Festivals were very different in the early 2000s. They were cheaper, there weren’t as many, and your parents probably dropped you off at the front gates. Reading Festival was a pilgrimage for teenagers all over the South East, who’d get their GCSES and A Levels results and then go and lose their Vans in a field out the back of a leisure centre in Berkshire to the sweet sound of Reel Big Fish on the Lock-Up Stage. Here’s the stuff you’d only know if you were there.
The Brown campsite was terrifying
The Brown campsite was Berkshire’s very own seventh circle of hell. Any trace of grass was gone, replaced by steaming pits of mud, the limp exoskeletons of abandoned tents and teenagers weeping into blue bags from the offy. You went into the Brown campsite at your own risk, making sure you’d had your tetanus shots and warning your mates that you might never see them again.
You went just to camp
If you couldn’t blag enough money to buy a ticket – which, at 2001 prices was £90 for the whole weekend – you still went to Reading and just stayed in the campsite, because you only needed wristband to get into the main arena.
If you lost your mates, you’d lost them for good
Sure, a couple of you might have had a Nokia 3310 but the signal was always shite and your battery died in the middle of the Jimmy Eat World mosh-pit. There were no charging stations, no portable charging hubs and, brilliantly, no-one really cared. If – and when – you lost your mates, you simply made some new ones, and then come Monday, never, ever saw them again.
Your photos were terrible
In the pre-Instagram festival days you didn’t have flattering filters, selfie sticks and the chance to take the same pic 35 times. Nope. You had one disposable camera from Boots, with 27 photos on it and you wasted them all on shooting Slipknot’s set from 89 rows back. You now have a roll of pics full of the backs of people’s heads and the Carling stage very, very, very far away in the distance. Congrats.
Every time you went after A Levels you felt ancient
As soon as you hit 19, you suddenly felt far too old for Reading. Looking at the frolicking 15 year olds made you feel like Mary Berry in comparison. You vowed to go to a grown-up festival instead next year, but then realised that you don’t quite get the same amount of vodka, filth and general lawlessness at Green Man.
You only took a tenner, but somehow that was fine
How on earth did you survive all weekend? Easy, by bringing a large bottle of spirits with you and necking it all before you went into the arena the next day. Dinner was scavenged chips and breakfast was one of the multipack of Quavers that your mum rammed into your backpack. Life was easy then.
You were sad when Guns N’ Roses played Leeds and not Reading
What was that all about, Axl? Back in 2002 Guns N’ Roses played Leeds, but not Reading, leaving Southern rock fans – no, not that kind of Southern rock – bereft and having to make do with The Prodigy instead. Outrageous.
You found the mere idea of Leeds strange and wrong
Reading decided to become a dual site festival in 1999. You heard that the site up there was lovely, all green and pleasant with rolling hills and even more toilets fires. Yet you would never ever, consider going and betray Reading.
You spent the evenings shouting out the name Timmy
This was Reading, not Glastonbury, and as such as soon as the bands finished at around 11pm, you had to make your own entertainment. After being unceremoniously chucked out of the main arena, you’d head back to the campsites and shout out the name ‘Timmy’ until you passed out around 5am. They were simpler times, evidently.
You skidded on spilled noodles and fell on your arse
Don’t deny it.
You collected 100 cups to get a beer
You rose early to the sounds of The Donnas opening up the main stage and set about collecting discarded pint glasses with the aim of exchanging about a million of them for one warm tub of Carling. And for some strange reason, it seemed totally worth it.
You haggled with men selling crates of warm Stella on the road outside
But you never got any money off, because they knew you were actually 15 and this was the only way you could buy booze. Simple economics.
You went for a fry-up at the Gorge Café
An old-school greasy spoon, the Gorge Café was a Reading rite of passage. You slunk off site on Sunday morning, joined an enormous queue and proceeded to sling eggs down your neck until you started to feel half-way normal. You also gleefully used a toilet with a real-life flushing mechanism.
You jumped in the river
The sun came out, and you thought it was a great idea to leap into the River Thames, which ran alongside the back of the site. But then someone said something about rats and Weil’s disease and you spent the rest of the weekend panicking.
You wore a straw trilby because you thought The Holloways were cool
We know your secret, men of 2005.