Volunteering at The Great British Beer Festival
All CAMRA festivals are staffed by the dedicated and invaluable CAMRA members and the Great British Beer Festival is no different.
Taking part in a CAMRA festival is a great way to meet new people, learn new things and expand the CV, all while bringing real ale to life for our visitors.
We value each and every member of the festival teams and understand the commitment it takes to work at the Great British Beer Festival. With that in mind, we are delighted to offer a range of incentives to each volunteer.
- Exclusive GBBF Volunteers’ t-shirt
- Free Festival glass
- Free Festival programme
- Free entry to a session of the festival
- Use of free staff bar – The Volunteer Arms, and discounts on beers available to the public
- Subsidised canteen
- Discounts on some of the stalls within the festival
- Free accommodation or subsidy hotel depending on hours worked
We are still in the beginning stages so we are not quite ready yet. We are expecting our application portal to be available in April, so do check back. If you have any problems or questions about volunteering, then email firstname.lastname@example.org where Paula, Laura or Liz will answer your query.
Need to know more? Here are a few words from our volunteers
Petteri Hänninen, 33
I’m from Finland and the first time I came to GBBF, I was visiting London and saw this as a way to spend a few days. The year after, I volunteered for five days, and then on the third year, I worked full time at the festival as a deputy bar manager. I came to enjoy the atmosphere created by the volunteers and the good beers – both to drink and serve them to people who may or may not already be a fan of real ale.
Sarah Chaney, 37
I’ve volunteered twice but would like to more. There was quite a long gap between the two, as I actually forgot how much fun it is! I like that it doesn’t feel like work, that everyone’s very friendly and supportive, and the customers are also generally laid back and chatty. So what I like most is the atmosphere (even slightly more than the range of beer and the Volunteer Arms!).
Luca Giaccone, 42
Lorenzo Dabove (aka Kuaska) has been a volunteer for a long time and when he started to bring some Italian beers to the festival he convinced me it was the right place to come. Since 2005, together with other Italians, I volunteer in the Belgian, Italian & Dutch Bar, promoting a selection of our wonderful Italian crafts.
For me it’s really interesting to see how Italian beers reputation has changed, during these years: at first, there was surprise, then interest, now high regard.
Andrew Miles, 44
The first year that I volunteered I only did one daytime session. The second time, 2 years later, I did the same but I went back onto the same games stand and the team remembered me. Following times I worked 3 sessions and then slowly increased this over the years.
Last year I did the whole of the festival, and this year I plan to do the same. All of the people have been so friendly and welcoming, and every year I have learned more and more about beer and what it takes to put the festival on. I also recognise a few regular attendees, and it’s nice to be able to greet people on both sides of the bar. It’s a real change to my normal desk job, and it’s rewarding to have fun and help everyone working or attending to have a few laughs too.
Gillian Hough, 51
I’ve volunteered at the GBBF every year since 1992 apart from a few years off. I initially volunteered on the cider and perry bar and over time I’ve completed both my Bar Manager Training and my Cider Bar Manager Training. I’ve worked in staffing, games and collectables, sign writing, wet stock, Champion Beer of Britain Competition, publicity, charity, bar serving and delivering training and loved being part of each team.
I’ve met and made friends from all over the UK. Sometimes it feels a bit like a big family event when you meet people you care about and catch up. At the core of all that I enjoy about GBBF it is our customers. I love serving them, having a laugh, being professional and helping people awaken their taste buds and begin to choose what they like best.
Simon Williams, 55
I volunteered for the first time last year. I wanted to see how it worked and to “give something back”. I was there for the setup, the festival itself, and the takedown. I was amazed by the level of detail needed in the plans to make sure it was a great event. Building bars is hard work but the team is friendly and there is time to socialise when the day’s work is done, which I hadn’t anticipated. Equally, during the festival, it can get very busy at times, but the volunteers are well looked after and there is ample opportunity to sample the delights of the festival.
I hadn’t done anything for years that involved dealing directly with the public and that was entertaining and enjoyable. I hadn’t realised the mix of people that attended the GBBF and that gave variety. I do hope that I can make it back this year and in years to come for the camaraderie and the satisfaction of putting on a good show.
Arthur Cruttenden, 77
I went to Covent Garden in 1975 and had a bloody good time, so when I heard about Ally Pally in ’77, I went with a group from my local. I walked in and before I’d even gotten a glass, I heard a voice saying: “Arthur – staffing office is over there” so “there” I went, discovered that for staff, beer was free and keep going “there”.
I’ve volunteered for every GBBF since, and for a good number of other festivals, and will continue to do so for as long as I keep having a bloody good time.
I still can’t remember just who it was told me to go “there” and can’t decide whether or not I’d thank him – or thump him.
Richard Shervington, 56
My first GBBF was in 1996 as a steward and since 1998 as a member of the Night Team.
Why do I volunteer? Perhaps that can be summed up by very badly misquoting President Kennedy ‘ask not what your campaign can do for you; ask what you can do for your campaign’. Simply put it is what I can do to put something back into the campaign. The subsidised accommodation in halls of residence and staff canteen food is of a great help to those of us of limited financial resources, otherwise, I would find it very difficult to attend.
I get to meet lots of friends from all over the country some of whom I only see once a year in August at GBBF. Time to socialise, although having a beer at 08.30 with my dinner (breakfast to others) does raise a few eyebrows!!
David Woodhead, 64
I’m a volunteer because it’s great fun; pulling a pint, half or third of beer while chatting with the customer; we all have the same thing in common: beer/ale.
I am what’s known as a floater, I don’t like to be in the same place. Last year I was on 3 different bars, Glasses & the Foyer. By doing this you get to see everybody who comes to the fest, meet old friends, make new ones and have a laugh. It can be hard work, but it’s ‘worth the pain’ when at the end of the day, The Volunteer Arms opens.
I give up my time because I enjoy doing it, as do the other guys and gals. I would (and do) recommend to any member new or old – spend a day or three, or all week from setup to take down, as a volunteer at GBBF, you won’t regret it!
Ian Garrett, 65
I have now worked 23 successive GBBFs on the BSF bar but I first volunteered when it was held in Leeds. I was asked to help on the Belgian Bar, where I met Richard Larkin.
Richard was most enthusiastic and welcomed me like a long-lost friend quickly determining that I had much to learn about the beers on offer. I loved it and worked the second year as well.
It was several years before I ventured to GBBF again where I was told (by a friend) that I had to volunteer for Bieres Sans Frontieres (BSF) and have since become the BSF Controller where under my stewardship BSF has expanded.
I have had the pleasure of spending quality time with people I consider friends, we have a strong core of regular volunteers who come from around the World. I have met Brewers from around the Globe. I’ve sampled some exceptional beers. And, I have a confession to make, I’ve never served a British Beer at GBBF.
Geoff Danswan, 70
In my early years, visits to Earls Court and Olympia were quite normal but not for a beer festival. Then followed a move to Wiltshire, new job, family and eventually visits to the Swindon Beer Festival when I joined CAMRA. Apart from Swindon, the ensuing years saw me as a visitor or volunteer at local or provincial beer festivals, and also as a visitor to Earls Court and Olympia Great British Beer Festivals.
With age-related deafness, I was working considerably slower than other members of the team and it was with reluctance that I decided to ask for a transfer to less noisy environment. That was not a problem and I was sent for a trial at the CAMRA Brewery Shop, the fund-raising arm of CAMRA. Here visitors can purchase souvenirs and collectables ranging from beer mats, pump clips and bar towels to glasses, posters, secondhand books and other breweriana.