Val started volunteering with ROTW in 2009 on the ticket gate. In recent years she additionally helped with the Green Team (litter and recycling) and now she does the ‘ring round’ to volunteers in the Green Team in the months before the festival. On the festival weekend, she does a bit of ticket gate and Green Team. She lives in Luton, is in her 60s and this will be her 5th festival.
Q: What keeps you coming back to ROTW?
A: I love the sense of community and fun. It can be hard work and tiring, but so enjoyable. I initially volunteered as a favour to my daughter who is on the year-round organising Committee but I enjoy it so much I keep coming back. Even litter picking is fun! It sounds like a horrible job but it’s one of my favorites. The festival-goers are so nice, we can do it in pairs and have a wander through the crowds soaking up the atmosphere at the same time. You can hear the music and see the bands too – it’s also lovely to have people coming up to you and praising the site for being so clean and lovely to be in, and even the kids go round helping you.
Q: What sort of tasks do you do?
A: We start the Green Team ‘ring round’ around two months before the Festival, calling volunteers from previous years to see if they want to come back and see how many litter pickers we can get to rejoin us. Then we try to identify new volunteers to fill any gaps.Last year at the festival, I worked on the gate one day and litter picking the next. A typical day might be registering to get a wristband, going to the volunteer tent to pick up some water, going to a briefing and spending a couple of hours ticketing, wristbanding and even challenging some of the younger people for ID. My worst moment was asking a guy for ID only to find out he was 38! He had some on him so it must happen a lot… I like to think so anyway!
Q: How has volunteering changed you? What have you learned about yourself and what skills have you developed in your role?
A: I’d never been to a music festival before ROTW but definitely would now – only glamping not camping of course! I love the fact that this isn’t too large, it’s walkable and you can go round all the stages easily or just pick a spot and stay at one for five hours if you like. I do like the BBC Introducing Stage as it always has new talent – ROTW has broadened my horizons, definitely. But my favourite is the St Mary’s Stage as it has traditional choirs mixed with different types of bands, and it provides seats which is good for my age group!
Q: What doors have opened up for you as a result of volunteering? E.g. what social, career or other opportunities have materialised since you began?
A: It’s lovely meeting up with fellow volunteers year after year. We meet socially afterwards and have a post-festival party. A friend’s son came last year to get some volunteering experience on his CV. He was 15 and he loved it. He worked as a runner – running around with messages, moving things, seeing how a large event works and meeting loads of people.
Q: Who are the most memorable people you’ve met through volunteering?
A: We get students to the very elderly helping out with everything from wristbanding to litter picking! I’ve met people from all walks of life – aged 15 to 90. I think it’s what makes the festival – the eclectic range of people who come here. What I love about Rhythms of the World is that you can see a youth choir one minute and a well-known musician like Courtney Pine the next.
Q: What are your top tips for a fantastic festival?!
A: Comfy shoes and a waterproof, and just enjoy! It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, it’s still enjoyable.
Q: What would you say were your “best bits” during your time as a volunteer?
A: Wristbanding the under-5s – all the little ones wanted a wristband. As they held out their arm out for a wristband, we told them there were getting a special one – it had a blank space on it for families to write their mobile number. It helps people to feel that extra bit safe whilst their children are toddling around next to them – but it involves the little ones and makes them part of the festival experience too!