Music festivals for free -or- festival dumpsterdiving

I recently came back from Reading festival where I "volunteered".
I noticed Shaun wrote something similar a little while back and thought I'd provide another, more legal and quite interesting option. I think some people here can find this info useful.
The details I'm mentioning here are specific for Reading but applies to most of the big festivals in England and possibly in other countries as well.
Lots of festivals allow some sort of volunteering.

Those festivals are BIG, hundred thousand drunk kids, lots of staff, lots of volunteers. There is room for everyone (as long as they apply on time. You have to do it a few months in advance and pay a deposit that you get back) and they have several volunteering options.
As a volunteer (or a payed staff member for the matter) you get better, more secured camping, better toilets, hot showers and access to more areas (not backstage though, I tried. although I was told it is sometimes possible if you're lucky and speak/act your way in there).

There are several volunteering options. All of them are doing 3 shifts of 8 hours. I'm going to mention the 3 in Reading I know the most about, but simply look in the festival website -

1. CAT - Camping Assistant Team - You're basically walking around the camping area, making sure the kids are not killing each other, burning each other's tent, ect. You mostly just wander, chat with them.
There are shifts before, during and the day after the festival. You'd usually find yourself missing one evening of the shows and free during the rest.

2. HAT - Helpful Arena Team - Walking around between the stages with shiny vests marked with INFO and directing people to the closest ATMs, toilets, stage and such. Answering random questions. You'd also have to make sure they're not passed out dead on the grass and call paramedic if they are.
This is what I did there. It has both advantages and disadvantages over being a CAT. It's better because all you do is walk around between the stages, watch the shows and tell people where the closest toilets are. It's worse because all your shifts are during the festival. Half of the time is off but you are a lot more likely to miss shows you want to watch properly.

3. Green Messenger - Lots of British kids are spoiled, over-consuming idiots. Loads of them buy nice new gear, lots of gear, use it in the festival and leave it there or dump it somewhere near afterwards. I'm talking about tents, sleeping bags, pillows, duvets, blow up mattresses, boots, hats, jackets, food, alcohol. Lots of perfectly good, factory sealed food and alcohol.
Being a Green Messenger is taking park of an organized dumpsterdiving. They dive for the useful camping gear and eventually donate it to third world countries or so.
I spent a day with a group of them, drinking huge amounts of alcohol they found left behind, observing what they found.
Festival are the best place I've ever seen to dumpsterdive. You will find amazing stuff.
Most of the messengers didn't work during the festival. They had 1 shift before it and 2 after it and got to see all.

Options number 1 and 2 are available to everyone. Option number 3 and some other options are open to EU citizens or work permit holders.

Anyway -
All of the above options allow you to attend the festival and get a decent amount of shows (if not all of them) for free, you can pick your shift to a certain degree - to see your favorite band.
No matter what position you are, even if you're not a green messenger you can easily dumpsterdive when it's over.

Festival dumpsterdiving is the best.


sigurdas's picture


makes me wanna go to the next festival and volunteer (opt.3! :))