Interview: Mel Tompkins

The senior media officer at the international development charity WaterAid talks to Annette Rawstrone about the organisation's presence at music festivals

Mel Tompkins
Mel Tompkins

- You've just returned from Bestival. How does your charity benefit from having a presence at festivals?

This was our first time at Bestival, held on the Isle of Wight, and we had only a small presence: however, we've been one of Glastonbury's three charity partners - along with Oxfam and Greenpeace - since 1994. Festivals are great for campaigning and raising awareness about issues of water and sanitation, because festival-goers don't have their usual creature comforts. Most people are very open to our message because there is a socially conscious vibe.

- Do you get to see the musical acts?

It is mainly work but there is no point manning our tent when people stop paying attention, so we do get to see the later acts - you can't compete with Stevie Wonder!

- You left a career in TV to volunteer for WaterAid. Would you recommend this route into charity comms?

Volunteering is a good way in because you can understand the organisation and what the role involves, and see whether it suits you. It also shows that you are committed and passionate, which helps you to stand out when so many people apply for jobs.

- What do you particularly enjoy about your job?

There is always something exciting to put your energy behind and I always wanted to work in international development. I've been lucky to visit projects and see the difference our work makes.

- Is it difficult to generate interest in your cause?

Issues about toilets and sanitation are becoming less taboo, but it's important to know when a serious tone is needed - such as providing hard-hitting impact stories for the broadsheets - and when to take a more light-hearted approach for more mass-market coverage. We have a giant poo costume, which is quite famous now at Glastonbury and always gets a warm welcome. It has even stood on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square.

Mel Tompkins is senior media officer at the international development charity WaterAid

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