Reading and Leeds Festival Sites Left In a Sea of Trash and Tents — “Littering on the Grandest Scale We’ve Ever Witnessed”

Reading Leeds trash
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Reading Leeds trash
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Photo Credit: Jack Lowe

Reading and Leeds Festival sites left a sea of litter and abandoned tents in the worst aftermath volunteer clean-up crews have ever seen — ‘littering on the grandest scale we’ve ever witnessed.’

The Reading and Leeds Festivals took place over the weekend, attracting more than 100,000 festivalgoers who came to see headliners like Billie Eilish, The Killers, The 1975, Lewis Capaldi, and Sam Fender. But after the dual festivals’ closing performances on Sunday night, clean-up crews deployed the following morning were met with an “utterly appalling” site: sprawling spaces covered in trash and abandoned tents.

“It’s going to take us a while to digest what we saw,” wrote volunteer Jack Lowe, who shared a video to Twitter showing the aftermath as he went to help salvage tents and equipment for a refugee charity. “This is just a fraction of it — littering on the grandest scale we’ve ever witnessed.”

Lowe volunteered to help clear the site and dismantle tents on behalf of a charity helping French refugees. He also shared a link to the BBC’s drone footage of the festival sites, which more aptly showed the scale of the resulting mess.

Melvin Benn, the managing director at Festival Republic, the company that organizes Reading and Leeds Festivals, said: “The message to festivalgoers all of the time is to try and look after the environment, really. We work really hard on making sure that people recycle and take their belongings home with them,” he explained. “Some people are untidy, and we have to tidy up after them.”

Even the festival’s website advises attendees to “buy a durable tent that you can use again each year” and to “say no to single-use; take your tent home!” But the issue of abandoned tents continues to be a thorn in the festival’s side each year, with environmental activist group Clean Up Britain having proposed in 2019 that festivalgoers should pay a deposit to encourage them not to abandon their tents.

The group’s founder, John Read, told reporters he hoped a deposit plan would prevent “the very sad sight of seeing thousands of tents just abandoned in Reading and Leeds.”

But Jack Lowe doesn’t blame the festivalgoers for their mess. Agreeing with a reply to his footage on Twitter, Lowe said, “The problem is the system that makes an industrial consumer society like ours.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t get the sense that the festival (cares),” Lowe writes. “The only thing that matters is whether they made money. As ever, profits over planet.”