Reading And Leeds festivals take place this weekend (27-29 August). Here, organiser Melvin Benn reveals how last-minute preparations are going
In terms of Guns N’ Roses [a recent Twitter hoax suggested they’d cancelled Reading and Leeds], I’m absolutely confident about them showing up. I’m obviously more concerned about their ability to be onstage on time. But I am confident of them turning up.
I mean, it is certainly an option for them to go on late, but that for me is just about disrespecting their fans. There isn’t an option for them to carry on late. You may remember they played Leeds festival in 2002, and they went on after they should have finished.
Unfortunately [this year] the police and the local authorities have reaffirmed their position to me that the curfew has to be adhered to. It’s 11pm at Leeds and it’s 11:30pm at Reading. I can’t allow the performance to go on beyond that – it’s just that simple.
This isn’t just about Guns N’ Roses, this is about all bands. I have to maintain the curfew whether it’s Arcade Fire, whether it’s The Libertines.
Happily, with Guns N’ Roses, there’s been great co-operation in the build up to the festival, and the agent and the management have made it clear to me that it’s not an issue. But I do have to maintain the position that I’m taking – if the music is turned off it’s not because the festival doesn’t want the band to play. It’s because I have to abide by certain rules.
Is security a particular concern this year? Yes, because at Reading last year there was quite a lot of late Sunday night, early Monday morning… what can only be described as nasty behaviour really. It went from being hi-jinx and good fun to being really quite unpleasant and an awful lot of festival-goers were very, very intimidated by the actions of a number of other festival-goers.
They were effectively starting fires and actually putting other people’s tents on fires and things like that. It was really unpleasant. Instead of being fun it became unpleasant.
The police have always taken a fairly reasonable attitude in Reading. They accept that it’s a festival, that people wanna have great fun. Of course they do. But last year, because it really turned quite nasty, they’ve taken a position where they’ll make arrests [this year].
We’ve actually always avoided wanting to make arrests in the past, because an arrest can screw your future. If you’re a student and about to go to university and suddenly you find yourself with a criminal conviction for malicious damage or antisocial behaviour really does give your opportunity of jobs and future quite a setback really.
The cops have always tried to be reasonable about it, but this year they’re saying ‘We can’t be reasonable and allow this to go on, we’re gonna have to make arrests’. At Leeds it’s the same as it has been – but at Reading the number of police has increased quite considerably.