All About Reading Festival

February 16, 2023
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fireworks-at-main-stage-reading-festival
© readingfestival.com

Reading, Berkshire, UK

Open air

XXL – 50k+

Hip-Hop, Rock, Pop

$$$$

Upscale, International, Live Music

+3 Days

Cozy and alternative, Reading Festival is where all music genres feel at home.

The festival dates back to 1961, known as National Jazz Festival. It has been envisioned, shaped, and created by Harold Pendleton, Marquee Club‘s founder.

Reading is held every year at Little John’s Farm in central Reading, during the August bank holiday weekend.

Loyal to no music genre, the British festival gives prominence to every beat that one would think of. From rock and metal to hip-hop and pop, there is something for everyone at Reading.

With decades of festival planning under its belt, Reading is one of the most respected and coveted live music events in the UK.

Here’s everything you need to know about Reading Festival.

Reading Festival 2021 – Aftermovie | © Reading & Leeds Festival / YouTube

Reading Festival used to be known as National Jazz and Blues Festival

When Reading kicked off, it was far from being the mammoth event we know today. In its humble beginnings, the event was known as National Jazz and Blues Festival. When he brainstormed the festival’s concept, Harold Pendleton took inspiration from the US’ Newport Jazz Festival.

The American event’s influence was palpable from day one, as Reading Festival launched in 1961 with a jazz-only lineup. At that time, festivals were not as in demand as they are today. Still, A-list performers like trumpeters Ken Colyer and Mike Cotton gave one hell of a show to thousands of music fans.

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Reading Festival 1975 | © David Major / Wikimedia Commons

Fast forward to 1964, the festival was renamed National Jazz, Blues & Rock Festival as several acts were added to the lineup. including the Rolling Stones and Georgie Fame.

It got its final name in 1976, a few years after it permanently moved to Reading.

It is one of the world’s oldest music festivals still in existence

Festivals come and go, but Reading passed the time’s test with flying colors. As one of the oldest festivals in the world, this bad boy claims to be the UK’s longest-running fest. Its origins can be traced back over half a century, making Reading older than Glastonbury.

main-stage-at-reading-festival
© @OfficialReadingFestival / Facebook 

Although Reading Festival’s beginnings have nothing in common with how the event presents itself today, the decades-long expertise speaks for itself.

Over the years, many legendary artists and bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who and Nirvana have performed here. In fact, Reading was one of the first festivals that hosted some of the most popular acts in the world.

The music festival is all about the countryside vibe

Since its inception, Reading has changed quite a few homes. Richmond’s Athletic Ground was the first to host it throughout the 1960s. After that, the festival moved to several sites in England, like Windsor’s Racecourse, Plumpton, Surrey’s Kempton Park, and Sunbury-on-Thames.

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© @OfficialReadingFestival / Facebook 

It was 1971 when Reading found its forever home at Little John’s Farm, central Reading.

Spanning 150 acres, the outdoor venue is the go-to destination for large-scale events, such as festivals, concerts, and more. With its rural appeal, Little John’s Farm is a much-needed breath a fresh air away from the cities’ hustle and bustle.

Reading was suspended for two years

In 1984 and 1985, the local council suspended the Reading site for development. The music festival had to postpone its editions, as the management couldn’t find an alternative venue.

But the crisis was short-lived. In 1986, the local council gave the festival permission to use the fields adjacent to the original site, and the festival took place after a two-year hiatus.

Its stages are playgrounds for legendary music artists

A diverse music repertoire calls for an equally diverse lineup. But Reading takes it up a notch by bringing some of the industry’s most roaring names on its stage. Many iconic artists, including The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Linkin Park, Nirvana, and Eminem, graced Reading Festival with their performances.

artist-perfoming-at-reading-festival
© @OfficialReadingFestival / Facebook 

As one can tell, the British event is anything but shy in creating its lineups. Naturally, contemporary artists like Halsey, Megan Thee Stallion, Rage Against the Machine and Arctic Monkeys headlined the festival.

The music event spread its tentacles to Leeds in 1999

bbc-stage-at-reading-festival
© @OfficialReadingFestival / Facebook 

By 1999, Reading’s popularity couldn’t be handled by one city and organizers added a second venue in Leeds. In the first year, the event acted as the Reading’s afterparty.

While the latter ran from Friday to Sunday, its sister event continued the shenanigans until Monday.

Leeds was a success story, but the festival was plagued with riots, violence, and anti-social behaviour. Things calmed down thanks to increased security and the event got its final form – Reading and Leeds Festival.

The link between the two events worked on the “who performs today at Reading will play tomorrow at Leeds,” but that changed after a few years. A quick peek at the events’ schedules will show that Leeds’ opening lineup performs during Reading’s final day and vice-versa.

Reading Festival has more stages than you can count

Starting with a humble crowd in its initial years, Reading Festival continued to expand through the years, with a new record capacity of 105,000 in 2019. And while there were less than 50 artists in 1971, the festival now has over 200, leading to a much-needed stage expansion.

crowds-at-main-stage-at-reading-festival
© @OfficialReadingFestival / Facebook 

Reading Festival now features eight stages, each representing a specific genre and theme. While the main acts take over two larger stages, the lesser-known artists perform at the BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage. If you are into underground punk and bullet-hard beats, make your way to Pit Stage.

The festival keeps you entertained beyond the music

Although Reading Festival garnered a reputation for its impressive lineups, the event is also home to many comedy acts.

Joshua-Widdicombe-comediant
@JenONeillPhotography / Facebook

Like lineups, the festival releases separate lists of comedians that will be part of that specific edition.

In the past, comedy geniuses like Jerry Sadowitz, Sean Hughes, Josh Widdicombe and Bridget Christie entertained attendees with their quick wit and hilarious jokes.

Reading banned flags in 2009

Flags have been a common sight at festivals since forever. A staple at events like Glastonbury and Tomorrowland, they add a vibrant touch to festivals.

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Flags used to be a traditional part of Reading | © Sam Evans / Facebook

Although people carry them for many reasons – from supporting their artists to showing their nationality – Reading Festival banned them in 2009.

At that time, organizers said flags were inconvenient, blocking other people’s views. Flags and banners were originally used to help motorcycle groups to identify themselves in the main arena.

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