Reading-Leeds Survives Fire And Rain

The Reading-Leeds weekend re-stoked its reputation for providing a fire or two when a barbecue in one of the car parks on the Rivermead site got out of control.

Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed the accidental blaze destroyed 12 cars and damaged seven more. The fire from the barbecue spread to the grass and then from car to car.

The alarm was raised at about 4 p.m. August 23 and music fans already onsite alerted the fire brigade after seeing smoke billow into the air, according to BBC News. The fire was under control within an hour and no one was injured.

A report in the Daily Star claimed it would have been worse without the intervention of rocker Pete Doherty.

The tabloid, which appears to be the only paper with the story, said Doherty was on his way to the festival to appear with Babyshambles when he spotted a plume of smoke. The story said he jumped from his car and called the emergency services.

Each year between 2000 and 2002, the Leeds festival ended with fans deliberately starting fires. The 2002 blaze was by far the worst, resulting in the destruction of 71 toilets and a portable building. More than 200 were arrested on and around the site.

Apart from the hundreds of fans who couldn’t get in after buying tickets from the SOS Master Tickets site and not receiving them, the main problem at this year’s festivals was the three days of torrential rain that preceded the Leeds gathering.

“It follows all of us [festival organisers] around, but it seems to follow me more closely than others,” said Reading and Leeds promoter Melvin Benn.

Last year, the Festival Republic chief spent the lead-up to the Reading event supervising the removal of a layer of mud from the site.

“This year the weather at Leeds was a big challenge, but the ground at the main arena was OK because it only had feet trampling over it,” Benn said. “It was worse on the roadways leading up to the site and in the camping areas, anywhere where there was a lot of traffic,” he explained, adding that the Met Office says August 2008 looks likely to go down as the wettest on record.

“The big horse-racing festival at York, which is only about 12 miles away from the Leeds site, had to be abandoned because the course was waterlogged. That shows you how wet it was,” he added.

Despite the fire, the rain, the ticket fraudsters and Slipknot pulling out because drummer Joey Jordison broke his ankle a few days before the event, Benn was still very pleased with what he described as “a fantastic weekend.”

The crowd appears to have reacted very positively to having three U.S. rock acts – Rage Against The Machine, Metallica and The Killers – play headline slots, as both 80,000-capacity sites sold out weeks in advance.

The August 22-24 weekend capped a good year for Festival Republic, which is co-owned by Live Nation and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments. In July, the third edition of Latitude Festival, which is becoming a favourite haunt for London agents, sold its 25,000 capacity seven weeks in advance.

The other acts defying the elements in Reading and Leeds included Queens Of The Stone Age, Bloc Party, Tenacious D, The Raconteurs, Editors and Vampire Weekend.