Reading vs Leeds Festival: “I went to both to experience the biggest differences and one is much better” – Alice Cunningham

Reading and Leeds Festival, although technically identical, are very different.

A few years ago I experienced the Leeds Festival when I was 18 and 19 and still lived in the East Midlands.

My very first visit was in 2015, just before my friends and I all left for college. One last hurray for all of us.

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We then got together the following year in 2016 to start all over again, and the two years were some of the best times I’ve had.

Each year, we undertook the full experience – arriving on Wednesday and staying until Monday, without a shower, and always making sure to start drinking at noon sharp.

Then by the time we finally struggled our way home, we were well and truly exhausted.

Naturally, over the years, the reality of life has imposed itself and professional life has taken over. I haven’t been to another festival since 2016, and when Covid hit, if I had planned to go, it certainly wasn’t.

However, this year I was fortunate enough to visit the Reading Festival for a day as part of the BerkshireLive coverage.

I have now understood exactly how the two festivals differ and can tell you which one in my opinion is better.

Location, location, location

Reading and Leeds festival venues are very different

So let’s start with the locations themselves.

If you’ve been to both festivals before, you know there is a big difference in where the organizers have put the venues.

And I’m not talking about the fact that one is in Reading and the other is in Leeds.

What I mean is Reading is actually in Reading while Leeds is completely far from Leeds city.

It is very convenient to be able to take a train or a bus directly to Reading and to be practically on the doorstep of the festival. It’s even better if you don’t want to drive to the festival at all.

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You can technically take a 30 minute bus from Leeds to the festival, but that will take you completely out of town.

It’s Bramham Park and it’s a very different vibe from Reading. You’re literally in the middle of nowhere, so you don’t have to rush into town to buy supplies or go to a pub for dinner.

However, you have to walk for miles from the entrance to some parts of the site – you still have to pack lightly in Leeds.

My friends and I learned this the hard way when we first tried Leeds. Packing dozens of cans of various spirits was not smart.

While I personally prefer the Leeds location, both clearly have their pros and cons.

Curfew hours

You won’t find a curfew on music in Leeds

One of the biggest differences between the two festivals is the curfew.

Leeds festival-goers laugh at Reading pitch every time they hear there is a curfew on what time bands can play until each night.

Of course, that again depends on the festival venues themselves and Reading neighbors would certainly not be happy with the music blaring all night long.

Music blasts through the night from Leeds, however.

While main stage numbers normally end around 11 p.m. at campsites, you’ll find DJs setting up, often in trailers or very small stages, to perform until 6 a.m.

It can be fun, but it can also be a nightmare. If you need a good kip in Leeds, you will never get one, no matter how far you pitch your DJ tent.

The toilet situation …

The toilets at one of the campsites in Reading

One of the worst things about any festival is the washroom.

You’re obviously sharing with hundreds and thousands of people, so they’re always going to be gross.

However, I was completely shocked to find that there is actually a big difference between the toilets in Reading and Leeds.

Previously in Leeds, in the campsites you will find the dark green metal stalls similar to Reading. But if you look in the toilet in Leeds, you will see that it falls into a large hole in the floor.

And horribly, you can see and smell it all.

This is the most revolting thing and so I was very surprised to see the Readings propped up above the ground.

You southerners clearly live a life of luxury compared to the North Lot.

You can buy the luxury toilets at every festival, which of course I did in Leeds. It definitely made a big difference.

The “spirit of the North”

Me back when I had zero worries at the Leeds festival in 2016

There is a big difference between the “spirit” of festival-goers.

It’s very difficult to explain unless you’ve been to both festivals, but the northern public is much more supportive of the bands.

They’ll be singing at the top of their lungs and you’ll never hear “whoop there is” or “Leeds!” You what, you what ”to be shouted to the rhythm of the songs.

” Read ! You what, you what ”doesn’t sound good, does it?

In Reading’s defense, the audience sang this weekend but I wanted more passion from them.

Give me more guys!

Fear of rain

Leeds festival-goers faced with mud in 2016
The mud we had to face at Leeds Festival 2016

The UK weather will never fail to disappoint you, but at least in Reading you can slightly guarantee that the rain won’t ruin your weekend.

Leeds is sensitive to the elements, in turn creating huge pools of mud that visitors can slip into.

Although this year it looks like both festivals have had a decent time, there have been various examples of torrential downpours in Leeds as Reading basked in bright sunshine.

In 2016 that is exactly what happened and we in Leeds were pissed off until we all had drinks and watched people try to swim in the mud.

The lesson to be learned – always take wellies in Leeds.

So what is better?

Two Door Cinema Club performing at the Reading Festival 2021

It’s probably not entirely fair of me to pin Reading and Leeds against each other as I spent 10 days in Leeds overall and had the full experience by spending only one day in Reading.

But I will still try.

Reading has a lot to offer – its location is ideal, the weather is normally reliable, and the washrooms are clearly nicer!

But there is just something about Leeds that is a little better.

I appreciate that it’s the exact same festival, but the atmosphere and vibe in Leeds is much more relaxed, everyone is extremely friendly and a crown from the north will never fail to properly cheer on a band.

I’m sure if I spent a full weekend in Reading I would get a better sense of the atmosphere, but right now Leeds is for me. Sorry.

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