A guide to Reading Festival: all you need to know

A guide to Reading Festival: all you need to know

A guide to Reading Festival: all you need to know

Every August over 100,000 eager music revellers descend on the thriving Berkshire town of Reading, to attend the annual Reading Festival. This 3-day event is one of the biggest outdoor music festivals in the UK and attracts visitors from across the world to see some of the top names in rock, indie and alternative music perform.

So what makes Reading Festival so special? Read on to find out!

What is Reading Festival?

Reading and Leeds Music Festival
Due to the increasing popularity of Reading Festival, a second located was added in Leeds

Reading Festival is an annual outdoor music festival that sees some of the most famous rock and pop bands perform over 3 days.  It is one of the largest music festivals in the UK and the world’s oldest popular music festival that is still running.  It is possible to get day tickets for the event or full 3-day weekend tickets that include camping.

The festival started in 1961 at Richmond Athletic Ground and was then known as the ‘National Jazz Festival’. It developed and changed over the years and was first held in Reading in 1971. It then became more rock focused seeing more punk rock and heavy metal acts performing.

Due to the festivals increasing popularity throughout the 90s, in 1999 an extra location was added and Leeds festival was born.  Leeds follows the same line up as Reading, with acts performing on different days over the same bank holiday weekend.

The event now has over 10 stages and music tents, which see more than 200 bands, artists, DJs and comedians perform over the 3 days.

When is Reading Festival?

Come rain or shine Reading Festival is always held over the August bank holiday weekend, which falls prior to the last Monday in August. Weekend camping runs from Thursday to Monday and the acts perform Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Where is Reading Festival?

As the name suggests, it is held in… Reading, which is the county town of Berkshire in the Thames Valley.  This usually calm commuter town sits in the south of England and is just over 40 miles away from London.

To be a little more specific, the festival venue is Little John’s Farm, Richfield Avenue which is located between the River Thames and the Great Western Railway. For such a large event it has a convenient, central location.  It is even within walking distance of Reading train station and a range of shops, supermarkets and Reading accommodation (particularly popular with those that don’t fancy camping!). 

Getting There

Reading Festival is located a short distance from Reading city centre.  If you are travelling by car, parking is available at the festival site, but you have to pre-book parking tickets.  The festival site is around a 20-minute walk from Reading Train Station, and direct trains run to Reading from all over the country including London Paddington - visit the National Rail website for more information.  Taxis are available and shuttle buses run from Reading Station and town centre to the site.  Those staying in apartments in Reading have the option of walking to and from the festival or a short taxi ride.

Reading Festival Tickets

Tickets for Reading Festival cost around £220 for a weekend ticket that covers all 3 days and can be purchased here.  It is also possible to get day tickets for the event too.

Reading Festival Accommodation

Weekend tickets to Reading Festival do include camping, however, sleeping outside under canvas in a muddy field isn’t for everyone. The close proximity of the Festival to the town centre means there is a great range of Reading accommodation options available.  If you prefer life’s little luxuries a serviced apartment in Reading might be more suitable for you.


Crowds watch headline acts at music festival
A wide range of bands and music artists have headlined at Reading Festival over the years

Reading 2019 saw The 1975, Foo Fighters, Post Malone and Billie Eilish headline. The 2020 Reading Festival line-up will be announced here.

Over the years Reading has seen many world-famous musicians perform including:

  • Nirvana
  • AC/DC
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Who
  • MeatLoaf
  • Oasis
  • Foo fighters
  • Rage Against the Machine,
  • Kings of Leon
  • Eminem
  • The 1975

The History of Reading Festival at a glance

  • 1961 – The festival started out as the ‘National Jazz Festival’ and was first held at Richmond Athletic Ground
  • 1971 – The festival moved to Reading and was soon known as ‘The National Jazz, Blues and Rock Festival’ - weekend tickets cost £2.
  • 1970s – Reading Festival became more Rock focused and saw acts such as Thin Lizzy, Genesis, Rod Stewart, Status Quo and AC/DC.
    • It also began to get a slight reputation being known as ‘can alley’, mainly due to the number of can fights and throwing incidents.
  • 1984/85 – The festival was banned by the local Conservative council who wanted to develop the land the festival used.
  • 1986 – Under a new Labour council, the festival returned.
  • 1988 – Organisers added some mainstream acts into the mix with Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler performing. 
    • Both were then pelted with turf and bottles during their sets from revellers in the crowd. This led to Meatloaf leaving the stage after only 20 minutes.
  • 1992 – Nirvana headlined which tragically became their last performance in the UK.
  • 1995 - The Foo Fighters perform at Reading for the first time.
  • 1998 – There was an on-stage spat between performers The Prodigy and The Beastie Boys after the Beastie Boys urged The Prodigy not to perform one of their controversial tracks.
  • 1999 – Leeds Festival was born, seeing the same line up as Reading on simultaneous days over the weekend.
  • 2000 – Reading’s infamous bottling incidents make the news again as pop act Daphne and Celeste are pelted with a range of missiles including, turf, bottles and even a bag of meat?!
  • 2000s – More Hip Hop Artists take the stage, as well as Oasis, Pulp, Eminem and Cypress Hill.
  • 2004 – 50 Cent becomes the next victim of the crowd and leaves the stage early after being pelted with bottles, mud and an inflatable paddling pool.
  • 2006 - The festival is televised for the first time.  Panic! At the Disco lead singer, Brendon Urie is knocked out by after being hit on the head with a plastic bottle thrown from the crowd.
  • 2007 – After excessive rain, the River Thames bursts its banks and areas of the festival site are flooded.
  • 2009 – Single-use plastic cutlery and non-compostable serve ware is banned from being used by all festival retailers.
  • 2010s – Tickets began to sell out faster each year.
  • 2019 – A record number of 105,000 people attended Reading Festival.

Reading is a popular destination all year round, so if you are thinking of visiting this energetic town, whether for the festival or any time of year, Citybase Apartments can help you find the perfect accommodation in Reading.  Some of our favourite serviced apartments in Reading can be found here.

Leave a comment