Is Leeds and Reading the same festival? What are the music festival formats, how do headline acts play both

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Leeds and Reading festivals takes place simultaneously with a lot of the same bands playing at both - but there are subtle differences

Thousands of music lovers from around the UK are set to embark on Reading and Leeds festivals.

Festival goers will be treated to a host of talented acts such as The Arctic Monkeys,The 1975 and Bring Me the Horizon.

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Both of the festivals take place at the same time between Friday 26 August and Sunday 28 August and there are many similarities between the two festivals - but they are not quite the same.

Here we take a look at the story behind two of the UK’s most iconic festivals and the key differences between them.

 Arctic Monkeys will headline at Leeds and Reading festival this year (Getty Images) Arctic Monkeys will headline at Leeds and Reading festival this year (Getty Images)
Arctic Monkeys will headline at Leeds and Reading festival this year (Getty Images) | Getty Images

The history of Reading Festival

The Reading festival, the older of the two festivals, was first formed in 1955.

It was originally known as the Beaulieu Jazz Festival and it is the world’s oldest popular music festival that is still in existence. It came 15 years before Glastonbury which was formed in 1970.

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Reading Festival was originally held at Richmond Athletic Ground and was made up exclusively of jazz performers.

However, during the 1960s a range of other acts were added to the bill such as The Rolling Stones and Georgie Fame. By 1969 Jazz had disappeared entirely from the line up.

The festival was relocated to Reading in 1971 and has been known as Reading festival ever since. In the 1970s and 1980s the festival began to incorporate new music genres into its lineup such as punk rock and new wave.

The festival experienced highs and lows during the 1980s, including a forced cancellation from the Conservative council which took place from 1984-1985.

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Since then the festival has taken place every year, other than 2020 where both events were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

When was Leeds Festival introduced?

During the late 1990s, following the rise of Britpop, the popularity of festival culture had reached new heights in the UK and there was increased demand throughout the country for a northern version of the Reading Festival.

In 1999 Leeds Festival was formed. The festival shares the same line up as the Reading Festival meaning both audiences get to see the same headline acts.

How do the headliners play at both festivals?

While Leeds and Reading fest both share the same line up and take place simultaneously, the acts on stage will perform on different dates at the two festivals.

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For example the Sheffield rock band Arctic Monkeys will perform at Reading on Saturday 27 August and will headline on stage at Leeds Festival on Sunday 28 August.

Likewise The 1975 will feature on the opening day of Leeds Festival on Friday 26 August and will return to headline at Reading Festival two days later on Sunday 27 August.

What are the other differences between Leeds and Reading festivals?


Anyone who has attended both festivals will know that there is a big difference between the sites at Reading and Leeds.

The Reading site is Richfield Avenue which is situated in the centre of the town. Reading Festival is relatively easy to travel to by train or bus as it is based on the doorstep of the town centre.

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Leeds Festival is held at Bramham Park which is 10 miles away from Leeds city centre. To get to Bramham Park, festival goers would have to get a 30 minute bus to the festival, so there is no possibility of heading to a pub or restaurant for dinner during the festival.

Curfew times

One of the other big differences between Leeds Festival and Reading Festival is the curfew for music.

At Reading Festival there is usually a curfew in the later hours of the evening for loud music to not disturb the locals.

Whereas at Leeds fest you can expect to hear DJs or smaller stages playing music into the early hours of the morning with sets going on until 6am.

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