Tapping into the spirit of Glastonbury

Standing in a muddy field listening to rock 'n' roll bands may not be everyone's idea of a worthwhile way to pass the time, but for a growing number of charities the summer festival season presents a good opportunity to engage with new supporters.

This year's Glastonbury Festival played host to several organisations in addition to its official charities - Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid.

ActionAid had a presence for the first time after negotiating to have a space in Greenpeace's African-themed field.

ActionAid is also the only charity to have a marquee at the Reading Festival, which it has been attending for four years. This year's theme will be "Bollocks to Poverty" and is organised by the charity's youth network, which targets 16-24 year-olds.

The marquee has sofas and table football during the day, then karaoke and a DJ set until 3am.

Anella Whickenden, ActionAid's project and events officer, says: "It's basically a chill-out tent, and people are under no obligation to take part in any of our campaigns. A lot of young people associate charities with feeling guilty and see them as a bit naff - we want to get them to see it as something cool and fun."

Luke Rogers from NCH agrees that festivals are no place for the hard sell. He says: "We've had a stall at Glastonbury for four years now, but we don't try to get people to set up a standing order or anything like that. We see it as a chance to give something back. This year we handed out free waterproof ponchos."

For the National Missing Person's Helpline, attending Glastonbury is an extension of its day-to-day work. A spokeswoman for the NMPH, Sophie Woodforde, explains: "We first started going because we realised it was a useful way of making contact with missing people. It used to be more alternative and attracted more people who had dropped out of society.

One year, a man who had been missing for 17 years, since he was 18, saw our stall and decided to get in touch with his mum."

Its stall at last year's Glastonbury located two more runaways. Woodforde adds: "We are now looking at targeting smaller festivals that still attract more traveller and hippy types."

indira.das-gupta@haynet.com.

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