The volunteer scheme taking first-timers to Glastonbury 2024: ‘We’re reaching people who wouldn’t get to go’

<span>Charity volunteers at Glastonbury will be provided with a six-month sim card by Vodafone.</span><span>Composite: Getty Images</span>
Charity volunteers at Glastonbury will be provided with a six-month sim card by Vodafone.Composite: Getty Images

Glastonbury Festival means many different things to the 210,000 people who turn up in Pilton, Somerset, for five days at the end of June. There’s the Pyramid stage lot, hyped to secure their front-of-crowd spot for the headline acts; and the ravers who shake off the stresses of regular life on the dancefloor up in Block9. There’s the blissed-out crowd watching the sunrise from the Stone Circle; the culture vultures making a beeline to hear talks from artists and other great thinkers; or those who crave peace and healing who head straight to the Green Fields.

It’s the immense size and scope of this creative wonderland that makes it one of the country’s most loved events – and why the £355 tickets always sell out in record time. However, this year, a group of festival first-timers will get to take in the wonder and spectacle of Glastonbury as volunteers and have their expenses covered.

The festival – run by Michael Eavis and his daughter, Emily Eavis – has set up a volunteer scheme, with Vodafone as one of the supporting partners, in which 10 partner charities will bring a total of 100 people to Glastonbury on the fully funded volunteer scheme.

“It’s an opportunity for those who wouldn’t usually be able to afford to volunteer at the festival to attend,” says Lydia Morgan, head of participation at the Young Women’s Trust, a charity that supports young women in the workplace, with a focus on marginalised women. “So usually as a volunteer, you get your ticket paid for and some meals are provided, but you have to pay for your own travel to get there, bring all of your tent and wellies and camping set. It all begins to add up and the young women we work with are predominantly on low or no pay, and there is no way they would be able to volunteer at Glastonbury even if their ticket was covered.

“But our young women on the scheme will have everything paid for: the travel, the tent will all be set up, there will be a welcome pack – we’ve even asked them their shoe sizes for wellies.” Volunteers will also receive a supply of sustainable toiletries so they can freshen up during their stay.

The festival is stepping up to open its doors to people who for financial or cultural reasons might have previously been unable to attend the legendary UK summer event. Refugee Council is one of three refugee charities on the volunteer project, and its eight volunteers – and two staff members – will come from its employment training programme, to take on roles in crew catering at the festival.

The scheme, which Glastonbury is implementing for the first time this year, “is about reaching people who wouldn’t ordinarily get to go and experience that environment”, says Tamsin Baxter, executive director of fundraising and digital at the Refugee Council. “The people coming along with us range in age from 18 up to late 40s, so it’s a really broad spectrum. Some of the people joining us are from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, so you can only imagine what they’ve escaped.

“If you come through the asylum system, uncertainty is just your daily existence. So this is a great opportunity to experience what life can be like in an environment that’s safe, supportive and fun; and remind people that it’s OK to have fun.”

While it is the first time that the Young Women’s Trust will be attending the festival, the Refugee Council had a presence at Glastonbury last year, as it screened films about the refugee experience in the UK. “It’s a brilliant platform to talk about refugees and fairness and what a world that welcomes refugees in the UK looks like,” says Baxter. “The audience at Glastonbury is usually a really good mix of people and we’ve found it a brilliant place to find refugee advocates, and right now in the current political climate, we really need that.”

Morgan agrees, and the Young Women’s Trust volunteers will be stewarding as part of the Oxfam Stewarding team – the charity has long had an association with Glastonbury: “It’s a really lovely opportunity for our people to network and connect on important issues, such as our manifesto for change and everything that the young women want to see to create an equal world of work. Any opportunity for a charity to be involved, whether music events, art events, or anything like that, is fantastic and a moment where we can talk about the things we’re passionate about to a really diverse group of people.

“Glastonbury is a whole world in itself, so apart from all the music and entertainment, to be able to connect with different types of people from all different walks of life is just brilliant.”

Anyone who’s ever been to a festival with a big group will know how important phones are on site and every charity volunteer will be given a six-month sim card, with 40GB of data a month and unlimited calls, provided by Vodafone as part of its everyone.connected project. The company will also be providing the temporary mobile network across the entire festival site.

“This is the second year we’re one of Glastonbury’s main partners, and being the connectivity partner is something that we’re very excited about,” says Nicki Lyons, chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer at Vodafone UK. “This year we were determined that we would bring our sustainability commitments and our everyone.connected initiative to life and this is the first iteration of this and it’s very exciting.

“The Glastonbury volunteer scheme and the work we do to provide connectivity to charities is hugely important and emblematic of what we are as a brand. We feel really strongly about our pledge to help 4 million people cross the digital divide – people who don’t have access to connectivity, for whatever reason – to experience the value and importance of it.”

Related: ‘It’s my 18th consecutive Glastonbury – and this year we’re doing it as a three generation family’

It couldn’t come at a better time, says Morgan: “There are lots of people out there who can’t afford data, or who can’t afford to pay their phone bills, given the cost of living crisis. It’s a really helpful thing to have and when you’re at a festival, having a way to communicate with people and catch up with people is so important, so they’ve really thought of everything.”

Baxter says that this connectivity will have an outreach that stretches far beyond when the festival shuts its gates for the year: “If you think about the things that having a sim card unlocks, it’s such a vast part of everyday life. It’s really, really valid for this group of people, some of whom arrived literally with just the clothes on their backs. So being able to call home, access the internet to find job opportunities, or to find things going on in your local community is so important.”

Ultimately, she adds, the Glastonbury volunteer project mirrors the ethos of the festival itself: “It’s about coming together as a community and having a fantastic life experience, which I don’t think most people in our group will have had the opportunity to experience before. It’s a chance to grow and to thrive.

“The ripple effect that this will have on the volunteers’ lives, that’s impact you can’t buy. That really is what could change the world.”

Connecting you to Glastonbury this summer
Vodafone is the official connectivity partner of Glastonbury Festival. To find out more and to download the official Glastonbury app, head to vodafone.co.uk

For further information on Vodafone’s charity work, its sim card donation programme and its everyone.connected project, click here

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