How can I work backstage at festivals?

Phil has been working as a Mechanical Engineer since leaving school and wants to move into working behind scenes at festivals.

I am 23 years old and, since leaving school at 16, I have worked as a mechanical engineer and then for the past 5-6 years as an electrical technician for a major British rail firm. This involves maintaining, faulting, replacing and installing all types of electrical and mechanical equipment and systems all over the railway infrastructure.

As great as this job can be, as a lifetime festival goer it has always been dream job of mine to be one of those guys who are involved with setting up of such events and would really like to do something about it. 

I realise this is quite a specific question but any advice on how to get started - such as engineering firms involved - would be very much welcome. Thank you.

— Phil

Expert answers

Rose Durbin's reply:

​Hi Phil. There are various different jobs involved in setting up festivals - there are crewing companies, who provide the bodies to help with the manual side of the job - such as moving backline, staging, PA systems, etc. These crew firms are contracted by the festival organizers - for example, we have Handball Crew in Manchester, and they can be found working on most events in and around the city. You need to be fit and fairly strong, and to have the ability to work fast at really unsociable hours in a team. The ability to fix stuff is also very useful, and if you can gain experience of setting up PA and lighting systems, all the better - you wouldn’t need to operate the equipment necessarily but knowing how it all fits together is good and something you could pick up along the way.

Crew are also used on the load-in and out, and for getting bands’ gear on- and offstage during the gig.

On site electricians are responsible for all the electrical supplies to the stages, concessions, etc., and generator supply companies also employ crew as technical support and to maintain electrical supplies (pretty vital!). Of course, you need to have the relevant qualifications for all jobs associated with anything electrical and would need to be prepared to prove this to the event safety officer. This site has a list of all relevant qualifications you would need:

The other way is to work for specific PA and lighting companies, or staging companies - and then that company would be contracted by the festival organizers.

It sounds like you have practical skills that would be transferable, so it would be a case of approaching the various companies out there. This site has a list of companies that regularly work at festivals.

Firstly, though, I would be clear about exactly what area of festival site-building you are interested in, and then you’ll need to research the companies who are involved in that line of business.

Hopefully that is of some assistance to you, Phil - good luck!

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