Festival Focus: Leeds Festival 2011

Leeds and Reading is probably the most hotly anticipated festivals of the season. Earlier this week they announced not only one of the best line ups of the year but one of the finest in recent memory. Andrew Trendell went along to the launch to have a chat with festival boss Melvin Benn about the legacy of Leeds, this year’s line up and how it beats Benidorm.

"It’s not easy," says Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn, sipping on a flute of champagne. He’s just walked off stage at the Leeds Cockpit after announcing this year’s eagerly anticipated line up for Reading and Leeds - sending Twitter, ticket lines and a nation of music lovers into a frenzy.

"The pressure to keep away acts aren’t the right fit for what we want Leeds and Reading to be is non-stop, and to deal with it and to create the greatest music festival in the world is something very few people in the world could achieve," admits Benn.

And achieved it this year they certainly have. Descending upon Branham Park this summer, along with 90,000 revellers, will be the likes of Muse, The Strokes, Elbow, My Chemical Romance and the return of Yorkshire indie gods Pulp.

Needless to say Benn is more than satisfied with the bill. But how would he say that this year’s Reading and Leeds line up ranks amongst previous years that have seen historic performances from the likes of Radiohead, Nirvana and the Kings of Leon?

"That’s one of those impossible questions," says Benn.

"It’s a bit like asking who your favourite child is or whether this year’s Manchester United team is better than that of 1970 or something, but a festival line up can only be judged in the year that it is happening really, and the reality is that the reality is that the Leeds and Reading Festival line up is unquestionably the best in the UK this year."

Strong words indeed, especially as rival festivals such as Glastonbury and V Festival boast the likes of U2, Beyonce and the Arctic Monkeys. But Benn says that they had a few tricks up their sleeves this year in bagging some acts that you won’t see anywhere else.

"All of the headliners are exclusive," he says, proudly.

"Muse will be only two European dates in 2011 which will be Leeds and Reading Festivals, and Muse are promising that they won’t be regurgitating a stadium show or set, they creating something entirely new that will only ever be performed at Reading and Leeds."

He continues: "Also, Leeds will be Pulp’s only Northern England date, The Strokes' exclusive festival dates are here and the same goes for My Chemical Romance and Thirty Seconds To Mars."

"This will also be the first time that the original line up of Taking Back Sunday will be seen here and it will be great to have Jane’s Addiction back, after Perry Farrel unashamedly copied us to create Lollapolooza in America and there is no greater tribute than being copied, so we are delighted that he will return."

Benn also organises other festival favourites such as Latitude in Suffolk. But how does he approach booking such dazzling line ups year in, year out.

"The reality is that festivals like Leeds, Reading and Latitude have a depth, quality and culture to them," he muses.

"Bands don’t get booked on any of those festivals because it’s convenient or because we owe somebody a favour. They get booked on those festivals because it is the right thing to present to those festival-goers."

He adds: "They are our judges. The festival-goers are who we work for, who we live for and who we aim to please."

So in a time of economic apocalypse, why should people shell out to go to a festival and what can they get out of it that they wouldn’t get from a week in Benidorm?

"Well, happiness," laughs Benn.

"I'm not entirely sure that a weekend in Benidorm could achieve happiness but I’ve never been so I can’t guarantee that.\3

"What really sets festivals apart in that sense is the value for money and the sense of community. Being able to hang out in a space where everybody is interested in the same things as you is unbeatable. You might be able to go to Benidorm and get some sunshine, but quite frankly, would you want to drink with the people who are there? Not necessarily.

Benn adds: "But would you want to drink with the people who are there to watch Muse, 2ManyDJs and and Madness?"

"Yes, of course you do."

Leeds Festival 2011 takes place at Branham Park, Leeds from Friday 26th - Sunday 28th August.

For the full line up and ticket details visit www.leedsfestival.com.

Weekend tickets cost £192.50 plus booking fees while single day tickets are £82.50 plus booking fees.

Tickets are on sale now and available by calling 07800603775 or by visiting www.seetickets.com or www.festivalrepublic.com