Festival Volunteering

Our city is a treasure trove of festivals – from literature, art, music and film, to sport, dance, food and wine, there’s plenty to see.

One way to make it to these (often very expensive) festivals is to volunteer. I’m a veteran of the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, Fringe, and Overload Poetry, as a well as working as a reviewer for FasterLouder and The Dwarf at several music festivals.

The entry-level for volunteering at these festivals is often quite high however – here’s few tips to get the best chance at a spot.

Why would you want to volunteer?

Lots of reasons, says Volunteers of Banyule: to make contacts, gain industry experience, and of course to attend great live events usually out of your price range. I know of people who have found permanent jobs in publishing, event management and administration through festival volunteering alone. The options are endless.

Identify your strengths: What are you good at? What experience do you have? Do you have a friendly customer service manner? Would you prefer to work in the back end, perhaps setting up/taking down exhibitions? Would you be willing to work the phones? Having a Victorian RSA is very useful also – some festivals are so keen for bartending volunteers they will certify you themselves, free of charge (the Fringe Festival is a great example of this). A current First Aid certification is also useful. 

Availability: ‘Make yourself available for as many shifts as possible’, says Fringe Festival Volunteer Co-ordinator Kathy Palella. If you’re an unemployed student, you’ll gain points by being available for those shifts which people who work full-time will be unable to fill. This means daytime. Also put yourself in for pre- festival hours (which often includes things such as sending out tickets, staffing the phones, answering emails and putting together volunteer packs). ‘There’s also something called bump-in and bump-out – essentially setting up and cleaning up after the event. Help here is always appreciated,’ says Palella. If you don’t drive, check your local public transport timetable to see if you can help out after an evening event.

Attitude: Many application forms will ask you directly: why do you want to volunteer? This is your chance to shine – make sure you bring across your passion for the event. Do some research and drop in a few choice facts, for example when the event started, the calibre of performers, the tone of the event etc. All of this should be reflected in your application. The tone of voice you would use for a jazz festival should differ from a writer’s festival, for example. Your interests also come into play here: you may wish to push your credentials as an aspiring writer for a literature festival for example, or your involvement in the music industry for a music festival. You don’t need to be a professional – just a keen amateur or enthusiast. As always, check spelling and grammar afterwards. If you have a blog on a relevant subject or are active on social media, you may wish to include these details too.

Best of luck! Festivals usually search for volunteers 1 – 3 months ahead of time. Festivals that are looking for people now include the Fringe (closes August 14) and Wangaratta Jazz, amongst others. You can find opportunities by visiting the City of Melbourne Festival Page. Also try GoVolunteer and INeedHelpers.

Good luck! 🙂


About Susan Munro

Susan in a student, complementary health practitioner and sometime freelance writer specialising in lifestyle, health and entertainment. Despite her rural upbringing, she steadfastly refuses to embrace bull-riding as a hobby and instead enjoys discovering new flavours of coffee and miscellaneous adventures in the urban landscape. Blogs at http://thesalientscript.wordpess.com
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