All quiet at the end of the night shift at Fire Tower Echo
Pops and I are big music fans and festival veterans, so this year decided to offer our services up to Oxfam and volunteered for Womad. It turned out to be a great decision, leading us to meet some wonderful people and have a truly positive stewarding experience.
How do you get a picture of the Womad sign with nobody else around?
Do it at 7am after a night shift
Having never stewarded before and not attended Womad either, the whole thing was new to us, but we were welcomed into the stewarding fold and quickly felt at home. One of the nicest things about stewarding is that Oxfam has its own campsite and you are immediately surrounded by friendly faces. Not only this, but there is a marquee where you can sit and chat to fellow volunteers, showers and onsite catering, which was provided at Womad by Nuts.
The Oxfam campsite has a very special atmosphere
Seeing the sun come up at the end of our night shift
Stewarding a festival is not the same as simply attending one as a punter and eight-hour shifts should not be entered into lightly. The benefits of experiencing a festival in this manner far outweigh the hard work, however, with some small and large perks coming as part of the bargain. It is really nice for example, to be able to explore the site before the customers arrive; to recognise the faces of the people you wristbanded in the rain, now that the sun is shining; and to make lots of friends with fellow volunteers.
In return for working the festival, Oxfam stewards get to see some of the acts, without having to buy a ticket. Not knowing what shifts we would be given in advance, we didn't manage to see Count Drachma or Aurelio, but we did get to see the likes of Souad Massi and a Kathkali performance. You certainly can't grumble about that.
Kathkali performers from Kerala in The Big Red Tent
The weather at this year's Womad has seen it dubbed by many as Womud, but luckily Pops and I were prepared. We spent a very soggy eight-hour day shift wristbanding people in the rain, as we were decked out in wellies, overtrousers and waterproof coats. No matter whatever the weather, Oxfam stewards soldier on and we all got through it together. A sign went up in the Oxfam marquee saying that anyone flooded out of their tents could sleep in there, although it appeared nobody needed to make use of the invitation.
It is also almost impossible not to remain vigilant while not on shift and help the public even when not wearing your Oxfam tabbard. Not only did Pops and I help when we spotted someone who had fallen in the mud, but I gave directions to people who were lost and generally got involved at every opportunity.
On leaving Womad, we said goodbye to the friends we had made in the Oxfam campsite and started to head off towards the car. One of the main organisers of stewards at Womad thanked us for our help, which echoed an attitude that was felt throughout the whole festival, with those in charge being very communicable and appreciative of the time people had donated.
Make a difference - steward for Oxfam
There were 400 Oxfam stewards at this year's Womad festival, making some £70,000 for the charity. During the summer festival season in the UK, Oxfam makes more than £1 million through stewarding. This is a huge amount for just three shifts per person. To find out more, visit the Oxfam stewarding website.