19 Nov Remembering V Festival – “V Fest is dead: long live V Fest!”
by Rich Stephenson || Features
It was sad to hear that Virgin are withdrawing their sponsorship from the V Festival after 22 years.
It is going to continue as a festival under a different name, but for myself, along with a lot of
millennials, the phrase ‘V Fest’ represents a rite of passage: a weekend of going a bit wild and
enjoying music with friends before ‘proper’ jobs and adulthood.
So, I thought I’d post a request for memories of the festival on social media. The responses were
heartfelt and lovingly nostalgic.
For John, a teacher in Mallorca, the festival WAS his teenage years. He lived a stone’s throw away
from the site and went annually.
His memories sound like the highlights of a ‘We Love the 2000s’ TV show: crowd surfing to Ash on
his 19th birthday, watching a triumphant Red Hot Chilli Peppers headline set – and catching a
broken drum stick from The Hives.
For all its popularity, some detractors say V was a ‘festival-lite’; a corporate affair with ‘safe’ band
bookings and little edge.
Rene, an artist from Hull, was a taken aback on his first visit: “I was expecting this free loving
Woodstock style festival and instead got Virgin Cola and American Express water!”
On the other hand, many saw this ‘safeness’ as a great opportunity to watch music without their
In fact, my dad happily took me to V98 as a very young kid so I could see Green Day – and
thoroughly enjoyed himself.
V’s sense of fun also extended to the standard festival shenanigans everyone experiences.
Laura, a DJ from London, comically remembered being towed in AND out of the festival one year.
Rene’s memories are also like the plot of a children’s slapstick comedy script: “I got knocked over
by a man dressed as the hungry caterpillar and then got hit in the eye by a drum stick thrown into
the crowd. Someone else picked it up while I was trying to regain my sight.”
V always prided itself in booking exciting acts of the moment: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Pink, The Strokes,
Travis and The Killers all headlined over the years.
This did make for some strange lineups: I remember one year calmly swaying to David Gray one
minute and nearly being trampled on in a Foo Fighters moshpit the next.
As well as celebrating musical acts in their pomp, the festival’s desire to book the big hitters also
meant that the weekend sometimes bore witness to bands losing their crowns.
Rene remembers V2000 as being the final death knell of Britpop, bands dialling-in lacklustre
performances much to the disappointment of his group of friends.
All was not lost though, as another up-and-coming act, Coldplay, shone that weekend: “They
played the second stage mid-afternoon. I remember thinking that they were going to be the
saviours of indie music – little did I know!”
For many, V also acted as a gentle introduction to the more hardcore festival circuit.
Personally, I can’t say I enjoyed trying to sleep next to flaming portaloos at Leeds or being up to
my ankles in mud without wellies at Kendal Calling and Glastonbury years later, but I certainly had
coping strategies that V had introduced me to.
This even stretched to life skills. Sarah from Canada discovered new driving techniques at V: “I
narrowly avoided being towed out one year, by pulling away in 4th!”
There is hope for the event. Festival Republic promoter Melvin Benn this week announced that the
festival will be re-branded, re-named – and possibly even extended to three days rather than two.
However, for many people of a certain age, the end of V Festival will be like losing an old friend; a
friend you could share a warm cider with to a soundtrack of Beyonce and The Killers.
V Fest is dead: long live V Fest!