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Reading and Leeds Festival History Timeline

Posted: 27th July 2015 08:58

First Reading Festival – 1971

Running as a National Jazz and Blues Festival since 1961, the festival finally found a permanent home at Reading in 1971. In typical British fashion it rained all weekend, but headline acts Arthur Brown, East of Eden and Colosseum made sure the weather couldn’t dampen the crowds’ spirits. 

Birth of the Comedy Tent – Reading Festival 1991

A slice of comedy was introduced to the bank holiday festival, with Jo Brand, Jerry Sadowitz and Sean Hughes unveiling the comedy tent.  The tent has since welcomed some of the best comedians in the business with the likes of Eddie Izzard, Michael McIntyre and Phil Jupitus bringing a barrel of laughs. 

Nirvana’s Last Ever UK Show – Reading Festival 1992

In front of a 50,000 strong audience, headliningNirvana frontman Kurt Cobain caused controversy by entering the stage in a wheelchair pushed by journalist Everett True, mocking speculations of his mental health and infamous drug use. This turned out to be the bands’ last UK concert and one of their most memorable performances.

The Arrival of the NME Stage – Reading Festival 1996

Bringingalternative and less well -known acts, the NME stage ignited the crowd in 1996, with Californian rock band Rocket from the Crypt, Dubstar and Underworld headlining.  It has since attracted well-known names such Kasabian, Manic Street Preachers, Bullet for My Valentine and Mumford and Sons.

Beastie Boys & The Prodigy – Reading Festival 1998

A phone call urging The Prodigy not to play the contentious “Smack My Bitch Up,” spiralled out of control leading to a war of words spilling over on to the Reading stage.  Maxim, the Prodigy’s lead singer, introduced the song to the delight of the crowd, declaring “they (Beastie Boys) didn't want us to play this f**king tune.  But the way things go, I do what the f**k I want.”

First Leeds Festival – Leeds Festival 1999

Due to the popular demand of the Reading Festival, the very first Leeds Festival launched to success with The Charlatans, Blur and Red Hot Chilli Peppers at Temple Newsam.  Headlining the same bands as Reading, the Leeds Festival made sure that the August bank holiday would never be the same again.

Daphne & Celeste – Reading Festival 2000

It was Sunday lunchtime when the main stage at Reading Festival was opened by Daphne & Celeste who received a less than warm welcome. Sporting a “who the f**k is Eminem” t-shirt (slagging off their fellow main stage performer) the pop duo hadn’t even started their one-hit wonder before disgruntled chants and a torrent of bottles rained upon them.

50 Cent – Reading Festival 2004

Long before Jay Z controversially performed at Glastonbury, we witnessed 50 Cent grace the main stage in support of headliners Green Day. 50 Cent was showered with bottles from the very start and even a deck chair was thrown in his direction… However, to his credit, the In da Club rapper lasted a respectable 20 minutes before throwing his microphone into the crowd and storming off stage in anger.

Lock-Up Stage – Reading & Leeds Festival 2005

The bank holiday festivals witnessed the introduction of the Radio 1 Lock-Up Stage which still offers crowds underground punk and hardcore acts. Extending over three days rather than one in 2009, the stage has played host to Jimmy Eat World, Reel Big Fish, Frank Turner and Chase & Status, just to name a few.

Hi Mom. I’m on TV! – Reading Festival 2006

The first Reading Festival to be televised by the BBC brought headline acts Franz Ferdinand, Muse and Pearl Jam to people’s screens, showing an access all areas view of the festival with exclusive interviews, highlights and most importantly live music, all from the comfort of your own home. 

Kaiser Chiefs – Leeds Festival 2006

The Yorkshire band who predicted a riot became the first local band to take to the main stage at their home festival, to the chants of “Yorkshire!”, “Yorkshire!”  The local boys weren’t the only local flavour that weekend with Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys and Wakefield’s The Cribs also making their debuts on the main stage.  

Gun N’ Roses – Reading & Leeds Festival 2010

After arriving on stage fashionably late, (an hour late for Reading and 35 minutes for Leeds to be precise) event organisers were forced to impose a curfew, leading to the 80s rockers not being able to finish their set. Instead, they staged a sit-down protest with Axl Rose shouting out "The cops and the promoters wanna f**k us in the  a**!"

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