A backstage look at Leeds Festival

 17 May 2017

Our Summer Festival Visits Programme allows students to get access backstage and get an insight into all the work that goes into a festival. Nathan Adams from Gateshead College attended Leeds festival in 2016 and shared with us his experience.

"This experience has densely benefited me and gave me the chance to see some amazing acts."

After taking the long journey to Leeds Festival, I and my fellow students were greeted at the gates in person by Steve Cheney.

He kindly showed us to our very exclusive camping area, where we easily set up our tents with plenty of room. From there, he allowed us to enjoy our first day to the fullest and explore the festival and see the acts that were on.

Learning the equipment

The next day we were woken promptly and met once again by Steve, who explained that we were going on a tour backstage.

We first visited the sound/lighting tower where we met Ollie, the head sound engineer for the day. He talked us through some of the equipment that was being used and how lots of planning and preparation had gone into the festival.

For example he mentioned about how a massive trench was dug from the tower to the main stage to keep all wires hidden and reduce any risk of injury.

Ollie also talked us through noise restrictions and sound level laws with festivals.

He was very helpful and a great person to talk to, to find out more about the industry.

Getting a behind-the-scenes look

Next we were allowed to go back stage to see the preparation required for a turn around and show starting.

It was eye-opening to see the work required for an operation as large as one such as Leeds Festival.

The backstage tour was great and it helped me understand the production and technical side of things a lot clearer. 

Again, having been involved in operations such as these, but of a smaller scale, it was educational and surprising to see the way that they dealt with the larger stage needs by preparing a second stage behind the first main one.

This way they could easily wheel out the equipment onto the first stage, almost pre-packaged. It meant that everything was done and ready in five minutes.

Steve explained that if all members of the crew come prepared and know what they're supposed to be doing, then most of the work can be done before the performance/change over and the transition will run smoothly.

To round up the tour we were allowed to stay backstage and watch the first act of the day, an incredible show by Frank Turner.

After that, we were able to enjoy the last couple days of the festival!

How did the visit help?

Steve Cheney and other people working at the festival have given me a better insight into live sound and the work that goes into a festival.

The backstage tour was great and it helped me understand the production and technical side of things a lot clearer. 

We were allowed to stay backstage and watch the first act of the day

It also made me more certain that I’d love to go into this line of work! The job of a sound engineer offers the chance to travel the world, meet people from different places and be a part of some of the greatest events and festivals.

In all, I thought the tour to be incredibly educational and fun. I'd personally like to thank Steve for the experience and for being so generous for taking time out of his clearly busy schedule to show us around and let us have a taste of what it takes to run a festival.

Leeds festival was an all-round amazing experience and the balance of experience and free time allowed us to see some amazing acts and gather some great knowledge on the planning and work that goes into a festival.

Once again I’d like to give a big thanks to Steve Cheney, the National Skills Academy, Steve Long and everyone involved with the festival.

This experience has densely benefited me and gave me the chance to see some amazing acts. 

Find out more about our 2017 Festival Production Placements.