Working with festivals

Festivals are a growing part of the UK’s cultural life, occurring annually and representing a full range of topics, including science, arts, film, literary and child / family-oriented.

Many universities are involved in festivals, which can be a fun and effective opportunity to engage with the public, making the most of the knowledge and talents of staff and students.  


  • Universities can organise their own festivals in which the whole organisation gets involved with activities happening across multiple venues, both within the university and further afield. This requires a lots of resources, but can make a big impact within the local community.  

  • Smaller teams from universities (e.g. a research group or department) can take a hands-on activity or workshop to other festivals, or might be invited to participate as speakers in the festival programme. This gives a great opportunity to get involved in a large, well-publicised event without having to commit a large amount of time or resources.  

  • Finally, students can apply to work with other organisations, such as Oxfam, at larger festivals such as Glastonbury. 


Festivals can offer a valuable opportunity for students and higher education institutions to engage the public with their work, and to promote the activity and benefits of higher education. They enable students and staff to encounter members of the public face to face and make use of diverse formats for public engagement, including talks, discussions, workshops, hands-on activities, performance, educational sessions in schools, and much more. The way in which they generate excitement and a sense of community around particular aspects of culture has proven to be popular with audiences.


University Engagement in Festivals: Top Tips and Case Studies

University Engagement in Festivals: Top Tips and Case Studies is a practical guide to some of the different aspects of engaging with festivals. The Top Tips cover: 

  • Involving Student Volunteers in Festivals 

  • Effective Co-operations between Universities and Festivals 

  • Organising Stands / Drop-in Events at Festivals 

  • Marketing Educational Festivals to the Public 

  • Evaluating Educational Festivals 

These are then illustrated by five case studies of university student engagement in festivals. 

The Role of University Student Volunteers in Festival-based Public Engagement

The Role of University Student Volunteers in Festival-based Public Engagement presents our research exploring the role of university students in festival-based public engagement.  It finds that University student volunteers play a key role in making festivals effective spaces for public engagement. Not only do they bring enthusiasm - which was identified as invaluable for enhancing visitor experiences - but they provide crucial human resource without which many cash-strapped festivals could not successfully operate.