I’m back from this year’s Reading festival, my fourth year in a row now, and as has become a yearly tradition, I’m writing a blog post about it. This is probably the quickest I’ve managed to get a post written after coming back from the fest actually, so round of applause for me!
This year was slightly different for me; I volunteered with the charity Cradle and worked on the main arena checking wristbands. I volunteered once before at Reading, 2 years ago, but then my job was to hand out free beer. Let me tell you, people love you when you’re giving them free beer, not so much when you’re trying to check their wristband…
I was told before applying to volunteer that the work was “easy”. During my first shift I learnt that actually, checking the wristbands of 100,000 drunk youths who want to see some bands is pretty dam intense. First of all, there are about 10-15 different varieties of wristbands and passes that are valid on any given day of the festival, and there are many more ways they can be faked, or transferred from person to person. As a wristband checker you have to identify all of these, and all in about 1 second per person, with one person per second. Not to mention, these people are either drunk, or incredibly high, and you are the only person getting between them and the music, which they payed a lot of money to see. So needless to say, you are not their favourite person in the world.
Whilst most people were relatively co-operative and showed you their wristband, once asked, plenty of people give you a lot of hassle. A lot of people think they’re being funny by not showing you their wristband, giving you the wrong arm, or holding it far above your head, laughing; but this joke gets a bit old after the first 100 who pull it.
Then there’s the very anxious (or very over-excited, they behave the same way), or the guilty, who just rush right past you, without showing you a wristband. This is when it started to get fun. We were each given a whistle to blow if ever we got a “runner”. We’d blow this is anyone gave us hassle, we discovered a fake or loose wristband, or if someone just legged it past us (a “runner”). Then the row of security guards which flanked us would leg it after them and pin them down. Then we could just stand back and smirk at them, feeling all proud and powerful and with a sense of achievment that we’d just stopped a petty criminal from getting into a festival for free.
Unfortunately, as a young female working at a festival like Reading, you get a lot of un-wanted male attention. For starters, volunteering at the festival opened my eyes as to how many males there actually are attending as opposed to females: I’d say it was 70% male, at least. So you get the usual cat-calls and the like, but then since checking wristbands invloves having to obviously get close to someone’s body (only their wrist, but never the less…), there was also some un-wanted physical attention. Some guys would say “Only if you [insert crude action here]” when asked if you could check their wristband, or, since we had to pull on the writband to check it was secure, “I wish you’d tug on something else…”. Others would actually grab your arm in the process and pull you in for a kiss, or a grab of another kind. Luckily I’m quite a hardy girl when it comes to batting that kind of thing off, but I could tell it was bothering some of the other girls in my team.
Despite this though, overall it was a really good experience. It was actually quite fun once you got used to it, and you certainly met some characters! Plus, the charity is a great cause, they help children in war torn areas, and are currently helping a lot of kids in Gaza. We raised thousands for them over the weekend, so that was great!
As well as all that, I did get to see some music in my time off between shifts. I got to see Reading staples Enter Shikari again, who finally brought back Sorry You’re Not A Winner, and played a new song, and were generally mad and crazy fun! I also saw King Charles again, a great feel good festival act, AND a secret set from Jamie T who was so so SO good! I always feel lucky when I catch a secret set, there’s always a great buzz and this was no exception!
I also saw Arctic Monkeys, who I love but live I found them disappointingly mediocre. Plus they were let down by terrible sound, so from where I was standing (about the middle) I could actually hear the other stages over them!
Finally though, I got to see my 2nd favourite live act, Blink-182, thanks to my hero of a supervisor who gave me an hour off to catch most of their set! For me that really made the weekend, and I finally got to hear Stay Together For The Kids!
There’s probably more I could say, and I’ve left loads out, because as per usual this post has gotten long so I’ll leave it there. Thanks so much for reading (if you made it this far)!
Check out Cradle: http://www.cradle.ie/
Until next year!