YEARS ACTIVE 1955–present
The READING AND LEEDS FESTIVALS are a pair of annual rock music
festivals that take place in Reading and
The READING FESTIVAL, the original and senior of the two, is the
world's oldest popular music festival still in existence and has
hosted many of the UK's most famous acts over the years, including The
The festivals are run by
Festival Republic , which was divested from
Mean Fiddler Music Group. For promotional purposes during 1998–2007
they were known as the
Carling Weekend: Reading and the Carling
Weekend: Leeds. These titles were seldom used when not required,
NME were contractually obliged to do so as part of their
involvement. In November 2007, the organisers welcomed "Reading
Festival reclaiming its prestigious name" when the sponsored title was
abolished after 9 years. In 2011, the capacity of the Reading site
was 87,000 and the
* 1 Stages
* 2 History
* 2.1 1950s * 2.2 1960s * 2.3 1970s * 2.4 1980s * 2.5 1990s * 2.6 2000s * 2.7 2010s
* 3 List of headliners * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 Further reading * 7 External links
The festival typically has the following stages:
* Main stage – major rock, indie, metal and alternative acts.
NME /Radio 1 stage – less well-known acts, building up to an
alternative headline act.
* Dance tent – dance music acts, previously sharing a day with the
Lock Up stage, now a stand-alone 3-day stage.
* Lock Up Stage (Can be known as Pit Stage) – underground punk and
hardcore acts. Due to demand, from 2006 this stage took up two days
rather than previous years where it was only one day.
Festival Republic stage (formerly known as the
Carling stage) –
acts with less popular appeal and breakthrough acts.
* 1Xtra Stage – new stage for 2013 that stages Hip-Hop, RnB and
* Alternative tent – comedy and cabaret acts plus DJs.
BBC Introducing Stage – Typically unsigned/not well known acts.
(Formerly known as the
Topman Unsigned Stage at the
A panorama of the Reading Festival 2007 arena
Main article: National Jazz and Blues Festival
The Reading Festival officially began life as the National Jazz Festival , which was conceived by Harold Pendleton (founder of the Marquee Club in London in 1958) and was first held at Richmond Athletic Ground in 1961. However, the festival's roots can be traced further back to the Beaulieu Jazz Festivals of the 1950s held on the estate of Lord Montague at Beaulieu in the New Forest , Hampshire. When alcochol-fuelled violence at the start of the 1960s led to the cancellation of the Beaulieu Jazz Festival its mantle was inherited by the new National Jazz Festival. Throughout the 1960s the festival moved between several London and Home Counties sites, being held at Windsor Racecourse , Kempton Park , Sunbury and Plumpton , before reaching its permanent home at Reading in 1971. Since 1964, when the Festival added a Friday evening session to the original Saturday and Sunday format, it has been staged over three days with the sole exception of 1970 when a fourth day was added, running from Thursday 6 to Sunday 9 August.
In the mid and late 1950s Beaulieu was the surprising location for one of Britain's first experiments in pop festival culture, with the annual Beaulieu Jazz Festival, which quickly expanded to become a significant event in the burgeoning jazz and youth pop music scene of the period.
Camping overnight, a rural invasion, eccentric dress, wild music and sometimes wilder behaviour — these now familiar features of pop festival happened at Beaulieu each summer, culminating in the so-called 'Battle of Beaulieu' at the 1960 festival, when rival gangs of modern and traditional jazz fans indulged in a spot of what sociologists went on to call 'subcultural contestation'.
The National Jazz Federation (NJF) Festival - as it was originally known - began at the height of the Trad Jazz boom as a successor to the Beaulieu Jazz Festival, initially as a two-day event held at Richmond Athletic Ground. The line-up for the first two years was made up exclusively of jazz performers, but in 1963 several rhythm "> Reading Festival 1975
After the move to Reading the line-up settled into a pattern of progressive rock , blues and hard rock during the early and mid 1970s then became the first music festival to embrace punk rock and new wave in the late 1970s, when The Jam , Sham 69 and The Stranglers were among the headline acts. The festival's attempts to cater for both traditional rock acts and punk and new wave bands occasionally led to clashes between the two sets of fans at the end of the 1970s', though the festival gradually became known for focusing on heavy metal and rock acts.
During this decade, the festival followed a similar format to that established in the late 1970s, with large crowds flocking to see the era's leading rock and heavy metal acts perform on the last two days, with a more varied line-up including punk and new wave bands on the opening day. Council ban
In 1984 and 1985, the Conservative Party-led local council effectively banned the festival by reclaiming the festival site for 'development' and refusing to grant licences for any alternative sites in the Reading area.
In 1984, many acts were already booked to appear, tickets were on sale with Marillion (2nd on the bill on Saturday night the previous year) due to be one of this year's headliners. The promoters tried in vain to find a new site but a proposed move to Lilford Hall in Northamptonshire failed (the proposed bill was published in Soundcheck free music paper issue 12 as: Friday 24 August – Hawkwind, Boomtown Rats, Snowy White, The Playn Jayn, Dumpy's Rusty Nuts, Wildfire, Chelsea Eloy, Tracy Lamb, New Torpedoes (sic); Saturday 25th – Jethro Tull, Hanoi Rocks, Steve Hackett, Club Karlsson, Nazareth, Twelfth Night, Thor, Silent Running, New Model Army, IQ, The Roaring Boys, She; Sunday 26th – Marillion, Grand Slam, The Bluebells, Helix, Clannad, The Opposition, The Enid, Young Blood, Scorched Earth, Terraplane).
A significant side-result of the Conservative Party's Reading
Festival ban was filling of the resulting gap in the British festival
calendar by the rise of
After Labour regained control of the council in 1986, permission was given for fields adjacent to the original festival site to be used, with a line-up put together at just three months' notice.
The following year saw a record attendance at what was considered by
some to be the last of the "classic" rock years of the festival, with
headlining acts such as The Mission ,
1988 saw a disastrous attempt to take the festival in a mainstream
commercial pop direction, dominated by the likes of Starship ,
Hothouse Flowers ,
Bonnie Tyler and
Pendleton initially tried to continue at a new site near Newbury using the name "Redding Festival" but threats of legal action by the new promoters of the "official" festival coupled with a reluctance by Newbury District Council to grant the necessary licence for the proposed Newbury Showground venue eventually scuppered Pendleton's plans. Meanwhile, the official Reading Festival, now under Mean Fiddler guidance, continued at the Thames-side site in Reading, pursuing an almost completely goth and indie music policy that alienated much of the traditional fan base and saw attendances plummet.
Attendances continued to fall between 1989 and 1991 until the future of the festival looked to be in doubt. However, things began to improve from 1992 onward when new organisers moved in to replace the moribund Mean Fiddler group who broadened the Festival's musical policy and were rewarded with an increase in attendances.
In 1991, Nirvana made the first of their two appearances at Reading, midway down the bill. This is also the year the first Britpop bands such as Suede and Blur started to show themselves on the festival circuit. Cobain's wheelchair
Nirvana played what was to become their last UK concert, and one of their most famous. Their 1992 live performance was later released as a live album/DVD Live at Reading in November 2009. The band's frontman, Kurt Cobain took to the stage in a wheelchair pushed by music journalist Everett True , parodying speculations about his mental health. He was also wearing a medical gown. He then went on to join the rest of the band, playing an assortment of old and new material. Festival expansion
By the mid-1990s the festival had begun to regain its former status as the popularity of UK outdoor festivals increased. Britpop and indie began to dominate along with traditional rock and metal acts. Notably, rap acts such as Ice Cube began to appear regularly on the main stage to mixed receptions. Public Enemy headlined the second day of the 1992 Festival. Beastie Boys were about halfway down the bill for day three.
In 1996, the remnants of The Stone Roses played their disastrous final gig at the festival.
In 1999, the festival gained a second leg at
Temple Newsam in Leeds
, where the
V Festival had been held in 1997 and 1998, when it was
clear that the Reading site had become too small to deal with the
increasing demand. The first year saw all bands play the
The main stage of the 2000 Reading Festival
After a successful first year in Leeds, a continued resurgence in the
popularity of outdoor music festivals led to the Reading festival
selling out more and more quickly every year. The
The early 2000s saw a varied but predominantly rock line-up, though as the decade has progressed the Main Stage and Radio 1 Stage line-up has featured mostly Indie artists.
Despite being predominantly a rock festival certain hip-hop artists have played over the years, particularly when hip-hop was very popular in the early 2000s, including Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Beastie Boys, Eminem, Xzibit, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Dizzee Rascal and The Streets.
In 2005, the main stages at both Reading and
In 2005, the Festival spawned the
Reading Fringe Festival in the
town. Much like the
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Flags were banned from both festival sites for the first time in 2009 on "health and safety" grounds. Flags and banners had been a traditional part of the Reading Festival scene since the early 1970s, originally used to enable motorcycle groups and others to identify themselves and find each other inside the main arena.
Campsite Aftermath, 2016
Reading Festival continued to expand through the early 2010s with a new record capacity of 90,000 recorded in 2016. Bottled off
Bottling acts offstage (being forced off stage by a barrage of audience-thrown bottles and cans) is a long-standing tradition at the festival. While the mass-participation can and bottle fights of the 1970s and 1980s have long since ended, unpopular bands have continued to be bottled offstage throughout the festival's history since the first recorded large-scale "cannings" of 1973 and 1974. Examples include:
* Old punks The Hellions (featuring ex-Damned guitarist Brian James
) were foolishly placed on an otherwise 100% heavy metal line-up on
the Friday of the 1980 Festival and ignominously retreated from the
stage in under a minute to the accompaniment of a hail of cans,
bottles and pork pies. "I Canned The Hellions at Reading" T-shirts
were on sale at souvenir stands within the hour.
* The 1983 reggae act
Steel Pulse suffered possibly the most vicious
bottling-off ever seen at the Festival, disappearing within moments of
appearing on stage under an avalanche of missiles launched by the
temporarily united ranks of punks and rockers waiting to see The
John Waite and the No Brakes Band quit the stage on the Saturday
of the 1986 festival when their drummer was hit in the head by a free
promo 12" vinyl disc.
* In 1988
Bonnie Tyler completed her set despite being pelted with
bottles and turf. Unfortunately, the day's headliner
LIST OF HEADLINERS
* ^ "Live Nation About Page".
* ^ "Festivals part company with Carling".
* ^ "Reading Festival 2011".
* ^ "
* Carroll, Ian (2007). The Reading Festival: Music, Mud and Mayhem – The Official History. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. ISBN 978-1-905287-43-7 .
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