Dude, where's my tent?

Relive the sights and sounds - and mud - of three decades of the Reading Festival
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The Independent Culture

Rather than the paintings and sculptures that are usually found at the Museum of Reading, posters of bands, a tent and even a portable lavatory will occupy its galleries as it hosts an exhibition of rock'n'roll memorabilia gathered from 30 years of the Reading Festival. The exhibition will feature music, film, photographs and memorabilia from performers and fans, and will attempt to capture the authentic festival experience, if in slightly unusual surroundings.

Rather than the paintings and sculptures that are usually found at the Museum of Reading, posters of bands, a tent and even a portable lavatory will occupy its galleries as it hosts an exhibition of rock'n'roll memorabilia gathered from 30 years of the Reading Festival. The exhibition will feature music, film, photographs and memorabilia from performers and fans, and will attempt to capture the authentic festival experience, if in slightly unusual surroundings.

"Music, Mud, and Mayhem: 30 years of the Reading Festival is going to be a really eclectic exhibition," says its curator, Matthew Williams. " There will be posters of the different bands who have played at Reading down the years, and we are going to have television footage of former festivals projected on the walls. There's going to be a reconstruction of a fans' tent that you can lie in, with beer cans around it. We're also going to have a portable loo that you can sit on and listen to people's memories about the festival."

Williams believes that such an approach will attract a different kind of museum-goer. "We wanted to convey the irreverence of the festival. It's not a po-faced kind of art exhibition. We want to appeal to the kind of people that would have gone to the festival before and will be going this year."

The bulk of the exhibits have been donated. "We did a public appeal locally and loads of fans came out of the woodwork. We got loads of great local material, and then we put some pages on the internet and we were getting e-mails from all over the world offering all sorts of memorabilia."

Williams sees this as a testa-ment to the central place the festival has in the local community, as well as its international fame. "The festival has very much become part of life in Reading over the past 30 years - almost everyone in the area is affected by it - either as fans or relatives. It is a rite of passage that many young people go through and we are hoping to capture something of that sense of adventure in this exhibition. Everything in our exhibition has appeared at some time in the festival - from drumsticks to guitars, playlists to badges. All the stuff has a connection with the festival."

Highlights of the exhibition include Kurt Cobain's guitar from Nirvana's Reading performance in 1992, set lists from The Stranglers and The Police, a sweatband with the sweat and signature of Ozzy Osbourne on it, and a festival beer glass autographed by his son, Jack.

Williams hopes the exhibition might lead to some of the memorabilia being permanently donated to the museum: "At the moment it's all on loan - people have donated their own Reading collections. But we want to reflect the importance of the festival to the community in our permanent collection as well, so hopefully we'll be able to keep some of the materials."

Music, Mud, and Mayhem: 30 years of the Reading Festival, Museum of Reading (0118-939 9800; www.reading museum.org.uk) 17 August to 28 November (Tuesday to Sunday)

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