How to become a festival build manager: Willy's story

Meet Willy and find out more about his life as a build manager including creating sets for the Shangri-La area at Glastonbury 2019. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

It's really fun seeing the big structures. They look really small on a 13 inch laptop screen and suddenly you are standing in it and it's 10 meters tall!

  • Willy is the build manager for Shangri-La, an alternative arts and music area at Glastonbury, which was themed around environmental issues and climate change in 2019

  • He deals with building the big structures and stages. He works with the designer to plan and organise the scaffolding design, using an aerial photograph to work up drawings for the scaffolding company using 3D software

  • He is also in charge of ordering materials and booking/managing the carpenters and set builders. It's a very active job – he walked 280 miles during the course of the build this year

  • Willy started off as a musician playing for the Carny Villains, the house band for the Invisible Circus, a performance company in Bristol. Whilst with the circus, he became interested in carpentry and scenic carpentry and learnt his trade

  • In 2006 he got a job on the unpaid crew at Glastonbury through his connections at the Invisible Circus, then worked his way up to paid crew and becoming build manager in 2016

  • At school he liked Sport, Drama, English and Music. He went on to study Media Studies, Music Production, English and Sociology at college. He draws on Sociology when managing the team as he needs to make sure people are motivated and enjoying their work in often tough conditions

  • He balances his work as a musician with set building for other festivals such as Boomtown as well as other set builds, set dressing and movie premier installs

  • He didn’t have a specific career plan, but has always been open to opportunities. His main advice is to work hard and be open and engage with people positively. He has found it's important to admit when you need help and be willing to learn.

What to expect if you want to be a festival build manager

  • What will I get paid? Your income will depend on how long you have worked in the field and what skills you have. Depending on your skill level you may have to start with unpaid work until you have the experience and skills to get a paid job.

  • Where will I work? As a build manager you will work on location and build sets wherever the event is being held.

  • What are the working hours like? You will normally be working to a tight deadline which will be dictated by the event you are working towards.

What qualifications do you need to be a festival build manager?

None in particular - a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and a good people manner is more important although carpentry knowledge is useful these skills can be learnt on the job.

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