Download Festival 2022 – A review from a staff member
By Kira Gibson
I dreamed of one day going to Download Festival. My dream came true this year when I was able to arrive at Donington Park, ready for Download 2022 in June.
I wasn’t expecting to walk nearly three miles just to get to the arena, where I would be camped out with the rest of the merchandising staff working the event.
The site was massively spread out, with the village being another mile or two away from the arena in the opposite direction to where I’d originally come from. Another mile away from the arena was the RIP area where they had their own stage and stalls (a perk of being able to afford to camp in that area).
The day I turned up, I was dropped off at 6:30am at the blue gate and had to walk for what seemed like forever in a straight line, unsure if I was going in the right direction to get to work. Instead of it being forever, it was more like an hour, along three miles on a straight road, carrying and pulling a suitcase and my tent, along with my bedding and other things needed for the week (June 8-12).
I’d never been camping alone, had no idea how to put up a tent and yet I still pushed myself with excitement that I was finally here at the festival I’d dreamed about for the last 19 years of my life.
My role in the event meant I was able to access anywhere on the site, and I could enjoy the premium showers and toilets that were only allocated for RIP ticket holders. All of this added to my happiness about working at the event I’d only ever wished I could be a part of.
During the lead up to the event, I added many groups on social media to figure out what to expect during the festival, something of which came in handy on the job. Posting on social media about what I was selling brought ticket holders to my stall and sent rumours flying around the site about what was being sold at the stall I worked for the majority of the week.
I was able to see what bands I wanted to see, as I was given breaks during the day to go and watch bands and get something to eat. Shifts varied depending on where you were stationed and if you wished to work more hours after you finished working after the stall you were on had closed, you were given that choice.
However, the week wasn’t without challenges. The festival was a cashless event which caused major issues for me when buying my lunch. I was being paid for lunch during the day with cash. Thankfully, there was a co-op shop in the village which took cash on a couple of tills so I was able to have something to eat other than Pot Noodles and snacks that the company provided.
Another issue that had arisen during my time at the festival was multiple brushes with security guards that challenged me on my staff status and on my disabilities.
I was challenged on the second night at the festival due to forgetting my hi vis at the stall where I was working for the weekend. I was informed I wasn’t allowed to access my tent due to not having it, because I wasn’t allowed in the arena without it. I did end up being able to go to my tent without it, because another guard talked to me about it and we sorted the issue, but it didn’t stop a few people eyeing me up and wondering whether I was staff or not despite having the wristband.
The biggest problem I had with security was on the Saturday night after Iron Maiden. I came back from the village after they had finished and the crowd had been funnelled out to the different campsites across the park. I came to cross the crowd and when they stopped for a minute to let a vehicle through, I crossed the busy street. I was confronted by a security guard who, despite me having a hoodie saying I was staff and the wristband, did not believe I was staff and certainly didn’t believe I was disabled.
The guard wanted me to walk the long way round, back to the village to get to my campsite… which was in the arena and the complete opposite direction to where they were sending me. I told them I was disabled (not even a day before this, I was struggling to walk) and they looked me up and down, and said with a hint of disgust in their voice: ‘I’ve heard all of that before.’
I was able to resolve the issue by talking to one of their superiors after the particular security guard had walked away, but it highlighted a bigger problem across the site. Some people only decided to enforce the rules when it suited them. Others were around me at the time that weren’t staff and hadn’t been approached by anyone.
An ex-security guard at Download who attended as a normal attendee this year with his family, Stephen Hemphill said: “We had our autistic children searched on Sunday evening which we have taken to the head of Festival Republic and the matter has been settled. The days before we were never searched at all.
“The matter is resolved and I have full respect for Festival Republic on how they handled it.
“We have had this issue sorted for everyone as my kids’ disability isn’t visible so some staff will be trained a lot better.”
His experience, along with mine and many others, shows that sometimes not everything goes to plan. Whether it’s staff or members of the public, something can always go wrong. However, it’s the way that people handle it that can show how well a festival is run.
The experience I had working at Download 2022, was one of the best weeks of my life. I was able to see bands I had wanted to see for a long time, and meet some amazing people who I am still in contact with nearly two months later.