My Experience at The Great Escape Festival 2024

Music Business and Entrepreneurship student Shaun English talks us through his volunteering experience at Brighton's legendary Great Escape Festival.


The Great Escape is a festival offering opportunities for grassroots and up-and-coming musicians, both local and international, to play on a big stage in Brighton, the best city of culture on the South Coast. However, this festival doesn't only provide a shiny venue for musicians, but also invaluable opportunities for those aspiring to work in the live music sector too.

I recently had the chance to volunteer at The Great Escape Festival. Every year, the festival offers multiple volunteering opportunities, from bar staff to technical assistants, to manage such a large-scale event with hundreds of performing artists from across the globe.

The Daily Routine

Every shift I enjoyed was different. Since the volunteers could pick where and when to work, I chose the renowned LGBTQ+ bar Revenge, a small bar called Horatios on Brighton pier, and the festival hub, Jubilee Square, across each of the three separate days.

All my roles were as a Venue Assistant, reporting directly to the Production Manager to ensure live performances ran smoothly.

My job involved liaising with the artists and their managers, answering their questions, keeping to time and schedule, and offering a hand to colleagues wherever I could. By the end of the festival, I started to help with technical operations when they had a staff shortage and needed an extra person."

The day would start with me signing in and collecting a lunch pass from the hub, getting changed into a Great Escape t-shirt, and then walking to the venue with the Production Manager's name lodged in my head, desperately trying not to forget it.

After checking in with them, and being given a tour, I was told to be on standby for any work. Because of the hot weather, staff were encouraged to take a lot of breaks where they could.

At the end of each shift, we could return to the hub to collect a wristband and watch a performance for free, which I always looked forward to.

What I Learned From the Experience

For someone like me who has never had prior first-hand experience working in the live industry, having only had an idea of what the festival setting would be like through my studies, it surprised me with how easy-going and natural it all felt.

There was no pressure, as long as the staff knew where things were, and everyone was super nice and helpful. In moments which would have caused minor alarm bells in my head, such as when some of the artist's gear went missing half an hour before the set, the problem was solved quickly.

The most important aspect of my job was communication. It was vital that the staff and artists knew what was going on, concerning changes, scheduling problems, and absences to stop any discord or stress rising."

The way it worked reminded me of a machine (a fairly overused comparison I am aware of), in which each person knew their roles and responsibilities to keep it all running smoothly.

From the Eyes of the Staff

Nyla is part of the Great Escape management crew and was my boss there. She originally worked as a Tour Manager for eight years and in Event Assistant roles at festivals such as Latitude before becoming Production Manager at one of the venues, the Jubilee Square ground.

Great Escape Festival 2024

Her tireless work kept everything on schedule and running properly, providing regular information to festival management, artists and staff. The biggest thing she values in doing her job is "the importance of having a good team around you (her)".

With a large chunk of workers being volunteers, they are there to help and put their all in, despite whatever motivations they have, which is what we have had this year.

Commenting on this year's event, she said: 

The festival has been great. It is a hectic place due to the nature of the shows, with 34 venues and over 500 artists. But the team has been great; any issues which we have had we have dealt with them quickly and it is a really nice atmosphere." 

Why Does this Experience Matter?

The Great Escape is ready to offer these positions to people who may have the drive and ambition but not the experience and knowledge. Putting your foot out there, whether you are an artist or a manager, whether you are more confident or less so, is the most tricky step people in this industry have to take.

Many of my colleagues there were either in the same boat or had undertaken this work before, so they understood the challenges. There are comparatively few opportunities for aspiring business students to gain experience in more substantial positions.

Of course, there is the networking aspect, too, which comes down to who you interact with and build a rapport with.

Even though this is a voluntary job, doing your best is heavily appreciated, and even without that industry aspect, it is a nice social activity. You never know when you are going to be useful."

I experienced this firsthand when I ended up helping with two-way translation work for the Japanese alt-rock band Helsinki Lambda Club while they were performing on the Jubilee Stage. The kicker was that I had no idea who they were before this event, but I helped ensure proper communication throughout the day, and the gratitude I received from both the band and the organisers was heartwarming and kind.

Over the past 17 years, this festival has provided a sanctuary for the celebration of budding music minds across the world. It has been proven that once again, it can provide opportunities to those wishing to kickstart their careers in the industry. Yes, there is no money involved, but the sheer scale of the event, whether you are working or a customer, makes you want to get lost in the music and develop into a more knowledgeable industry prospect.

Main Image: By Hollymcc1 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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To completely immerse yourself in your music career, email our friendly Admissions Team at or call them on 020 7328 0222.

School of Music Business
by Shaun English
June 4, 2024
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