PARK STRIFE?

After repeated trouble on a site in the city, organisers are considering moving to a location out of town...

Music fans in LEEDS will learn this week where the LEEDS FESTIVAL 2003 will be held, with two applications by organisers MEAN FIDDLER being considered by the City Council.

After repeated trouble with arson and disturbances at the Temple Newsam Park site in recent years, Mean Fiddler have lodged applications for that site – home to the festival for the last five years – and an alternative site at Bramham Park, which is a stately home 10 miles from Leeds.

The application for Bramham Park is to be considered by the Licensing Board at a meeting at the site tomorrow (May 13), and Temple Newsam will be discussed the following day. The Licensing Board will hear objections from local residents and MPs, submissions from Yorkshire Police, and proposals for increased safety and security measures from Mean Fiddler.

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council told NME.COM that a decision could be made to grant a licence for both sites – in which case Mean Fiddler would decide which to hold it at – or for one site and not the other, or for neither site.

This year’s event will be crucial in determining whether Leeds has a festival at all in future years, as the Council’s five-year agreement with Mean Fiddler to help them find a site runs out in 2003.

Festival-goers have grown increasingly worried that a small minority of trouble-makers are putting the whole event in jeopardy.

Dawn Hindle, who works on the ticket desk at Jumbo Records in Leeds, said that music fans are reluctant to see the festival move ten miles outside the city to Bramham Park. “They want it to stay at Temple Newsam, they don’t want to travel out to Wetherby,” she said. “But that is a better option than no festival at all. Earlier in the year people were coming in wondering whether it was going ahead, and we had to keep reassuring them. But people are worried that if trouble continues the festival might not happen.

“It’s a fantastic thing for Leeds, it’s such a good thing to have here. If you have to go to Reading or Glastonbury, it’s quite a way to travel from the north of England. And it brings a lot into the city.”>

She said the festival has been a massive boost to the local music scene, for both music fans and local bands. “There is a battle of the bands competition each year, which lets local bands get the chance to play. Last year The Cribs played just as the rain came on, so everyone piled into the tent. As a result of all those people seeing them, they’re doing quite well now, getting big audiences, and signing to a major label.”

Dawn added that at the same time, people are getting to see new bands they might not otherwise have seen, and that helps keep venues like The Cockpit busy. “It is the main place for bands that people have read about in NME – like Hot Hot Heat, who sold out last week. There is also St Joseph’s Well and the two Universities, but it has taken a while for the city’s music scene to get this healthy, and the festival has played a big part in that.”

Music fans of Leeds, have your say! Will you still go if it’s not at Temple Newsam this year? Is it better to have it ten miles outside the city, rather than no festival at all? Does the site matter? What do you think the Leeds Festival brings to the city? After the trouble of recent years, do you think they might as well shut the whole thing down? Or would that be catastrophic to the Leeds music scene?

Email us at news@nme.com

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