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13 November 2014

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You are in: Berkshire > Entertainment > Arts features > Rock while you work

Alex outside the steward caravan

Alex, a volunteer festival steward

Rock while you work

It takes hundreds of people to make sure the Reading Festival runs smoothly each year. We spoke to one young man, who braved the elements and sleepless nights to work at this famous rock event.

Eighteen-year-old Alex is living the dream. He gets to watch the creme de la creme of the rock and indie world play live and doesn't spend a penny of his own money in the process.

Though, there is one catch, he does have to give up several hours of his free time. Alex is a volunteer steward and he's working at the UK's most prestigious rock event, The Reading Festival.

The crowd at Reading Festival

The Reading Festival crowd

The lucky lad landed his job by applying through the DC Site Services website, a company that supplies personnel to assist at festivals.

"It's a good way of seeing your favourite bands for free.

"Setting up people's tents is always fun, because you get to sit down and have a drink with them afterwards, which is always good," says Alex.

The stewards usually arrive three days before the event starts and leave a day or two after it finishes. He is working a total of three, eight hour shifts, throughout the festival period.

Due to the company's flexible rota system, the volunteers always get plenty of 'Off Duty' time to relax and enjoy themselves.

A painted tent

A festival goer brightens up their tent

Alex is an old hand at volunteering and has lent his stewarding expertise to several festivals already this year. However, this job isn't for the faint hearted or work shy, as it can be extremely demanding.

"Carrying things for people is probably the worst. If they're struggling you go and help them. You don't wait until they're rolling around in the mud." 

With the Reading Festival tickets selling out in a matter of hours, people were going to extreme lengths to sample the festival's atmosphere.

"There has been a lot of people trying to get in for free, by jumping over the fences. Luckily the security are at hand and they deal with that. There's often a big chase."

A large amount of alcohol is consumed over the festival weekend, leaving some of the music revellers worse for wear.

"A lot of drunk people, particularly in the early hours of the morning,  come up to you and ask for all sorts.

"I've given out my fluorescent jacket quite a bit to drunk people. They seem to like that quite a lot."

"There are loads of people in fancy dress, men wearing wedding dresses and superhero outfits. It's not what you see everyday."

Alex, a volunteer steward at Reading Festival

Besides the live acts and bands, the camping experience is the other exciting component of this festival. If your looking for an early night, you're better off booking yourself into a local hotel.

The camp sites are a hive of activity well into the early hours of the morning, with the noise not settling to a sleepable level until around 4 am. 

The campers range from the run of the mill to the extremely bizarre, something Alex has seen plenty of over the weekend.

"A guy whose staying in our particular camp has spent his entire time in just a tutu and a fur coat. There's no logic behind it and it's really cold sometimes."

When it comes to dressing up, the men appear to win by a lengthy margin. The outfits can be very risque. While the women opt for a more stylish and glam look, some of the men go all out to literally stand out from the crowd.

With thousands of rock enthusiasts camping on site for three or four days, things do get very hectic. Throughout the weekend, the camp sites get messier and messier.

Alex standing by the tents

Alex in the midst of the camp site

Tents get abandoned, flags lay torn and seeing your favourite band takes precedence over personal hygiene, well at least for some.

"No ones really washing. People are washing their hair with really cold tap water. Which looks ridiculously horrible.

"There are showers but to queue up and use them is a bit of a hassle. During the day you could be queuing for a few hours."

However, it's an experience tens of thousands of people would gladly relive year after year.

The atmosphere, clientele and great music line up makes for a spectacular weekend. We hear Alex has already started preparing his steward application for next year.

Listen to some of the clips from the interview with Alex below:

last updated: 29/08/2008 at 13:35
created: 26/08/2008

You are in: Berkshire > Entertainment > Arts features > Rock while you work

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