With past headliners including Eminem, Arctic Fire and Radiohead, Leeds Festival is one of the UK’s biggest live music events. Every year, 75,000 party animals descend on Bramham Park ready to enjoy a weekend of entertainment from some of the biggest names on the contemporary scene, turning the normally sedate grounds of the stately home into a small city, alive with activity. Luckily, our guide to Leeds Festival has all the information you need to enjoy the ‘Yorkshire Woodstock’ to the fullest.
Now held in Bramham Park, the first Leeds Festival back in 1991 actually took place in the grounds of nearby Temple Newsam and featured a star-studded line-up that included Red Hot Chili Peppers, Charlatans and Blur. Back then a ticket for the three-day event would have cost you just £80 - compared to over £200 for this year’s event. However the Festival’s days at Temple Newsam were numbered. In 2001, Eminem’s appearance was overshadowed when police were pelted with stones and other missiles, then in 2002 the toilets were set on fire. The Festival moved to Bramham Park in 2003 - the new site was found to be much easier to police and the toilets are non-flammable - and things have gone pretty smoothly since.
Leeds Festival takes place on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the August bank holiday. It’s twinned with Reading Festival, so the same line-up appears at both, with the bands who played on the opening day in Leeds playing the final day in Reading.
There are cashpoints, water points and lockers with phone chargers so you can securely leave your mobile charging. Besides the cashpoints (which do charge you for making a withdrawal) if you need cash, the supermarket, located in the Village does cashback and is great if you’ve forgotten to pack anything. From deodorant, crisps and magazines, there’s all sorts available.
There’s are nine stages in all. Biggest by far is in the main arena - it’s where you’ll watch the major acts. Then there’s the NME/Radio 1 stage for the alternative headliners. In addition, there’s a dance tent, an alternative tent for comedy and cabaret, the lock up which shows hardcore and punk, and the 1Xtra Stage where you can watch hip-hop, R’n’B and rap artists.
Disabled festival goers should buy a ticket, and then register with the organisers to book places at the disabled campsite. Here you’ll find wheelchair accessible unisex showers toilet and sinks, plus electrical points for charging motorised scooters. There are also viewing platforms available to ensure you get to see the bands playing - these are available on a first come first served basis.
The festival has a reputation for being a bit on the young-side - it’s popular with students, even those young enough to have just finished their GCSEs. As such, it can get quite lively with parties going on in the campsites long after the stages have closed for the night. Don’t go expecting your full eight hours - and pack earplugs!
Apart from flowers to wear in your hair, it’s a good idea to bring wet wipes, wellies and a cagoule - it is a August bank holiday after all. If it’s muddy, camping chairs (or just a bin bag to perch on) can be a lifesaver. Remember you’ll need to carry everything you’ve brought from the car park to the campsite, so think of taking a trolley.
Whether you want to camp all weekend, or just go the day your favourite band are playing, you’ll find all the options explained below. Of course, you could always save yourself the bother of pitching your tent in a muddy field (and ensure you get a decent shower) by staying at the Premier Inn near Leeds Festival instead.
Most popular are the weekend camping tickets which give you unlimited access into and out of the site from Thursday until Monday. You swap your ticket for a wristband which you’ll have to wear at all times (or risk eviction). Then there are day tickets which let you attend on either the Friday, Saturday or Sunday. There’s no readmittance with these tickets and you can’t camp - even if you buy day tickets for all three days.
There are eight campsites, identified by colour. Brown is normally the quietest, being the furthest away from all the action. If you’re camping with friends, decide in advance which one you’ll head to. Got a campervan? You’ll need to buy a weekend camping ticket and then pay extra for the van. People with campervans have to camp in a separate field - which means if you choose this option you’ll be separated from friends in tents.
If you’re useless at putting a tent up or just want to raise your comfort level, Leeds Festival has luxury bell tents and pop-up chalets available in its Pink Moon camping field. The field has hot private showers, serviced toilets and a pamper parlour with hair dryers and straighteners. The pop-up chalets come with extras such as proper beds, carpets and electricity so you don’t have to leave your home comforts behind.
You can bring in your own food (and even drink, as long as it’s in plastic rather than glass bottles) but that would be missing out as there are always some delicious options available. Forget burgers and chips - these days there are vegan options, posh hot dogs and wood-fired pizzas. Cheapest of all has to be the Salvation Army tent that does soup and a roll for just a £1.
Bramham Park is 11 miles north east of Leeds city centre, but getting to and from the site isn’t always quick and easy. The best way is by shuttle bus - although prepare for long queues to board when the festival ends and thousands of people have the same idea.
If you’re coming by car, travel to the A1, M1 or the A1(M) and then follow the signs from the motorway. Car parking is included in the price of a ticket but isn’t near the campsites, so prepare for a walk with all your camping equipment and bags.
The official coach company of the Leeds Festival, Big Green Coach, picks up and drops off from as far afield as Birmingham, Rhyl and Glasgow if you’re staying for the weekend, and from nine major cities in the North on a daily basis.
Leeds railway station is a 30-minute drive from the festival site. There will be a shuttle bus service from the city centre to the site - tickets cost around £8 for a return and generally pick up from the coach station as well as other central stops.
From the city centre to its leafy suburbs and beautiful surrounding countryside, you'll find lots of great hotels in Leeds. If you need to be central, try the First Direct Arena Hotel and Trinity Leeds Hotel, or Leeds City West for Elland Road. For those jetting in, check out Leeds/Bradford Airport hotel.
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