This year I really wanted to go to Reading Festival again, I’d been for the past 2 years and loved both times. I was suffering from a severe case of festival blues. Then I saw Hotbox events advertised on Twitter. A company that offers volunteering places at Reading Festival for those 18 and over. If you volunteered you had to do 3 x 8-hour shifts from Wednesday to Monday. The condition was you had to pay a £230 deposit to secure your place, which you get back after completing all your shifts. This seemed too good to be true!
I paid my deposit and my place was confirmed by the next day. I also got my second preference for my shift pattern which meant I had the whole of Friday and Saturday daytime free!
At this moment in time, I was going to Reading alone, which was quite daunting. I looked on the Hotbox Events website and saw they had a forum, on here a few people had already posted who were going alone too. Eventually, more and more people started to post on the forum, so we all added each other on facebook and created a group message where we all got to know each other.
By the week before Reading, there was a group of 18 of us who had all decided to camp together, this made me feel a lot more at ease knowing I wasn’t the only one who was on my own. Most of us got down there on Tuesday which meant 6 nights in a tent! But we spent this time getting to know each other and having a laugh over a campfire and a few drinks.
The weather was not on our side it pretty much rained all day and night except for Friday and the festival site got muddier and muddier by the day. Which did make things a lot more difficult especially getting your wellies off in your tent.
I’ll cut to the chase and list the main pros and cons that I can think of.
- Free ticket! Which is fantastic for students and people on a low budget.
- Meet some lovely people. I made some great friends while working at Reading and we all still keep in touch via Facebook which is nice.
- Great experience. Not only personally but also for your CV. It really helped my improve my confidence and communication skills working at Reading.
- Acess to staff amenities. Toilets, showers, power, cheap food and a staff car park. You also get access into the arena and through all the gates at any time, you almost feel like a VIP.
- Fun. It really is a lot of fun and an experience to remember, the shifts also are what you make them and can be really fun spent with the right people.
- Secure camping. Unlike in the festival campsites, there was always someone sat on our staff gate and the gate to our camping compound which meant that it was a lot safer in general.
- Long shifts, run from 9am-5pm, 5pm-1am and 1am-9am. What they don’t tell you is you have to be there an hour before your shift starts. From the staff campsite to the arena its good 40 minute walk away so this is a bit of a pain.
- You’re on your feet for the whole shift. So in wellies and surviving on a couple of hours sleep, you can imagine how uncomfortable that gets after a few hours.
- The night shift,(1am-9am.) Which isn’t for everyone. I was working on the Silent Arena in Red Camp (50-minute walk from staff camp.) this part of the shift was great and I loved it, but after that we had to walk around the campsite. By about 6 am, I was dead on my feet. Starving, dehydrated and exhausted as we weren’t given a break. This shift didn’t end well for me, I have a touch of asthma and also a history of breathing trouble, I ended up feeling really unwell and having a lot of trouble breathing, long story short ended up going back to our camp in an ambulance, which was mortifying! I really suffered with my breathing the whole time I was at Reading and was diagnosed with mild asthma when I came home which is probably why I felt so rough.
- You work in the campsites, not Arena. With Hotbox Events, you are a Campsite Assistant, meaning you never get to work inside the arena or on gates, whereas with Oxfam you do.
- Camping in White. Staff Camping is located in white camp, which if you’ve been to Reading you’ll know that it’s the furthest site away from the Arena. There is a boat put on for staff, but this takes about 25 mins in total to get to the Arena.
I think it’s down to personal preference and up to you to weigh up the pros and cons. I had a really amazing time at Reading this year, but would I volunteer with Hotbox events again? Probably not. I’m just not cut out for the night shift and found that out the hard way! But it’s definitely a great way to go to a festival for next to nothing and meet some amazing people along the way!