Off to Work we Go

Back down the hill again, for the third time, which meant we would have climbed it three times as well by the end of the shift. Ensuring that we weren’t late again we arrived at our little tent-station in good time for our 1pm shift start. No other team members had arrived, we expected two others plus our supervisor. I assembled the two tressel tables and four folding chairs which had been left in the tent along with a laminated map of the area and bags of valuable wrist bands of assorted colours: pale blue for the 3-day weekend, navy for VIP and sparkly pink for glamping. We just didn’t know what to do with them. Roger tied back the front walls as we attempted to make the plain white canvas shed look welcoming. The teepee reception opposite had coloured rugs on the floor and hanging on the walls, a turquoise dream catcher spun in the light breeze.

Another couple turned up, our shift colleagues. Fortunately they had past experience of volunteering at this festival and soon organised us, being somewhat more specific than the vague direction we had received from the morning briefing. We were supposed to be meeting, greeting and banding new arrivals to this glampsite. The music wasn’t due to start until the following lunchtime and with their accommodation already prepared, there wouldn’t be much settling in to do so we didn’t expect a rush.

Our supervisor, a huge ex-marine, so laid back as to be horizontal, strolled down the hill towards us, accompanied by two other women in the mandatory hi-vis jackets. I wondered where they were headed, nowhere! One boss plus six volunteer stewards and no arrivals, with none expected. We all ended up huddling inside the small tent cluttered with 2 tressel tables and four chairs, just to keep out of the blazing sun. All the mist had been burnt off, any lurking clouds had been frightened away and the sun was now so high that the only shade afforded by a large oak tree behind us was on a patch of stinging nettles. Just as well I’d read somewhere to pack a book as some shifts are quiet.

After a period of pleasantries the two women were sent off down the access road, to where I knew not. The other bloke was taken off to another tent somewhere, leaving the three of us to deal with the influx. One couple arrived. This was fortunate as this most expensive camp site, rumoured to cost £3k for the 3 days, was yet to be connected to water. (The generator broke during the evening, after our shift, and I wouldn’t have liked to deal with justly frustrated glampers.)

An empty sloping expanse of cut grass with a line of toilets and shower cubicles at the bottom lay over the 6-foot high fence in front of us. At 2.30pm a swarm of ants surged up the hill, the gates for this ‘quieter’ campsite had opened. People ran in all directions and then appeared to dump their loads of tents, pillows, sleeping bags and duvets in random spaces in the middle of the scorched field. There was no shade for them either. In no time we saw this area change from deserted to a blanket of multi-coloured tents and gazebos.

As people unloaded and unpacked, pitched tents, filled water containers and opened their cans of beer whilst they were still cold the two women came back to swap with us. We retraced their steps along the track on the outside of the fence at the bottom, behind the toilet block. I had no real idea where we were going and what we were to do, beyond directing glampers along this track. We arrived at the main entrance to the quiet campsite where there was significantly more activity. The portacabin box office loomed over a large ridge tent which housed four people, including our colleague who had been whisked away, swapping tickets for wrist bands. On the other side of the double gate an assortment of stripped wheelbarrows could be hired to transport all the essential camping equipment from the cars parked further on down the hill.

A large woman, who appeared to be struggling in the heat, was sat in one of two folding chairs set off to the side in the shade of the tent. These were our duty posts but we couldn’t comprehend the purpose of sitting there when we learnt that we were checking for anyone with a glamping wrist band. They needed to be directed along our track and not go straight ahead to camp with the riff-raff. We couldn’t clearly see appropriately coloured bracelets from that position so took up sentry posts on either side of the gate.

The blue and white golf umbrella proved invaluable as we stood in the glare of the sun, not a drop of rain in sight. We segued from peering fruitlessly at wrists for a pink sparkle to noting the pale blue regular weekend band from a distance, welcoming all and sundry with a cheery ‘hello’. The time passed so much more quickly and I began to feel part of this huge organisation (although larger festivals are available.)

A pleasant pair, looking very similar to a couple we knew so immediately endowed with the characters of our friends, passed us with their luggage on 2 of their own and very popular trolleys. They turned left and began walking along the track to glamping. Roger trotted after them. Yes, they were glampers. No, they didn’t know that they could drive through and park next to their tent. They’d been directed into the main car park by the marshalls. Without ado, he walked back down the hill to collect his car and reload it for the now short and flat drive to the glampsite. They were our only ‘clients/customers’ all afternoon.

5.45pm came and went. There was supposed to be a 15 minute handover period. Would anyone come to relieve us? We were unsure whether we were meant to be in that position or had just been added due to the excess numbers of volunteer stewards. Allowing another 10 minutes we conceded and went to have a word with the campsite stewards supervisor standing 10 yards away at the entrance to the fenced area. We’d been stood at the exit to the car park, but doing virtually the same job, hopefully making each other’s lives easier.

Back at the glamping stewards tent, two blokes had joined the two women who were doing a double shift. I had noticed these guys pitching their tent quite close to ours, a real pair of comedians. We bade them a good evening and trudged back up the hill through the quiet campsite, merging into the main campsite, past the red and yellow campsite marquee and bar, coffe shop and milk bar. Exiting this campsite we turned left through the main campervan site, which was filling rapidly, and back through to our site which had doubled its occupancy since we’d left. Our neighbour had conveniently erected a flagpole displaying a red and yellow stripped goldfish for ease of location.

After a delicious evening meal of fried pork chops and reconstituted mushroom rice, washed down with a couple of still-cool pinot grigios from blue enamel mugs (to match the kettle,) we made our way back to the main campsite tent for the live bands’ performances. They were competing for a place in next year’s line-up but couldn’t hold our attention for long. We were knackered, there was nowhere to sit and we were on shift at 8.30 the following morning so we returned to our tent. Collapsing onto the double airbed and snuggled inside the sleeping bags, wearing extra layers, fell to sleep, despite all the noise.

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