What is it like working behind the bar at a festival?

There’s something about festivals that, on the face of it, embody everything that make it great to work behind a bar.

There are a number of perks to working behind the counter in a pub or bar. These tend to be the people you work with, the extravagant characters you get to serve, the free drinks and, if you’re lucky enough to work in a venue, the free live music.

So surely serving alcohol alongside some fellow music lovers at a top class outdoor festival to a bunch of people that are attending the event for the sole purpose of enjoying themselves would be heaven for any bar worker?

With festival season upon us and tickets for some of the summer’s biggest live music events rapidly selling out, it’s no wonder people will turn to the likes of Peppermint and Festivalvolunteer to try and get themselves a weekend working for the chance to see some of the most sought after acts in the country for free.

And with that comes the experience of working alongside some fellow music enthusiasts and making some decent brass along the way.

Nelly Whaley, who works for Peppermint, said: “Working behind the bar at a festival is a pretty awesome way to make some extra cash. I have been working on festival bars for the last 3 years whilst studying at university so I’ve spent my summers in random fields across the UK working at various festivals.

The main difference to working at a bar at a festival rather than a pub is the environment, being outside in a random location with live music playing in the background, serving a variety of people and generally being around people with similar interests.”

She added: “Just because you’re working at a festival it doesn’t mean you’re excluded from the festival atmosphere, it actually means you get to experience a whole new festival atmosphere not many people do. Not only do you get to enjoy your free time like any other festival goer, when you are working you get to enjoy the buzz of the festival; people in high spirits, hearing some of your favourite artists play in the background, actually being sober and being able to enjoy the festival.

Free music, good vibes and better living conditions to that of the other festival-goers; you’d think that working behind the bar would be a walk in the park (literally). But there’s also a lot of hard graft involved.

Elliot Friskin, 22, who’s been working at festivals for three years now, would go some way to stressing this point, as he assured me that there’s a lot more to it than having a blast with the punters.

He said: “Festivals are fantastic and everything but it’s tough working behind the bar. You’ve got to be made out of steel to deal with that number of people. I would say that there’s definitely that ‘all-in-this-together-now’ feel of it though and that’s definitely one of the benefits. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as getting off a hectic shift to go and see Bruce Springsteen or whoever with the other guys you’re working with.”

As with every bar job, the people that you’re serving and dealing with is a key aspect to how enjoyable it is. For this reason you’d probably assume that working at a festival would be perfect for this. But, according to Elliott, it varies quite dramatically.

He said: “Sometimes it’s great. You get the sort of people that are letting loose and just there to have a good time and are care-free. That’s the sort of people you want to serve and it can make it a lot easier. Alternatively you get people who are already completely wasted and that bad side to them comes out when they see the prices being charged.”

So it would seem that festivals bring up a range of experiences that are both just like working behind a standard bar yet nothing at all like it. But there was one common factor more than any that seemed to crop up as a key point: the free entry.

Nelly added: “I think the biggest appeal to young people applying to work at festivals is no doubt the free entry into a festival. In fact – I have only ever worked at a festival in the UK, never actual went as a punter! This is due to the costs of tickets, travel, food etc. The attraction of bar work itself is the ability to be able to soak up the festival atmosphere whilst working. Bar work is an opportunity to engage with the festival goers and your colleagues. It is far from boring.”

Nelly concluded with:

“So if you’re looking for a summer job, which isn’t a 9 – 5 that gets you to some of the best festivals in the UK for free, then I can’t see why you wouldn’t give it a go. Most people who I have worked with go back and work at festivals year after year which must show its appeal.”

Bar work at festivals is a working experience like no other. With the contrasting incredible highs that you get out of the live music and vibrant people and the hard work that comes with it, it’s something you can only describe by doing it, and with festival season bearing down on us, it’s the perfect time to get your place booked.

Fancy working at a festival bar this summer? Check out our article on ways to get into a festival for free, or to work at Peppermint’s Festival bars, register at Peppermint Staffing or volunteer with our sister company Festival Volunteer.

Have you got any stories about working behind a bar at a festival?

Comments (2)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *