TEAM EFFORT: Volunteer Sam Grace (in buggy), manager of volunteers Matt Lyons and volunteer Jake Donohue.
TEAM EFFORT: Volunteer Sam Grace (in buggy), manager of volunteers Matt Lyons and volunteer Jake Donohue. Sue Gardiner

The volunteers keep Bluesfest humming

OF THE 600 volunteers working at Byron Bay Bluesfest this year, Mullumbimby's Olive Andrews had arguably one of the most coveted jobs - and perhaps the most intense.

The 37-year-old was tasked with escorting the photographers from media outlets to the photographers' pit in front of stage and policing the rules.

Absolutely no flashes, no sitting on the barricades and leave as soon as you're told after one or two songs.

It meant she had an uninterrupted view of some of the world's most celebrated musicians.

"It's a real privilege to see these artists up close and personal. People sit in tents for hours to get that kind of view," said Olive.

But when you have Iggy Pop and Robert Plant performing simultaneously, as on Saturday, it means a lot of wrangling as 60 photographers vie for THAT shot.

The job was all the more tricky given the number of artists and their guests who also slipped into the pit to see the legends, Olive said.

Volunteers manager Matt Lyons says volunteers are critical to the festival and run the spectrum from picking up rubbish and directing traffic to seemingly more glamorous jobs like tidying dressing rooms and catering to the artists.

They bring not just their labour but a real excitement and energy as evidenced by the number of traffic controllers you see dancing and waving madly.

Matt lives in Melbourne and works for Telstra. He said good volunteers often get paid jobs in later years - that's how he started.

"We have a volunteer return rate of at least 50%," he said.

Bluesfest.com.au took 2000 applications this year.


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