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Reading Rock Festival?
Member Name: Napally
Advantages: Awesome fun, easy to get to, worth the money if you like a lot of bands playing
Disadvantages: Becoming very expensive, quality of bands going down, badly managed campsite
Every year, during the August Bank Holiday, thousands of like-minded people descend on the town of Reading for one reason only; Reading Festival. Attracting around eighty thousand fans each year, this festival is famous and continues to attract many huge acts year after year. The festival, as we know it now, has been around since the 1970s (excluding a few years during which it hit a slump and people stopped attending and the dissolution of sponsorship from Carling).
Cost: This is probably the downer of the whole festival scenario. Unfortunately tickets don't come cheap anymore, especially when the festival is as popular as Reading, but if we break it down then we can begin to see that maybe it isn't as overpriced as it initially looks. With your weekend ticket, you get access to the camp site and a wristband that lets you see all the bands that are playing from Friday afternoon to Sunday night; if the average price of a gig is £20 and you see 5 bands a day, it would ordinarily cost you £300 (if we keep it at 5 bands a day). However, for around the £180 mark, you are able to camp from Thursday to the Monday morning and get access to unlimited music. Quite a bargain if we look at it that way!
Purchasing Tickets: Because of the massive level of hype surrounding the festival, tickets can be sold out within a matter of hours following on from the General Release. If you are quick then tickets are sold for the following years festival immediately after the current festival ends and you will also get it at the current price (possibly positive if the ticket prices inflate). However, the downside to this is that you may be paying to see bands that you detest and things can change over the course of the year. So, onto the General Release tickets. These are usually sold in March/April, and for the few years I've attended, they have gone on sale at 7.30pm on a weekday evening. In the lead-up to buying the tickets, Radio 1 do announcements so you will know when to buy tickets. There are various ways to buy your tickets:
· Online retails- I've got my tickets from online ticket retails 3 times before and I have never had a problem with them. However, the major websites will inevitably crash as the bandwidth is swamped and scams are also commonplace so I must stress to go for a big retailer such as Seetickets or Ticket Master. If you purchase a ticket via Ebay then there is the possibility that it could be a scam, and the sellers tend to grossly over-inflate the ticket prices as the hype grows.
· Over the phone- I've never purchased a ticket through this method so can't talk about it in too much detail. However, the phone lines are generally swamped on release night.
· Retailers- Selected HMV stores in the UK do sell tickets but I've found that this only seems to happen in the large UK cities. However, if you get there early enough (usually on the morning after the release) then it is possible to buy a ticket without the stress of crashing web pages. Smaller retailers do occasionally sell tickets as well, as I found out one year to my surprise. Just shop around!
Your ticket won't be delivered until the August, even if you purchase it immediately so don't worry when it doesn't instantly arrive!
Getting to Reading: Your location in the country determines how you are able to get to the festival. The most convenient option (I've personally found) is the train via London; it is quick and cheap if booked in advance. From the train station, the festival ground is only around a 10/15 minute walk which is quite reasonable. However, there is a cheap and efficient coach service with National Express that is in place specifically for festival goers, and there are on-site car parking facilities if you wish to drive yourself. Please note that you do need to buy a car parking pass in advance and these often sell out quite quickly.
Festival Facilities: On the festival site, there are numerous facilities in place to make your experience as enjoyable as possible (oh ho!), including the infamous toilets. There are a LOT of toilets on both the camp site and in the arena so you often won't be far away from them. However, they are undeniably smelly, dirty so go in wearing strong perfume on your wrist (my tip!) to mask some of the smell. And take your own toilet roll in with you- there is no guarantee that there'll be any in there. There are also showering facilities in the camping site just in case you want to attempt to cleanse yourself.
In the arena, there are four stages you can go to in order to see the various acts that are playing throughout the duration of the Bank Holiday:
· Main Stage
· Radio 1 Tent
· Lock-up/Dance Arena
· Alternative Arena (comedy, spoken word etc)
All of these tents are in easy walking distance of each other so you can always keep check on who you want to see, and how long you'll have to wait before dashing off to another stage.
There is also a signing tent in which you can meet various bands, get photos with them and get them to sign various parts of your body if you wish ;) This is a free service but queues are expected and there is no guarantee you'll get to meet your favourite act so get there early!
Food is important at a festival and you are definitely not in short supply of eating facilities at Reading. For a burger, you can be expected to pay around the £3.00 mark; food is often overpriced and isn't delicious but there are a few rare treats amongst the rubbish (such as a fresh milkshake stall- love it!). However, the more exotic or fresh the food, the more you'll probably have to pay. There is always the option of taking some food with you so you spend less at the festival but if you're travelling light, there are foods of every type available to buy.
Finally, there is now a fairground on the campsite for festival goers. This is expensive but if you're looking for some more thrills to add to your festival then this is a neat little addition.
Opinion: I used to love Reading Festival but unfortunately it seems to have already have hit a high note, and now the deterioration has started. The ticket prices are always increasing, despite having pretty much the same facilities available each year, and I feel that the music just isn't cutting it anymore. The last time I went (2008), the headliners were Rage Against The Machine, The Killers and Metallica, and unfortunately this year it has hit a bum note. The music seems to have been altered to suit the mainstream "pop rock" crowd (not in every instance, I might add, but often) and as someone who is into hard-rock and more obscure bands, I feel disappointed at the sudden drop in standard.
The vibe of the campsite, and the way the security is managed, is also something that needs to be changed. It seems more and more common to set fire to tents, and generally just ruin the laid back feeling that a festival should create, and the security they hire take a hard-hitting stance to even small issues of injuries etc.
Until certain factors change, I won't go back to Reading. It's disappointing but I refuse to spend around £300 for a weekend of being pushed around by bullies in uniforms and watching bands that are easy enough to see on tour in many venues. Bring back that special vibe that made me love Reading and you'll regain a die-hard festival goer but until then, bon voyage Reading Festival.
Summary: Bring back the Reading experience of previous years!
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