The council has backed Reading Festival with another 5,000 capacity increase, reflecting its ‘confidence’ in the festival’s organisers.

The festival’s capacity will increase by 5000 to 105,000 in 2019, having increased by the same number last year.

Noel Painting, Health and Safety Events Organiser at Festival Republic (FR), attended the council’s Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure committee on March 13 to answer questions about the festival.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) officer James Crosby said the increase reflects the council’s confidence in FR’s management of the festival, while councillors praised the music promoter’s safeguarding and sustainability efforts at Reading 2018.

Calls for new initiatives including banning plastic bottles and front of house drug testing (more here) were rejected, however.

Mr Painting said FR is ‘really proud’ of its progress in safeguarding and is looking to increasing the size of the street pastors tent, provide more equipment to safe hubs and enhance safeguarding in general in 2019.

A safeguarding co-ordinator was newly appointed for the 2018 event and ‘Safe Hubs’ were introduced to provide support to festivalgoers.

There were over 2000 visits to these safe spaces over the course of the festival.

Councillor Sarah Hacker, lead member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “Thank you for the sheer amount of hard work that is put into these festivals, both by RBC and Festival Republic.

“It’s nice to see that it is safe for young people to attend. “

Councillor Brenda McGonigle called for the council to ‘follow Glastonbury’s lead’ and ban plastic bottles.

Glastonbury has banned single-use plastic bottles from this year onwards.

Mr Painting said FR was considering eliminating plastic bottles at some events, but it would be more difficult at Reading Festival because of ‘plastic bottle wars where 50 people on each side throw semi-full water bottles at each other in the arena’.

He added: “The concern is the potential for injury if we have non-plastic, heavier bottles full of liquid.”

Councillor Ellie Emberson praised the festival organisers for the improved levels of tent recycling.

There was a 50 per cent return rate of paper cups in 2018, up from 44 per cent in 2017, and minimal traders were found to be using polystyrene, according to the council.

Cllr Emberson said adverts on the big screen and the festival app promoting recycling had made a big difference.

Councillors also asked whether there could be a reduced cost for young people in Reading, or another offer for local Reading people.

Mr Painting said: “I don’t think we can make a reduction for people in Reading. We make our contribution in other ways. We make a Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payment to Reading and we make contributions to local charities.”

He said the organisers would, however, consider working with disadvantaged groups in Reading or foster children.