How metal fans are teaming up to tackle loneliness at Download Festival

The five-day event can be intimidating for the lone reveller – that’s why Camp Loner is getting the whole band together

“Because it is alternative stuff, is rock and metal, many people in our group didn’t have a ton of friends in school and were marginalised,” Ben Willmott tells The Big Issue in this week’s magazine.

The 27-year-old from Worthing is one of three people who helps to run Camp Loner at Download Festival.

Camp Loner Ben Willmott
R-L-Chris-Morris-Louise-Bedwell-Ben-Wilmott-Download-Festival-Camp-Loner
Ben Willmott (right) helps to run Camp Loner with Chris Morris and Louise Bedwell

It’s a simple idea: if you’re travelling to the festival alone and have no one to help carry your beers or help push those tent pegs into the ground then Loner offers a community of like-minded pals to pitch your tent with.

The community started almost by accident in 2008 when one reveller from Jersey was let down by his pals and searched for others to join him at the festival campsite. He got together 35 to 40 people that year and that pales in comparison to the numbers involved with Camp Loner now.

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Since 1991 The Big Issue has sold more than 200,000,000 copies – helping the most vulnerable in society earn more than £115 million.

With up to 1,000 people joining the community every year, organisers have even allotted Camp Loner its own spot on the campsite while Ben and his fellow ringleaders arrange community meet-ups to “keep the vibe” going throughout the year.

It’s a small part of the five-day metal extravaganza held each June at Donington Park in Leicestershire – but the impact it can have is enormous, according to Ben.

“Going on your own can be very daunting – there is 90,000 of them and one of you, there’s five whole days and you’re in the middle of nowhere, what do you do? What do you say? Actually it is one of the easiest things in the world,” he said.

“Yes, you do have to sort of reach out to engage in conversation but that little investment pays back a thousand-fold in a matter of hours.”

Read more about how Camp Loner and gigs can be used to bite back against loneliness in this week’s Big Issue magazine, available from vendors and The Big Issue Shop now.