Reading Festival and Marquee Club founder Harold Pendleton dies

"A promoter, manager, club owner, publisher, festival owner and innovator"

Tributes have been paid after the death of music industry legend, the founder of Reading Festival and London’s Marquee Club, Harold Pendleton.

The news broke over the weekend that Pendleton had passed away on September 22 after short illness. He was 93-years-old.

Entec Sound & Light, the huge company he started that would go on to provide live production services to some of the world’s biggest acts, posted a lengthy tribute to Pendleton – hailing him as “a promoter, manager, club owner, publisher, festival owner and innovator”.


Current Reading & Leeds organiser and Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn told NME: “I am sad to hear of the passing of Harold Pendleton. Having worked together on Reading Festival in the early days, I can truly say that Harold had a lasting impact on our much-loved event, and Reading Festival would not be what it is today without his original vision.

“His passing is a great loss to us all.”

David Bowie live at The Marquee Club
David Bowie live at The Marquee Club

“Throughout his 60-year career, Harold fought to establish platforms for showcasing new talent and helped shape popular music culture,” the tribute reads. “He was at the centre of a unique period in music history, both prompting and witnessing the impacts of the jazz, rock and punk revolutions in the UK and beyond.”

Pendleton took over jazz nights held in the Marquee Ballroom on Oxford Street in 1958. Between then and when he gave up ownership of the club in 1987 after it had long relocated to Wardour Street, it was at the forefront of rock music, jazz and R&B throughout their seminal periods in the 60s and 70 – hosting era-defining performances from David Bowie, The Who, Pink Floyd, Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin and Rod Stewart, as well as the first UK gigs by the likes of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and REM.

Jimi Hendrix live at The Marquee Club
Jimi Hendrix live at The Marquee Club


Pendleton would started the the National Jazz Festival in 1961. Over time, it would expand in to a range of different contemporary genres and would go on to become what is now known as the legendary Reading Festival. He remained involved with the festival until 1992, the year of Nirvana’s legendary performance, and the last in the UK.

– Every Reading & Leeds festival poster since 1989

Over those years, he would oversee a number of innovations that were revolutionary at the time – such as having more than one stage, flushable toilets, video screens, backstage showers and even festival security wristbands.

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain at Reading 1992
Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain at Reading 1992

He is survived by his wife Barbara and son Nick who ask for donations to be paid in his memory to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.


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