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Am I Too Old for Leeds Fest?

What once was a rock festival, has it now become a GCSE celebration? In recent years, Leeds Festival has seemed like a teenage standdown, a proof of being more mature, older, and adult. Growing up just over an hour away from Leeds Fest site, I spent teenage years anticipating my escape from my parents’ clutches and doing some classic English drinking in a field – but with louder music and a couple thousand more people than the local park. Braham Park contained all the hopes and dreams of nearly every Northern 16-year-old, and still does. There’s magic in that first festival experience and for many, at their first glimpse of an unsupervised weekend, they go a bit mental.

I’m now 20, and somehow feel younger than I did the first time I packed wellies & a 12 pack of ciders for Leeds Fest. Even at my age now though, how can I feel too old to go? Maybe it’s the envy I feel for my little sister making her own Leeds Fest debut, excitedly planning outfits, and getting her first shitty pop-up (although in my mind she’s perpetually 12).

Despite reminiscing on just the festival atmosphere, the line-up for Leeds Fest 2024 is genuinely good. It feels like organisers might be trying to steer away from this younger demographic, probably due to the general rioting, fighting and looting situation that’s accompanied general camping in recent years. After watching fire engines travelling up and down the site on the Sunday of the 2021 weekend was reminiscent of watching the Woodstock ‘99 documentary.

In the last two years, I witnessed younger teens setting off aerosol explosions and having airbed wars which escalated into full on fist fights, which made the festival feel like it had a different edge. The element of anger and array of uncontrollable emotions that possess the post-covid kids demonstrate that they think with post-lockdown freedom comes a complete lack of respect. With rising prices of alcohol, drugs are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative. Notorious rumours have always spread of ice cream vans selling cocaine to minors and insiders reporting that gate security keep hold of confiscated materials for the end of weekend staff party.

For this year’s initiation of teens making the pilgrimage, it isn’t surprising that after Covid they’re gagging to get out and cause the sort of carnage they could never get away with in small towns without being recognised by every neighbour and dad’s mate from work. There’s a sense of anonymity in the late-night masses of people and identical tents that allows for these kids to push any boundary they knew to exist. This means older fans, even just a couple years older, are being put off and pushed away by the weed bucket hat wearing and mosh pitting to Becky Hill crowds that swarm the festival each year.

However, 2024 holds some hope with artists such as The Prodigy, Lana Del Rey, and blink-182, appealing to an older audience. The revival of Catfish and The Bottlemen is drawing in every indie-kid of 2017 that worshipped the ground Van Mccan walked, and after swearing to never go back to Leeds Fest, I’m willing to give it another go. The addition of heavier artists such as Fontaines DC, Viagra Boys & Crawlers, instead of the recurring TikTok/influencer artists that have filled up the tents in the past years is a real pull. There’s genuine talent included on the bright yellow poster this year.

Perhaps we can leave the Molotov cocktail of nylon tents and clipper lighters behind and enjoy it!

Words by Millie Cain she/her



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