As another season of festivals is here, I thought it useful to make a survival guide for those of us who work these chaotic events during the Summer months. As I found out all too soon in my career, there was no survival guide on how to make sure you got through it all in (mostly) one piece. For anyone who needs it, I hope this helps.
Step 1: Packing
The majority of festivals are outdoors and are unforgivable with the heat that comes with being outdoors in these Summer months. More than likely, you’re also not working just one festival during the season. This means you need to be careful about what you pack. Most companies will have the basics for you but I still like to bring many of my own things, even my own hard hat. Find some steel-toed boots that are comfortable to move in around the ankles. Your work shirts need to be breathable but take a beating as well. Your shorts will need to have lots of pockets as you likely won’t want to carry around a tool bag, work bag, etc. with you everywhere on site. The company ScrewFix has pretty good work clothes for women, and you can stop into almost any material building store (B&Q, HomeDepot, etc.) to get some basic tools. The ones I’ve used the most on-site are things like pliers, screwdrivers, wire strippers, excessive amounts of electrical tape, socket wrench, measuring tape, and so many more. Honestly, picking up a basic tool kit should get you through your first season of festivals just fine. If you’re like me, you’ll want to bring a bit of home with you. I always travel to festivals with a book and my own coffee cup. A bit of advice, pack a portable fan.
Step 2: What To Do Once You Arrive
Once you actually arrive at the festival, it’s too late. Chaos has already happened. There are people that have been there pre-setting and prepping for this event for longer than you can imagine. More than likely you’ll need to check in somewhere and there will be coordinators for this but none of them can coordinate what you’re supposed to be doing or where. That’s not their job, their job is to tell you where to put your things so you can then find the person to tell you what you’re supposed to be doing and where. Once you’re sorted on that, the work begins. You’re thrown into the chaos of everyone wanting to know what’s happening but no one actually does, so you all just pretend to know the plan and go along with the limited information you have. Remember to drink plenty of water during the day. Try not to get into the constant pissing match between the other techs and the heads of departments.
Step 3: The Work Days (And Nights)
Everyone knows that festivals go pretty long into the night. Almost no one outside of this industry tells you that those long nights start long before the gates open for the public. You’re there for setup, and teching the shows, and then taking everything down. You’re getting up early in the morning, grabbing something quick to eat on your way into the gates, and hopefully doing tech as soon as possible. You’ll get dragged to help other departments with their jobs, and this is annoying but also helpful because if you help them now sometimes they’ll help you later. You’ll get told the artists are always right, even if it starts pouring down in a thunderstorm and they want to continue the performance on stage. Scream into your pillow/shower/etc. later.
Step 4: The Aftermath
You made it through your first day/week/festival season. Congratulations! You survived the complete hellscape that are festivals. Now is the time to reward yourself before anything else. For many in this industry, this reward looks like a few drinks with your mates that survived the festival right with you. Savor these moments, get their numbers, and make sure to keep in contact with them. It might be the next festival you see some of them, or it might not be for another year. Either way, these are some of the best people to be around not only for the contacts but because these are some of the only people who understand what you go through for your job. Breathe, you made it.