Reading & Leeds: A Q&A with Festival Talent Buyer Jon Mcildowie

We're excited now that we can say Reading and Leeds is happening next month!

As part of our build-up to the two much-loved events, join us as we talk to the festival's talent buyer Jon Mcildowie who has also created a treasure chest of a playlist featuring this year's 'must see' acts.


How did you get the enviable role of becoming Reading and Leeds talent buyer? What does the role involve?

I started booking bands in my local city of Birmingham and then in London and things progressed from there. My day is spent negotiating with agents and managers, working with marketing and production teams and the evenings and weekends are often spent at gigs or over the summer going to a lot of festivals.

How do you think the festivals have developed over the years? What’s changed?

In recent years we’ve introduced a new rock stage, The Pit, which we programme with Daniel P Carter. There’s also 3 nights of dance music now on the Radio One Dance Stage and the 1Xtra Stage, which is primarily hip hop.

Daniel P Carter

Reading and Leeds still carry a solid rock heritage although the festivals are very diverse in their musical acts – how do the festivals balance that? Will it always be important to have key rock acts headlining the bill?

The main stage has always had a lot of great rock acts and I can’t see that changing. But we’re also booking a lot of great new rock acts on our smaller stages as well. “Rock” covers so many styles of music but it’s fundamental to what we are.

How would you sum up the festivals to a Reading / Leeds first timer?

A true music festival. Real music, real people, and the best new artists you have heard of plus a lot of great artists you’ll discover first at Reading & Leeds.


Are there any acts on the bill you’ve been chasing for a while to have play at the festivals?   

Every year negotiations can take months sometimes, especially with the bigger acts. We’re delighted with everyone we secured this year.

As a twin site festival, do you find there’s any difference in the atmosphere and crowd Reading and Leeds?

I think it’s more the different sites than the crowd. The Leeds site is stunning, quite rural and spread out. Reading has an intensity to it that I think is unique also. It depends what you like.


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