For the first time, Oxfam’s editor(s) have made their own alterations to my Generation Why piece. This is their perogative, but I’m going to post my original submission.

My piece on festival stewarding for Oxfam’s Generation Why.

The original piece:

Festival stewarding: More than just mud.

Like learning to ride a bike, going to your first music festival is a rite of passage. A long weekend of tripping over tent guys, investigating long-drop toilets and seeing the odd band makes you a more complete person. For the ultimate feel-good factor, though, you can steward for Oxfam and change the world while having the time of your life. I was at Leeds Festival last year (and Glastonbury the years before that), and make it a point to get at least one festival in every summer.

Typically, Oxfam stewards work three eight-hour shifts (one daytime, one evening and one overnight) – meaning that you usually miss one night’s entertainment. If there’s someone you really want to see, shifts can be shuffled about (I swapped mine one year so I could see Muse and as an added bonus miss Oasis). The rest of the time, you’re free to soak up the atmosphere.

Stewarding mostly involves checking tickets/wristbands or keeping an eye on an area, which is fairly straightforward and usually involves pointing out the toilets. At Leeds, my brother came through my gate and had to stand impatiently while I mused on whether to allow him through or not. Serious drama is fairly rare – but at Glastonbury a guy sprinted through our gate at about 30 m.p.h. before being rugby-tackled by six security guards!

A major perk of stewarding (aside from getting into the festival for free!) is the separate camping and catering area. Not only do you have a relatively quiet haven if you need to sleep after a night shift, but the workers’ canteen is usually the best on site with delicious hot meals 24 hours a day. There are also decent showers should you wish to forego the “real” festival experience of not washing for a week.

For me, stewarding opened up a door to a whole different festival. My tent was surrounded by nice people I immediately had something in common with (unlike one year not stewarding when the guy camped behind me was dealing speed). There were always people around who were happy to chill out, play guitar and cook dinner instead of set things on fire. I’d bump into people I’d met on demonstrations or through campaigns. I wasn’t at all bothered about going on my own, as I knew I’d make a few friends within an hour of arriving. Soya milk was easy to get hold of. I saw a propane cylinder explode. I stood in a marquee while lightning struck the stages. I never imagined that raising funds for Oxfam would be so much fun.

“But there’s no Glastonbury this year!” I hear you cry. Festival-goers secret #1: There’s more to a summer than Worthy Farm. 2006 is the perfect opportunity to check out all those small independent (less commercial?) festivals that get overshadowed. If your heart belongs to Glasto, though, stewarding is a guaranteed foot in the door for the 2007 rush. Convinced? I’ll see you at Wychwood.

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