production, Digital and Social Media, Sustainability and PR.

You’ll need to be 16-24 to be eligible to apply for the apprenticeships, though the internships are open to everyone, and it looks like you’ll be needed on the festival site too.

Click here for more information on the Reading & Leeds Apprenticeship and Internship schemes

If you’re far too attached to that breakfast cider to contemplate working for your festival, then it pays, or at least saves you paying more, to be prepared.

Cheaper Travel

National Rail and National Express usually offer cheaper tickets the further in advance you book, and in the latter’s case, they also offer deals straight to a lot of UK festivals. A lot of events also offer a package ticket deal with travel included.

If you want to travel by car, make sure your car has the full quota of passengers. Not only will that help your carbon footprint a little bit, it also means you can spread the cost of getting there and back between all of you. Car-sharing sites like GoCarShare can help you find fellow festivalgoers from your area in need of a lift.

Keep an eye out for deals on food, drink and toiletries. Most supermarkets near a festival are wise enough to cash in these days, and will have some attractive offers on hand.

Many have also started selling festival camping packages in the summer, and your clubcard points could help you get them without handing over precious cash. While a lot of the specialist outdoor retailers are more expensive, the recent spate of online money-saving voucher sites can sometimes come up with a winner here – MyVoucherCodes had a 5% discount from Halfords last year, while Everydaysale had a 25% off voucher for outdoor store Blacks.

It's also worth trying Army surplus stores for things like waterproofs and camping mats – they tend to be much cheaper than the high street stores and the camo will really help you blend in.

Early bird bargains
There’s still time to swoop in on Early Bird tickets for some festivals – many are on sale until mid-April, with a slew of recommended festivals over here going for under £100, including Deer Shed and 2000trees, while events like Reading & Leeds have introduced instalment plans to help punters spread the cost of their tickets.

While exchange rates and the recession have made escaping to Europe a slightly less cheaper option, there are still exceptional weekend line-ups for less than 100 euros if you move quickly.

Another recent innovation is festivals partnering up to sell joint tickets, and offering group discounts – for example Field Day and Applecart are offering a joint ticket fr this year’s events for £76.45, along with a buy 6 get 1 free offer. Similarly, Serbia’s Exit Festival has a buy 4 tickets, get 1 free promotion until Sunday 15 April, so don’t just blindly click on the ‘Buy Tickets’ link before seeing if there are any bargains to be had.

Failing that, you can always hunt down the beer cups – helping to keep the festival tidy and making money back for every one you return to the bar. It’s become an industry in itself at Reading: "Last year one of the stewards told me he had met a lad who claimed to have made over £100 over the weekend by returning cups to the bar and collecting the 10ps" said spokesman Lewis Jamieson.

You might not want to go that far, but less money doesn’t necessarily mean less of a good time this summer.


Hide Search Results

Festival Search


All Festival Tickets