The 1971 READING FESTIVAL: For the First Time

26 August 2021 to 15 January 2022

Venue: Sir John Madejski Art Gallery Reading Museum



2021 marked fifty years of Reading Festival, the iconic event that put Reading on the map for music lovers across the globe. This anniversary formed the heart of our exhibition, 'The 1971 READING FESTIVAL: For the First Time’, which told the story of that first festival, and of the musicians, sounds and crowds that brought it to life. You can relive the exhibition with our video tour further down this page.

This unique exhibition took place in the Sir John Madejski Art Gallery, and included rare and unseen photographs by legendary photographers including Jill Furmanovsky. The festival’s story was told through expert narration by Ian Shirley (Record Collector magazine).  A remarkable range of objects and ephemera from the first festival was tracked down for the temporary exhibition. While brilliant artistic responses by local young people, showed what Reading Festival meant to them in 2021.

The exhibition was part of Museums Partnership Reading, a collaborative, wide ranging programme of activities from Reading Museum and The Museum of English Rural Life, supported by the Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation programme. ‘The 1971 Reading Festival: For the first time’ was generously supported by Festival Republic.

'The 1971 READING FESTIVAL: For the First Time' ran from Thursday 26 August 2021 to Saturday 15 January 2022 in the Sir John Madejski Art Gallery.

Watch our video tour