Trainee Journalist

October 12, 2021 (Updated )

“The beauty of Glastonbury is that although it’s so big, they still do allow a lot of young journalists to get involved,” Yasser says. He’s covered the festival for the BBC on TV and on his own Asian Network radio show. Getting out into the crowds and experiencing the festival on behalf of people watching at home is, for him, “the best job in the world.” 

With next year’s headliner recently announced and a hopeful return to an in-person Glastonbury 2022 on the cards, we wanted to find out what it’s like to cover such a huge event as a journalist – and how you can get there in the first place.

Yasser’s first introduction to Glastonbury was hosting the BBC Introducing stage. He remembers watching Ed Sheeran first perform there and then progress up the stages to his headline slot in 2017. Glastonbury is one of the biggest events in the BBC’s calendar and their coverage on radio and TV is around the clock.

They have a media compound behind the Pyramid Stage which has its own studios, editing suites and performance areas. “If it’s for BBC TV, we would have two producers at the compound and they would be watching my pieces to camera and giving me feedback,” Yasser explains.

Yasser covering Glastonbury for the BBC (Image Credit: Supplied)

Having a big team of producers, editors and a camera crew can be useful, but he also believes being on your own can have its advantages. When he covered the festival for the Asian Network, Yasser was able to choose all the acts he wanted to see and contact the PRs directly rather than having to go through a long chain of command. “I would literally DM the artist myself, DM their managers and try and get time with them,” he says. 

For Journo Resources’s own Karen Edwards, who has covered Glastonbury for the tabloids and celebrity magazines as a freelancer, it’s never too early to build relationships with PRs. “If you’re writing about music or any kind of arts and culture, really nurture those relationships,” she says. “Flag in advance that you’re going to be there and that they can depend on you and that you’ll be in touch.”

When you’re working as a freelancer, it’s important to understand what each publication you’re working with is looking for. “For example, the Daily Star has a dedicated music page so that doesn’t need to be a showbiz-y, gossipy kind of thing”, Karen says. “It’s quite easy to separate the stories out if you know your target audience.”

How to build relationships with PRs

• Reply to emails from relevant PRs, even if it’s to let them know that the story isn’t for you. Politeness and kindness will go a long way.

• Use Twitter and LinkedIn as networking tools to connect with PRs and ask if they’ll add you to their mailing lists.

• Start reaching out early on – don’t leave it to the last minute to organise interview time with an artist.

• If you haven’t got a big name publication behind you, it’s important to represent yourself with confidence and make it clear you have previous experience.

Robbie is a journalist and PR who has worked as a volunteer for Glastonbury’s press team which decides who gets a press pass to the festival. “Anyone can get in touch with the press team, but it’s about how you approach it,” he says. The big players like the BBC, The Guardian and NME will always get their passes approved, but for smaller publications and freelancers it’s more nuanced. 

“It’s about making your idea as interesting or innovative as possible,” Robbie says. The press team get so many applications from people wanting to cover the same bands and artists, so it’s better to seek out the left-field, less well-trodden stories. He points to a student radio station who managed to get a pass for their reggae show because it was a genre not often covered by the big media organisations.

Once you’ve managed to get a press pass, the planning starts. “When the set times come out, we would go through with highlighters and think about what we should be covering,” Will Richards says. He’s covered Glastonbury over a number of years as digital editor of DIY Magazine. “It’s looking at the set and thinking: ‘Is this just going to be another routine set in their summer or is this a band which Glastonbury means so much to?’”

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Journo Resources

Will Richards (L) and Karen Edwards (R)

He remembers watching Idols perform at the festival for the first time in 2019 and seeing how much it meant to the band and to the crowd. “That’s the sort of thing that we want to go and see,” he says.

Will believes journalists at festivals should not only offer their own opinion on the weekend’s performances, but also reflect the consensus of the crowd.

“I came out of the Stormzy set and it was so overwhelming: there were so many special guests and he said so much on stage,” Will says. Trekking back to the press area, he listened to the punters walking alongside him who were discussing which moments they liked best. “You note that down and get a sense of what people at the festival are thinking because as a reviewer you put some of yourself into the review, but you also need to reflect what the fans are saying.”

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"It’s looking at the set and thinking: ‘Is this just going to be another routine set in their summer or is this a band which Glastonbury means so much to?’”
Will Richards

Journalists will usually get around 15-20 minutes with an artist, either backstage or in the dedicated press area. Will remembers interviewing Daughter on their tour bus behind the Park Stage. “That’s always quite nice to get an idea of how a band arrives to somewhere like this and how their days go when they get there, just hanging out on their tour bus,” he says. 

“It’s always dependent on time but it’s often good to get them somewhere interesting – that adds colour to the piece – especially if you’re doing audio like a podcast.” He advises keeping your questions up-beat and talking about the atmosphere of the festival itself rather than deep-diving into the music. 

“Be curious about what’s going on around you,” he says. “I think it’s good to make a plan but you also need to listen to what people are talking about. If you get a hunch that something is going to be more special than something else playing at the same time, that’s the one you should go for.”

How To Get A Press Pass For Glastonbury

• Press accreditation opens for Glastonbury 2022 early next year, so now is the time to be building those PR relationships.

• Think about what parts of Glastonbury don’t receive much media coverage and develop your stories ideas around them.

• Offer your services as a freelancer to relevant publications you have built connections with and make sure they know you are dependable.

• If you are early on in your career, it’s important to get across to the press team that your ideas are unique and not just going over well-trodden ground.

For Yasser, Glastonbury is ultimately about embracing the weird and wonderful, seeking out characters which make the festival what it is. In the Shangri-La area, he remembers a man handing him a hammer and challenging him to hit a “weird rubber chicken” as many times as possible to win a suggestive novelty necklace. “There was a leader board as well”, he laughs. “It felt like a dream – it might have been actually.” 

“I think a lot of times when you think of a big festival, you think ‘maybe I’m not good enough or maybe I’m too small-time for it,’” Yasser says. “I think that’s the worst thing you can think because when it comes to Glastonbury or any other major festival, they really want people to come and cover their stuff because that’s how they get the word out.”

“Don’t ever think because you’re just starting out, you won’t get the opportunities. I think just go for the top and hopefully you’ll get what you want.”

Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor

Tom joined the Journo Resources team in mid-2021 as a trainee, and will focus on writing original features and content during his time at Journo Resources. Tom also takes the lead on our Twitter account, as well as keeping our resources and jobs board up to date.

Based in Manchester, Tom is also the editor of Salt Magazine, and independent magazine sharing arts, music, and culture across Greater Manchester.