Cheltenham festival from the inside

Jack Webster (year 3) tells us about interning at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and other summer placements:

Image 03In May 2013, I did a volunteer placement at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. I, along with several others, arrived a few days before it started to help the production team set up the festival. The placement was very hands-on, rather than being office-based, and I found myself working in a variety of areas. In the days leading up to the festival, I helped set up the site and stage areas. During the festival, I assumed many roles including stage manager of the free stage, artist liaison (pandering to artists before and after they perform), and I occasionally ran the Festival’s silent cinema. I also stewarded in one of the two large arenas for a few days, which enabled me to see some superb music.

Most memorable experiences?  I got free seats to watch one of my favourite fusion guitarists, Mike Stern, perform at the festival – I managed to catch him sound checking beforehand too. Furthermore, I watched my [current] favourite band, Roller Trio, perform a joint set with Polar Bear, another exceptional modern jazz group, and I met and chatted to the band afterwards. I watched the singer Gregory Porter do an intimate, late-night jam session at a ritzy hotel; I had to endure exhaustion and overpriced drinks until the early hours of the morning, but it was worthwhile. I met Gregory Porter that night too. I saw a host of other artists, but these moments are favourites of mine.

What have you done since?

Image 04In August, I completed a three-week placement at the Groundlings Theatre, a growing arts venue located near Portsmouth harbour. I helped the Artistic Director organise the Victorian Festival of Christmas, a three-day festival that will take place at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I learnt about the methodology of large-scale event organisation and people management, but it was office-based and less hands-on than Cheltenham. This was my first Monday-to-Friday, nine-to-five job; it was a culture shock.

In mid-September, I volunteered for the International Musicians Seminar, a residential chamber-music seminar and concert series that attracts professional musicians from around the world. I was the stage manager and provided office support (e.g. overseeing the music library) during my week there. The seminars took place at a privately owned estate in a very secluded and picturesque part of Cornwall.