Anatomy of a Beer Festival Part 12

Part 12: Staffing


With the beer list and programme out of the way there is usually about 2 weeks left before the festival and my main focus turns to staff recruitment.  I’m not one for being stuck behind a bar all night so I volunteered to be the Assistant Staffing Officer at our second festival and then took over the reigns as the main Staffing Officer from our third festival onwards.


I write and make the first appeal for staff approximately four to six weeks before the event with a chaser two to three weeks before and then a final call seven to ten days before.  Usually the last week is spent contacting people by telephone to recruit the last remaining volunteers required.


I keep an up-to-date list of all the people that have volunteered over the years and when it gets closer to the festival I chase the ones who haven’t replied.  Getting cover for Friday and Saturday nights is usually the difficult part but fortunately we’ve never ended up short even though at times I’ve still been frantically ringing people on the Tuesday night before the Thursday opening.


This is a tricky job, not least for me as it’s another task which needs doing in the period immediately before the festival at the same time as I’m finalising the beer list and co-ordinating the festival programme.  The main issues lie with getting enough volunteers and then having enough people to cover the various roles.  Most people don’t volunteer until two to three weeks before the event which can make it quite stressful when the festival is approaching and confirmed numbers are low.  It usually follows the same pattern each year although this time I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a lot more volunteering much earlier than usual.


Most of our volunteers want to work behind the bar and quite a lot of them are quite content to stay there all night.  It is filling the other roles that is more difficult and I try wherever possible to rotate people to stop anyone getting bored.  The other roles include:


  • Admissions
  • Glasses and tokens
  • Manning the membership desk
  • Running the tombola
  • Assistant Treasurer
  • Bar managers (for both the Cider & Real Ale bars)
  • Working on the cider bar
  • Cellar staff (looking after the conditioning of the beer & dealing with any problems with the equipment)
  • Site Manager
  • Set up and take down (including loading and unloading of equipment)


We have always been fortunate to have reliable people in key roles and then a number of other people who are flexible and capable of doing whatever is necessary.  The ability to work as part of a team is a very important skill requirement if the festival is to be a success.


We must be doing something right, though, as we have a number of people who work year after year.  We try to pay great attention to making it an enjoyable event for staff and punters alike because if you keep your staff happy they’ll keep your punters happy.  We offer beer tokens, food tokens, a staff t-shirt and, more recently, a staff party with a free buffet and some free beer for those 80 or so people who work tirelessly to ensure the event is a success.


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