Chris Broom from The News, Portsmouth writes about volunteering for TONIC at Boomtown.
Boomtown 2023: Portsmouth charity Tonic Music For Mental Health seeks volunteers to help at festival
Music fans – and even if you’re not a music fan, it’s hard to avoid – couldnt’ have failed to notice that it was all about Glastonbury Festival.
With countless bands spread across dozens of stages, revellers were there with friends or making new friends for life, as they took the whole glorious experience in.
It may not be as sexy, but there is also a small army of people who are helping to make things go smoothly, and they are not paid to be there.
But neither have they paid to be there beyond a nominal fee – these are the volunteers.
At Glastonbury, Oxfam alone had 2,000 volunteers, while other charities such as WaterAid, had hundreds more on site.
With the cost of a weekend festival ticket often at least £200, or as much as £300 in some cases, what better way to get to enjoy the weekend while also doing something that’s good for the soul?
Closer to home, and for a charity based in Portsmouth, Tonic: Music for Mental Health is looking for 300 volunteers to help out at Boomtown Festival, which takes place on the Matterley Estate near Winchester from August 9-13.
Boomtown describes itself as ‘a parallel world that lives for just five days and nights to confront society as we know it and inspire a better reality.’ And great as that may be – it’s still going to need people to keep it running.
To volunteer for Tonic at Boomtown, you need to be 18-plus and will carry out three eight-hour shifts or four six hour shifts across the festival, depending on the type of work.
You will receive training, secure crew camping, a meal voucher for every shift, hot showers, toilets, tea and coffee, phone charging, and of course a ticket to Boomtown: Chapter 2: The Twin Trail.
As with all festival volunteering, and to hopefully prevent people from taking advantage of the opportunity, it is standard practice for the volunteer to pay a refundable deposit – in this case £200 – which will be returned, minus a non-refundable £20 admin fee, within three weeks after the festival, assuming you have completed all of your shifts satisfactorily and returned all tabards and radios.
Volunteers will be on site from Tuesday, August 8 to Monday, August 14. Among the roles volunteers will fulfil are: confiscations at the gate, overseeing the camping hubs, helping in the charity’s Never Mind The Stigma and Tonic Rider chill-out areas and on the Tonic merch stand.
Max Monsen volunteered with Tonic last year for the first time at Boomtown. He’s since also helped them at Victorious Festival in Southsea, and is planning to return with them to Boomtown.
The 26-year-old TV researcher says: ‘My father has schizophrenia and Asperger's, if something like Tonic was available 30 years ago, perhaps he wouldn't be in the situation he's in now. I just don't have a relationship with him. That’s why I volunteered, I believe in the work Tonic does – they're a great charity and it's great fun as well.’
And Max says the volunteers span a wide range of ages, from teens to pensioners. ‘The common denominator among all the volunteers was a shared love of music, and this meant that there were interesting conversations to be had throughout the evening and in quiet moments whilst on shift.
‘Everyone who volunteers there is quite lovely – they're usually fairly open, extroverted, nice, kind friendly people, so you get to work alongside cool people.
‘Once you've sampled working at festivals, you get the bug for it.’
Explaining the work he had to do at the festival, Max says: ‘My role included selling clothes at the Tonic stand and processing legal confiscated items such as gas-cannisters and high-vis tops. The confiscated items were passed to us by security, and we stored them for the customer much like you would do in a cloakroom – it was very simple work.
‘The legal confiscations side of it is quite niche, so you don't get a lot of things. And because the security guards have already crisis-managed the person, so they're already calm by the time they get to you. We didn't really see anything particularly unusual.
‘I arrived early on Tuesday and worked six-hour shifts on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I had the whole of Saturday and Sunday off before working again on Monday after the festival to assist with returning confiscated items to customers.’
Beyond volunteering at the festivals, Max is also planning to do a wing-walk for the charity as part of Barry Ashworth’s Flying Circus later this year.
Tonic’s new head of fundraising operations Luke Fuller has only recently joined the charity, but has had a long association with them through his work as the promoter behind Beats & Swing, which hosts one of the major stages at Victorious Festival as well as putting on numerous gigs throughout the year.
Luke says: ‘We want to spread the word and scale the charity up. We need to be the go-to mental health charity, not just in the music industry but all industries across the country. By getting volunteers involved that can only help grow the charity and get awareness out there.’
And he tells how this year’s Boomtown operation is a big step up for them.
‘It's massive. In previous years it's been 40-50 volunteers, but Tonic has exploded in the last six months in terms of people wanting to be involved, and companies and other charities reaching out to us. And Boomtown is the biggie – 300 is a huge number for us, it's not a five minute job to get everyone on board. We've got about 170 through at the moment, which isn't bad going.
‘You get to go to one of the best festivals in the country for next to nothing and help a mental health charity at the same time, which will tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people, for sure.’
Text from an original article in The News, Portsmouth published on 29 June 2023. Original article here.
If this blog has inspired you to volunteer at Boomtown Festival with Tonic this year, please gather your friends and sign up here:
For more information about this year's Boomtown visit: