In March this year, when heading out to Ultra Festival in Miami as a production assistant, I found I was pregnant. Most of the people I know who work in festival production are women yet during my frantic googling sessions between shifts I couldn’t seem to find anything written by a person in the same situation as me. Which is part of the reason I’m writing this now, months later.
There must be more women out there, who love working in live events and when they find out they’re pregnant, continue to work. Being pregnant at a festival can be tiring. Being pregnant at a festival and working I found exhausting. However, when you work in this industry because of the hours and the intensity you are often shattered. It’s definitely manageable. Also, for me, it is worth it. This is my experience.
In Feb of this year I successfully applied for a production assistant position with Arcadia Spectacular. This was a complete dream come true for me. I’ve admired Arcadia’s work for years. They are innovative and completely creative, I love what they make and how they do it. All of my friends who had encountered them in a professional capacity spoke about how they were hard working, efficient and well organised. Actually, some of my friends said their efficiency bordered on scary but that just appealed even more to me! If you aren’t familiar with their work, check them out here.
They bring their fantastic beast out to play with amazing DJs all over the world as well as British festivals, most famously Glastonbury. And I was going to get to be part of that. Amazing. After they offered me the position, they then asked if I would like to join them in Miami at their show for Ultra Festival. YES. YES. YES. I fly out to Miami, ready to work my socks off and make the absolute most out of this amazing opportunity when, of course, life spots me making progress in my career. I find out I’m pregnant. I am happy, a bit frightened and also 1000s of miles away from my loved ones.
I arrive. Onsite in incredible heat, trying to remember 50 people’s names, doing my best to be useful and do my job well, and trying not to vomit into suffocatingly hot open portaloos. And I’m tired. So tired. Me, who usually wakes up at 7am like a Disney princess and then can party for days, who loves running about and has loads of excess energy. I’m falling asleep in the shuttle back to the hotel. Dragging myself out of bed in the morning. On top of this sudden urge to take 3 naps a day, jet lag has also decided to make an appearance.
It turns out that all the reasons that I wanted to work with Arcadia are true, and more so. Every person on that team is incredibly hard working and shows complete dedication to what they are doing. It is genuinely wonderful to see. It made me want to be better at what I was doing, and in my opinion they wouldn’t be able to achieve the crazy inspiring shows that they do if it wasn’t for the people behind it working their hearts out. I was completely exhausted (if you haven’t been pregnant before for some people, me included, the first trimester is like being given a load of valium and then strapped on to the teacups all day) but I worked as hard as I could and had a huge rush of satisfaction watching the show come together and knowing that I had contributed to it.
I hadn’t really told anyone that I was pregnant, I was only a few weeks, so I didn’t feel I could share it with the people I was working with. I hadn’t had long enough to process it myself. In MANY other environments working on an event it would have become pretty obvious pretty quick that I was pregnant but because Arcadia are completely hardline on drinking either before or while you’re working it wasn’t really noticeable. Which was nice, because I wasn’t ready to have that conversation with new coworkers yet.
I found that being pregnant didn’t mean that I couldn’t do as good a job, but it did mean that I had to think strategically about my energy levels and work a lot more efficiently than I have before. It took me nearly a week to get used to it, by the time show day rolled around I was into a good swing. There was I learnt a lot there that I have since taken forwards with me into later shows. Instead of getting to know everyone by having a wind down with a few beers after a shift, I took the time to spend time with people before work when I had a bit more energy. When jet lag didn’t let me sleep, I went downstairs and if anyone else was also awake we’d go and watch the sunrise. It meant I got to connect with people, but I wasn’t staying up past when I was capable.
For anyone that finds themselves in a similar position, it is difficult – especially, if like me, it is your first time working a gig with everyone and you don’t have anyone you’re particularly close to with you. However, if you want an easy going stress free job, you’re in the wrong industry. You have to work harder than usual, but that’s okay. Many people have to work harder, or work smarter because of elements completely outside their control. For me, having to get better at how I work because of what should be an unrelated circumstance isn’t something to get frustrated at, it’s an opportunity to improve born out of necessity.