Reading & Leeds: Our picks of the culture and the trash

Features / Festivals / Words

05 Aug 17


  • Some of the biggest names in Alternative Rock, Pop Punk and Grime
  • Progressive comedy on the Alternative Stage
  • Up-and-coming bands and local acts on the smaller stages

Reading & Leeds is a festival that keeps things simple. No immersive theatre or political powwows here; just big acts on big stages with enough fast food and booze to keep everyone well lubricated.

You suspect the Reading & Leeds hardcore — and they are legion — wouldn’t have it any other way. And, as ever, the organisers have obliged with a line-up top-heavy with ROCK. And Jimmy Eat World. Let the power chords ensue.

The main draw is undoubtedly Muse, who close the Main Stage, but there are other notable white men with guitars in the shape of Kasabian, Blossoms, Bastille, Everything Everything and Two Door Cinema Club, with all-girl outfit Haim mixing things up. Slightly.

Reading & Leeds always makes an effort to court the younger vote, too, and like Jeremy Corbyn (Ohhh, Je-re-meee Cor-byn) they have called on the power of grime to do so. Giggs, Wiley, Lethal Bizzle lead the way on that front, though only Giggs is trusted with a Main Stage berth.

Elsewhere, other top billers include Fatboy Slim, who headlines the Dance Stage, Eminem, who returns to the Main Stage, and Liam Gallagher, who still appears to be on his Coked-Up-Uncle-On-A-Stag-Do Stage. What we would give to be a fly on the wall when those three exchange courtesies backstage…

Finally, and this is very much hangover-permitting, it’s always worth getting out a little earlier to catch some talented up-and-comers and local bands. Vant, Pins, Marika Hackman and Cabbage are all worth a scout.

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  • Plenty of after-hours, round-the-campfire escapades
  • Expect to meet many youngsters away from home for the first time
  • Dirty burgers, warm beer and ill-advised 4am jaunts on fairground rides.

RL’s organisers take a build it and they will come (and drink themselves stupid) approach. It is not for them to engineer fun, rather to create a space where it flourishes on its own terms.

I say fun, good-natured chaos is perhaps a more accurate description. This is not one of those quaint middle-class festivals where people bring yoga mats and nod along to Mumford and Sons while eating homemade tabbouleh. Here, revellers go hard and go home only if the kindly people in the First Aid tents say it’s for the best.

The hedonistic atmosphere is largely enforced by the youngsters and festival virgins, who perhaps due to the transitory time of year (post exams; pre school and uni) tend to rock up ready for a party. They will find plenty of those; especially at the Dance and 1Xtra tents, where the likes of Shy FX, Charlie XCX, Bugzy Malone and Marshmello are sure to draw the crowds this year.

The older lot tend to stick to the Indie stages, or bed down early at the front of the Main Stage in order to see their favourite act at close quarters. Otherwise, chilling by the bars or street food stalls is more their vibe, a fairground ride or two if they’re feeling really giddy.

After hours, there’s a silent disco, but entertainment mainly sparks spontaneously in the campsites. The ritual tends to play out like this: the yoof run around causing mayhem for The Bantz while the adults watch on from their well-stocked camps, tutting and smugly commenting on their lack of provisions. Everyone’s a winner.

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