Of the few jobs I’ve so far had, being a writer and photographer for Reading Festival 2016 certainly has been the most intense, a steep learning curve in a world unknown to the majority of you reading this. I don’t want to big this up as some immense challenge, but certainly there were a number of problems along the way. Sure there were the perks of meeting Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal, or being as close to Twenty One Pilots as is physically possible, but as our wonderful festival interviewer and writer Tianna will testify, the content we gave was not an easy task to accomplish.
I’d firstly like to give some admiration to a great security team on the festival site (from our perspective). These Scottish ladies and gents were never rude, always good at pointing you in the right direction, and very caring for all the fans we saw in trouble, whether they’d lost something or were being crushed at the front of the stage for the 1975’s set. Getting to know a few of them from one day to the next helped us out in the bizarre world of backstage.
When I mention challenges, these came in a few forms. If you are considering covering Reading Festival for the Spark, which I do recommend, remember our place in the pecking order. Reading and Leeds are covered by the BBC and NME, along with everyone from getreading.com to The Student Pocket Guide. The Spark is one of, if not the, smallest publication present, and you will be treated accordingly. Following a rather disorganised pre-planning phase and two new volunteers to cover the festival this year, we stepped into a world of surprises in the press tent. You can see the Reading Uni kids with NME going off to the Main Stage to speak to Courteeners, and know you’re not allowed because of your level of pass (green, as opposed to black). The interview board fills up and then gets wiped clean, even though you’ve been ‘promised’ that interview with a medium-sized band. The PR team are not there for you, they’ve NME and Kerrang to worry about. And watch what you ask the big band’s publicist for.
What surprised me most was the support for NME powered by Reading Uni and their immense team of computers and film cameras, and how our own newspaper was, to a degree, left in the dust. But hey, I’m sure that team of 12 had a great weekend ‘slogging away’. If you can’t take rejection, this job is not for you.
After a rather serious discussion which ended up in apology from the other side, we were relieved to get a big break at 9.30pm on the final night, with an interview with ‘Cage The Elephant’ frontman Matt Shultz. For Tianna, for whom I have a lot of admiration for her effort and persistence across the festival, this interview was such a relief, and helped end the weekend on a high. We had some great moments, googling small-time bands we’d been asked to interview whilst they’re stood behind us, watching interviewees walk straight past to NME, and watching the wifi fail on an hourly basis. If you’re going to Reading, make sure you’ve got the right person by your side.
This weekend certainly was a learning curve, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a real experience of life in the press tent (which NME did not join us in). Thanks Reading Festival, you’ve certainly been interesting.