Artists and industry insiders’ favourite Leeds Festival memories

On the dawn of Leeds Festival 2014, we thought we would share with you some Leeds Festival memories from the minds of the artists and industry who love it so deeply…

Leeds Festival, what is there to say? An occasion once as hotly anticipated as Christmas, only more boozy. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for four nights of tent-based debauchery but for many years it was our Summer beano for a bunch of us, and I dare say it still is.

Some of the bits that have somehow managed to stay wedged in my memory banks include the conga around the crowd on the main stage in 2002, coming across a very wet and very annoyed Harry Gration (legendary Yorkshire news presenter) on the first day in 2010 and somehow managing to pull off the best blag of my life, doing Robochrist to a packed tent in 2004.

Granted, that was the only time it rained all weekend, but I’d like to think the festival gods were on my side. Leeds Festival is a rite of passage for many; may there be rock, sun, beer and bad snogging. – Chris Catalyst, Guitarist, Sisters of Mercy and Eureka Machines

I’ve been to about 10 Leeds Festivals now, both as a fan and a photographer. I think my fondest memory is that of friends, be they in bands or just mates hanging out. Leeds festival seems to bring everyone together for one big party.

The camaraderie is wonderful. I once got asked to shoot a portrait of Metallica for the NME at Leeds festival. I was really nervous and had spent all day fine-tuning my settings. Once inside their dressing room, from my first shot to the last was only 47 seconds! The actual show was amazing for me though, as I got the chance to shoot them on stage. Lars gave me one of the most memorable live photos I’ve ever taken by coming back on stage for the encore, walking to his drums, turning around and spraying beer from his mouth right at the camera! – Danny North, Music Photographer and contributor to Q, Kerrang, NME and more

I owe the Leeds Festival so much. It has served as a musical right of passage for me and every kid in Yorkshire who ever picked up a guitar. I first went when I was eighteen and the festival was still held at Temple Newsham, less than ten minutes drive from my house.

The whole thing blew me away. First of all the sheer scale and atmosphere was unlike anything I had ever seen. Secondly as a weird bunch of kids from Rothwell who loved the Beatles and played guitar in their bedrooms as opposed to going to clubs in FCUK t-shirts, it was a revelation to meet so many like-minded people. Turns out we weren’t the only Strokes fans in the village!

Then there’s the music – so many bands I never thought I’d see, in such little time and this close to my house. I couldn’t believe it. After going to our first Leeds Festival me and my four best friends knew unequivocally that being in a band was what we wanted to do with our lives. We had to get on that stage at Leeds Festival.

The first time we played the it, at Bramham in 2006, it was the fulfilment of that dream and we have gone on to play every stage throughout the years. Now every year I turn up at Bramham and see groups of young kids excitedly running from stage to stage and it reminds me of Ry, Matt, Oli, Jimmi and I doing the exact same thing what feels like yesterday and a million years ago.

It makes me immensely proud to know we made it onto the Leeds Festival stage and above everything else we have done as a band, I think that achievement would make the younger versions of us the happiest. – Dave Best, Bass Guitar, The Pigeon Detectives

My one and only crowd surf to date came at Leeds Festival, so it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. It was 2008, MGMT were tearing through ‘Kids’ in a packed NME/Radio 1 tent, and it just felt right to get some air. Landing the other side of the barrier shortly afterwards and looking back into an ecstatic, sweaty and ravenous pit… that, for me, is Leeds summed up. – Rob Webb, Writer, NME

We played in public for the first time at the ‘rock up and play’ stage that used exist. By the time we’d plucked up the courage to play the fragile equipment supplied was nearly broken. And by end of our set we’d finished the job. So it’ll always have a special place in our hearts as the first outing for what became Sky Larkin. – Katie and Nestor, Sky Larkin

Crazy to think that in 2014 I will have been fortunate enough to have been able to attend my “local” Leeds Festival annually for the past 15 years! It used to be such an aspiration to have bands perform at the event and such an out there idea, let alone have bands perform at a plethora of events all over the country.

Having seen the site move and evolve to what it is today is incredible to have in our fair city. The inclusion of the BBC Introducing stage has to be a real crowning moment and seeing bands I have worked with or been close to in some way shape or form such as Blacklisters, Hawk Eyes and These Monsters really stamp their mark on the festival has to be my best memory of the festival as a whole.

The future headliners are in these line-ups somewhere, so make sure you check the stage out! – Tom Bellhouse, Tone Management

As you can see from these memories, the Leeds music scene is like one big family, and the festival is its annual party. Some of the best times of my early twenties have been at Leeds Festival.

My favourite memory was playing the BBC introducing stage in 2007. The crowd were amazing. I felt like I had a connection and common ground with everyone there. Festivals are meant to be about celebration, and Leeds festival truly fulfils that for me. You can’t help but get that feeling of ‘we’re all in it together, let’s ‘ave it Leeds.’

Leeds & Reading 2015 is now on sale. Grab your tickets here.