Interview – Reading and Leeds Festival boss Melvin Benn: ‘This is the greatest line-up of any festival – anywhere’

Andrew Trendell went along to the Leeds Festival press launch to speak to organiser Melvin Benn.
Andrew Trendell went along to the Leeds Festival press launch to speak to organiser Melvin Benn.

HUGE names are on the cards once again as Reading and Leeds Festival announces another legendary line-up. Reporter Andrew Trendell went along to the launch and had a quick chat with organiser and Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn about fine bands and free burgers.

ROCK giants, music legends and quickly-rising stars are all set to descend upon Yorkshire once again as Leeds Festival announces another stellar line-up.

The Cure will be headlining Reading and Leeds 2012

The Cure will be headlining Reading and Leeds 2012

On the bill this year, you can enjoy everyone from British indie royalty such as Kasabian, Florence and the Machine and Yorkshire favourites the Kaiser Chiefs, right through to towering greats like Foo Fighters and The Cure.

There are also some great little surprises in the form of the return of the mighty At The Drive In and a crowning main stage slot for The Black Keys.

With Glastonbury off for 2012, all eyes were on Reading and Leeds to provide a line-up to suit an Olympic year.

So great was the anticipation for this year’s event that the Internet was flooded with fake ‘leaked’ posters. As I awaited my chat with organiser Melvin Benn, a press officer informed me of the weeks of terror he endured as the phoneys came dangerously close to the truth – but not quite close enough.

Foo Fighters will be headlining Reading and Leeds 2012

Foo Fighters will be headlining Reading and Leeds 2012

To add to hype, Benn also revealed a unique scheme where every ticket-holder gets a free beer and burger for each of the three music days of the festival, as a ‘gesture or commitment to give something back – because times are tough’.

“It will probably save each festival goer about £25 each,” says Benn, to a bemused press conference. “We’ve not quite figured it out yet” – but it’s the thought that counts.

But there’s more than meat and beer on offer of course – as well as booze there’s a whole lotta huge bands.

We asked Melvin Benn about what went into this year’s line-up and what we can expect.

AT: With there being no Glastonbury in 2012, was there any pressure to form a more classic or more inclusive line-up?

MB: No, absolutely not. Glastonbury’s a different festival and I always believe that Reading and Leeds has the greatest line-up of any festival in any part of the world, in any year. It doesn’t really make a difference to us whether Glastonbury’s on or not. It’s an amazing festival, but it’s very different to us.

AT: So what would you say it is about Reading and Leeds this year that gives music fans something that they can’t find elsewhere?

MB: This is the most extraordinary line-up that will appear at any festival this year, as far as I’m concerned. The Cure, Kasabian, Black Keys, Foo Fighters, Florence and the Machine, Paramore – all incredible. The Cure are playing Reading Festival for the first time since 1979, and I was there. The excitement around The Cure and being around the same space and in the same field and being able to listen to Robert Smith is incredibly special. Paramore before them will work wonderfully well.

Sunday with Kasabian, Florence and the Machine and The Vaccines – that’s the Brits taking the stage and that’s us completely and utterly dominating it. I think the first time I saw Kasabian was at Leeds Festival. It was chaos, it was carnage and it was fantastic. I felt then that they would become a headliner, and they have and they deserve to be. It’s their first proper headlining slot at Leeds and Reading and I’ve got no doubt that it will be an amazing night.

The Kaiser Chiefs, Black Keys and Foo Fighters – that’s just a wonderful night for people that love music really, isn’t it? Leeds and Reading are music festivals. There are no clowns, no fire-eaters, no jugglers, no baby-areas. They are music festivals and that’s why we always have amazing line-ups.

AT: The Cure played for nearly three hours at Bestival last year. How long will their set be at Reading and Leeds?

MB: It was just under three hours at Bestival and we’re still talking about times. I want them to play a good set and they want to play a good set, but it won’t be a short set by any means. I’m sure it will be at least a two-hour set.

AT: As soon as you mentioned the beer and burger scheme to the press, was there a backlash from the rest of Festival Republic or are they fully behind you?

MB: It’s fair to say that I think Festival Republic are always behind whatever I come up with really! Times are tough. Festivals are a wonderful value for money way of having an extraordinary weekend where you hang out with like-minded people, you have a few beers and you have an occasional bite to eat and an even less occasional amount of sleep whilst seeing the best bands in the world. Of course, I run a business, but I have a view that I always want to try and give things back. I don’t know why I came up with it but I said it before I’d really costed it out. There’s not much sign of it at the minute but I hope that the sponsors will pay for it, and if they don’t then we will. I think it’s a wonderful thing and I rather suspect that one or two other festivals may follow in the future.

Leeds Festival takes place at Branham Park on August Bank Holiday weekend from Friday 24th - Sunday 26th August.

Weekend tickets are £197.50 while day tickets are £85.

Tickets are available by calling 0871 231 0821 or by visiting www.leedsfestival.com or www.seetickets.com.