What’s it really like to volunteer at our festival?
6 years ago, I applied to go and volunteer at a tiny family festival called Elderflower Fields and after a lovely chat with Anita, I was accepted. I am a primary teacher and live in Eastbourne. I’d always loved festivals and had been to a few over the years including Glastonbury and Womad. I’d never attending anything as a volunteer and I thought it would be something a bit different.
With a background in the arts I’d previously run art workshops, organised activities, and I really loved planning parties so thought I might have a few skills useful at a festival. I was also well into my 40s and decided I needed some fun in a field!
From the very first Elderflower Fields I volunteered at I took along my daughter Lily and she has accompanied me every year since. We’ve worked in the car park, patrolling the woods, issuing tickets and helping in the general background of this special festival and watched it grow.
Last year Lily was given more responsibility, and as we all know each other so well now, it’s easier to assign roles to people to suit the needs of the festival and the individuals interests or skills. There are always lots of young adults volunteering, but what’s lovely is we all muck in together, whether you’re a Mum like me with teenagers and a day job or retired or a student. The whole Elderflower Fields family work together with the main aim of making it a truly great family weekend for all.
Each year the team grows and we get to meet up, share ideas and get creative with the areas…. tents, backstage, artists green room yurt, volunteer HQ etc. The organisation is done at the top by the wonderful production team but once we get there, we all play an important part in making the weekend extra special for guests. You could be checking performers have everything they need, directing them to stages, making sure they are fed and providing buggies for transport. You really do have to be willing to pitch in, help out and do it all with a smile on your face. That’s not hard though as the whole experience is such a joy to be part of. Tiring but fun.
Volunteers get plenty of time in between shifts to see some music, hang out, stroll around the woods, listen to poets, attend workshops, eat yummy food and dance under the stars. Generally, you are asked to do 3 shifts of around 6 hours each over the 4 days of the Bank Holiday weekend so it doesn’t feel like you miss out on the fun.
One year we all treated ourselves to a hot tub on Dragonfly Hill and many an evening was spent sitting or dancing on hay bales to the best music – some local bands, some more renowned.
Volunteering at Elderflower Fields is the first thing I block book into my diary each year as I can’t imagine not attending and helping out. My daughter and I have a lovely bond and it’s made stronger by the years we’ve spent together working at this festival so it will always hold a special place in our hearts. It’s so exciting to know you can meet up with festival friends and also meet new ones each time.
Don’t worry if you have no experience, everyone has something they can offer and it’s something that has taught me that I can do all sorts of things I’d not thought of doing. Driving a buggy in mermaid trousers, decorating a yurt with parasols and miles of orange taffeta, radioing for help when a child gets stuck up a tree, painting a huge Buddha, making giant willy wonky sweets, putting straw down to stop campervans getting stuck in the mud, applying glitter to body parts, making tea for The Magic Numbers, locating ants nests and ensuring people don’t sit on them, and so on!
On Sunday everyone gathers for a truly lovely togetherness by sharing a So Sussex picnic. It brings the whole festival together and volunteers dish out the food – a taste of the yummiest Sussex produce to sample and share in groups of 12.
If you haven’t ever volunteered at a festival, and you want to try new things, meet new friends and have a laugh, I’d recommend it. It’s a whole other world of fun and smiles just for a few days. Then it’s back to the day job, which isn’t all that bad for me as it’s usually half term so I get to recover and catch up on my sleep for a few days.
See you in the woods!