The Changing Face of Reading and Leeds Festival – a For and Against Discussion


It is exciting to see new genres being explored and for festivals to progress –  by Maisie Marston

Reading ’92 had Nirvana. Reading ’94 had Primal Scream. Greenday and Smashing Pumpkins the next year, then Rage Against the Machine and The Prodigy next. In more recent years, 2016 and 2017 have provided some acts in the way of rock music; Kasabian, Biffy Clyro, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Then we have 2018, the ‘anomaly’? Travis Scott, Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar, J Hus, Skepta. Predominately hip hop, rap, and grime artists padded out with pop and rock acts. I may have opted to stay at home than go to Reading this year, but I am not bitter about the change. Despite the festival’s new look especially towards the top of the line-up; I think it is still somewhat a credible rock festival. There were plenty of up and coming rock acts, especially those stationed at the BBC Introducing stage. They still had acts like Slaves and Wolf Alice who are more in line with previous years’ line-ups. Aside from that, it’s important to acknowledge that tastes have diversified and found new genres to explore and enjoy, and it is so exciting to see festivals progress. Rock music isn’t selling as much, it’s not what most teenagers buy any more — you can see it in the charts. To be bitter about this and to reminisce about the ’old Reading and Leeds’ is denying the music industry an opportunity to progress and making you sound like your Dad when he complains about the fact Snickers bars used to bigger. Teenagers should also be able to have their own festival like many generations before them did and Reading and Leeds presents what a lot of teenagers in 2018 are currently listening to. Hip-hop, pop and rap music is the new rock, and if you’re looking for a traditional, humble old-school rock festival it’s probably best to look elsewhere

Obituary for Reading and Leeds – by Alexandra Banfi

My love for Reading and Leeds festival began when in 2012 I watched Dave Grohl dominate the stage as he screamed: “hi, honey, I’m home”. The festival used to house rock legends such as the Foo Fighters, but now increasing amounts of pop artists that value performance over music quality has managed to rent a room. This is not an attack on this genre of music. I myself am accustomed to a guilty boogie when Drake comes on. I am merely questioning whether they have a place at Reading and Leeds. Organiser Melvin Benn defended the change saying that festivals must reflect what the public are listening to. However, each British festival already caters to certain members of the public. Download reflects the metal and heavy rock scene, Wireless is home to a Pop, R&B, Grime and Hip-Hop fan base and Reading and Leeds was founded on reflecting the rock and indie scene. The invasion of pop is apparent everywhere in the music industry. The Stereophonics broke my heart when they released Graffiti on a Train; a blatant sell-out to the pop industry. I cried when Kids in Glass Houses broke up, but I was happy that they didn’t allow themselves to be corrupted by mainstream music for purely economic reasons. Reading and Leeds Festival was the one big festival dedicated to rock and indie music that allowed like-minded people to share their passion and a mosh pit. You can’t mosh to Dua Lipa. Rock fans don’t suddenly wake up singing Eminem because “it’s what the public is listening to”. We’re still here and we’re still listening to rock so why has the festival changed its target audience? In short; Reading and Leeds have sold out. Benn himself said that the “ticket sales tell me that we’re doing the right thing”. The commercialisation of the festival means it is more concerned with selling tickets than giving recognition to iconic or supporting upcoming rock bands. It’s time to accept the death of Reading and Leeds as we once knew it. Or for it to leave the commercialised repetitive music to other festivals and return the rock festival to its roots.


Photo credit: Kings of Leon, taken by Sarah Koury and Dua Lipa, taken by Jennifer McCord. Images found on –