Exploring the UK Festival Scene with Melvin Benn


Melvin Benn is the driving force behind some of the biggest music festivals across the UK, including Barclaycard Presents Latitude, Gopuff Delivers Wireless, Reading, & Leeds, among many others.

Melvin Benn, Managing Director of Festival Republic (FR)

You’re a staple in the UK festival scene, and you’ve had an incredible career. Tell us about some of the standout moments.

MB: A major career highlight has been reviving Reading Festival from bankruptcy in 1988, growing the event to its current two-site format with its twin festival Leeds, and developing both to their current capacities of 105k and 85k, respectively. Other career highlights include co-creating Creamfields, co-creating Electric Picnic, and creating Latitude from the ground up. It’s also been exciting to work on London’s Finsbury Park as a venue and help make Wireless the world-renowned festival it is today. I’m also honoured to be co-creating Lollapalooza Berlin, the first Lollapalooza in Europe and outside of America. But I should stop there.

We’re seeing rising expectations from fans around the festival experience globally. What’s resonating with UK fans and how are they shaping the festival experience?

MB: In simple terms, it’s the onsite experiences and VIP which of course have some crossover. At both camping and day festivals, the fan demand to upgrade is increasing year on year as is the quality of the experiences that sponsors offer within arena and campsite environments.

Are there any distinctive aspects associated with Festival Republic (FR) events? How are you creating memorable moments for fans?

MB: I think every festival organiser wants their event to stand out. I strive to make sure all of FR’’s events stand apart and are uniquely separate from each other. In essence, festivals will stand out if fans are able to have shared experiences with existing or new friends and core memories are created. Of course, those experiences can be about a band’s performance but equally as important are the interpersonal experiences within the festival itself. The photograph of you and your friends hanging out on the Pepsi Tower, for example, can be as memorable as hearing your favourite song by the act you came to see.

How does FR approach sustainability? What does a sustainability-minded event look like for you?

MB: Sustainability is at Festival Republic’s core. We have no future if sustainability doesn’t become the sole focus for everyone. A sustainable event for me is one with zero waste to landfill or waste for energy, powered entirely by grid or renewable fuel sources with everyone arriving by public transport, renewable fuel, or electric cars. Sustainable events are the future and we will get there.

What makes the UK festival scene different from the rest of the world?

MB: I think the UK and Europe will always offer an authenticity factor for our festivals. Community is everything to us and will always be a central point of focus for our events. The distinct character of each festival remains a key driver for us and we need to follow and respect that path. Interestingly, the younger US festival market identified the upgrade offerings very quickly and much of the rest of the world has followed. But each festival in the UK does it differently to suit the individuality of their environment and fanbase. We need to continue to be aware of that and honour it.

How many festivals do you think you’ve been to?

MB: Gosh! What a question. Probably over a thousand? Does that make me odd?!

If you could only go to one music festival for the rest of your life, which would it be?

MB: Reading. It’s my happy place.

What’s the most iconic festival performance you’ve seen?

 MB: Do I have to answer this one? If so, it’s Rage Against the Machine, Reading Festival 1996. The explosive intensity I can feel to this day. In truth, I have thousands of incredible performance memories from our festivals over the years. And I’m very much looking forward to the next one.

Rage Against the Machine

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