Working on Bar at Reading Festival 2015 The Staff Boat and The Long Walk

This year I worked at Reading festival as opposed to leeds with the R&L2015 events, which meant not only different managers to I usually work for at barcode but also the staff I normally work with and a friend I got to signup to work at the events were all at leeds and I was on my own down in reading, and immediately it was noticeable just how different things were at reading compared to leeds.

The staff campsite for reading festival was located a good 40 minutes walk (and more if security were being pains not letting you walk down the exit to our campsite claiming it was for use by “emergency services only” as it was behind an emergency exit gate, luckily I was able to get out of the next emergency exit gate and use that path as opposed to the 1.5 hour walk it would be from the main exit, having walked that way on the thursday before working I knew just how far it was away. The main reason for the extra distance was that this is located pretty much inside reading city center itself as opposed to off in a field near to the town and a short bus journey away as most festivals tend to be. The staff campsite itself was located in a small football field just outside of the site, surrounded by barbed wire and concrete fences it definitely felt a little like Auschwitz with the confinement and having to line up our tents around the edge of the pitch where there was barely enough room for tents, this lead to rather cold nights without the usual guarantee of being surrounded by other tents to break the wind.

Of course I was one of the lucky few to actually take the staff boat in the morning, eliminating the long walk to the main bar, but this meant setting out early in order to catch said boat and as a result missing out on taking a shower before shifts, which were 12-15 hours depending on which bar you were set on, and with management not showing up on time the last night meant many staff were either late or missed out on lunch entirely, which despite arranging with the burger van (who held the lunches but could not release them to any staff without the manager) promising to ensure I got one, taking my name and bar number, I didn’t get a lunchpack.

The problems with the meals didn’t end there with dinner the first night being simply a burger with having my token taken at a stand which were rather stingy, thankfully this wasn’t a single stand deal like at V and using it at the pizza vendor the other nights meant a more reasonable dinner.

The event itself was actually a good atmosphere with good music, and people could get a good view of the stage without it getting really cramped, crowds maintained a fairly reasonable level even during the main acts so anyone could get a good view, and with the smaller stages there was always a small number of people watching, which also meant when I went to see black honey perform as promised I got to be right at the front despite only being out for my break to see them, and I got noticed being there by izzy who put on a really good performance.

There were a few covers performed at the festival, with limp bizkit obviously performing their usual repertoire of covers including killing in the name of which obviously goes down well, and panic! at the disco performed a really good cover of bohemian rhapsody, which made me wonder for a few seconds if queen were on stage (in their current lineup) there may have been more I wasn’t able to hear but I’m sure festival goers got their money’s worth out of the performances, not only with the live acts but also the special covers you don’t get to hear elsewhere.

Pete docherty was looking a little worse for wares on his performance and even took a break during the set, but I’m not going to follow the usual media thing of sensationalizing this as who knows the reasons behind something as it could be anniversaries of special things with amy winehouse that the public wouldn’t be aware of making him sad for all anyone knows.

Anyway on to the management of my bar, it was very different to I have usually come to expect from barcode, with 3 managers on the bar, one of which constantly marched up and down the bar shouting demoralizing propaganda (for the first day, taking it easier but still doing this saturday and to a far lesser extent on the sunday) Another bar manager constantly telling you to put your hand up and call every single customer passing to you, despite the fact that they’re funneled out of the gate system in the middle of the bar (where I was working) and pass down to the far windows to be served by those doing far less work, and thus depriving those people of doing any work and working 6 times harder myself when I have already chosen to work in the main window in order to work harder and do not need constant pushing to work harder than possible and deprive others of doing any work.

On the final day things took a different turn, with my ankle injury playing up I started working less hard and instead of getting the constant stick I constantly got praise about how hard I was working and how good a job I was doing, this felt like it was rewarding slacking off and taking it easier working while the stick was demotivating those who were working hard feeling like slave labour whipped to their extreme and beyond.

I also heard that 13 people were fired from the main bar alone, with 2 stealing £5k and £2k respectively from the tills on the bar, others fired for not turning up on shift, some drinking the stock and others I couldn’t possibly know.

Either way it just felt a little extreme, so if you’re choosing to work definitely choose leeds, there the staff meals were better when I worked there with kebabalon providing tasty large kebab portions in meat, fish and vegetarian varieties, huge stonebaked pizza’s and a far better situated staff campsite 10 minutes away from the main bars (confirmed by other workers) the site itself is much better laid out and less cramped, and the usual norther hospitality, which especially if you’re from elsewhere in the country you get welcomed even further.

The music is good though and the event is good so if you’re going as a punter and want a convenient location, you could easily walk to a hotel or train nearby if you weren’t up for the field tenting experience, but if you had the option I would always choose leeds over reading personally having experienced both.

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