From education to employment

Backstage passes for major music festivals gives students genuine insights

Being part of the National Skills Academy, offers many opportunities, including the chance to give students hands-on industry experience. Rob West, Programme Director at Creative & Cultural Skills, went along to one of the annual Festival Side Stage visits to find out more about what happens on the day:

Our Festival Side Stage visits have for some time been one of the most popular activities within our National Skills Academy programme. Available to Further Education Leadership Colleges as part of their membership* this unique day gives students a genuine insight into what goes on behind the scenes at some of our major music festivals including Wireless, Download, and Community Festival. This summer I took the opportunity to join one of our industry visits at the RiZe Festival in Chelmsford, Essex to see what goes on.

Our visits are hosted by Steve Cheney, who has managed the main stages at festivals including Glastonbury, Latitude and Leeds. It is almost impossible to walk around a festival site without bumping into a range of similarly experienced backstage and offstage crew who are only too willing to stop and give an insight into their job role, as well as share some amusing anecdotes from the past.

Steve starts by talking visitors through how the festival is set up administratively before taking us backstage to see the various stages being set up. Q&As take place in and around people’s busy schedules ending with students witnessing from the side of the main stage the first act and the first change over. They are then allowed to go into the crowd to see how it looks from the front.

Positive feedback

As you can imagine, being this close to the action gives students a unique insight into the mechanics of managing a festival stage, and feedback is always quick to follow a visit:

 This really was a fantastic opportunity to see behind the scenes at a major festival.

“It helped me consider more career options, as it made me more interested in the idea of being part of a lighting crew, or being involved in stage setup.”

 “This really was a fantastic opportunity to see behind the scenes at a major festival. Having previously worked on sound at grassroots level events, I was intrigued to find out how the crew all pull together to put on such a huge show, with such tight turnarounds between acts.”

The benefits are clear for employers too who also feedback on potential future crew members who catch their eye:

“I’m pleased to say that Patrick really did shine this weekend. He spent the whole weekend on stage four, and he gained a lot from the experience. As a result, I’m keen to bring him to Leeds, and would be happy for him to be there for load in, so he can see a bit more on how the systems are set up. It might also be that he could get some hands-on experience behind a desk.”

Behind the scenes

Visits are powerful, positive teaching tools that help enhance the social, personal and emotional development of learners. Sadly, it seems to be more difficult to get young people out of the classroom for a variety of reasons. Young people therefore don’t get enough opportunities to see what goes into the making of something. 

There has never been a better time to choose a career in the music industry. 

Music and art engagement, in particular, is often focused on what goes on out front, but it is behind the scenes where job opportunities exist to build a career. As UK Music Chief Executive, Michael Dugher says, 

“There has never been a better time to choose a career in the music industry. It creates over 142,000 full-time jobs in hundreds of different roles and is growing all the time. Music is worth £4.4 billion to the UK economy and the creative industries currently employ one in every 11 people!”

Our thanks to Steve for all his work in pulling together this unique opportunity, and also to all the staff and producers who make it possible. Special shout out also to our friends at Festival Republic and Live Nation who have supported us for many years on these exclusive tours.

Rob West, Programme Director at Creative & Cultural Skills

* A limited number of spaces on Festival Side Stage visits are available at a cost to other education and training providers.

Email for more informationsif your FE / HE institution are interested in finding out about our Festival Side Stage visits or any of the arena tours we run throughout the year.

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