JBM Music directors Jorge Meehan and Brian Murphy speak to Access about the evolution of Reggae Land festival and its move to the Milton Keynes National Bowl, which will see its capacity increase from 10,000 to 15,000 per day. The historic venue, a former clay pit, filled in and raised to form an amphitheatre, has previously hosted the likes of Queen, David Bowie, Metallica, Dizzie Rascal and Foo Fighters. 

JBM Music directors Jorge Meehan (right) and Brian Murphy

Why did you decide to move to the National Bowl? 

JM: The National Bowl has always been a goal of ours since launching Reggae Land in Milton Keynes back in 2021. We’ve had two amazing years of festivals at Campbell Park, but given our expansion plans we felt 2023 was the right time to make the jump and move over to the National Bowl. For 2023, we’ve expanded absolutely everything. We’re welcoming over 80 artists flying in from around the world performing over four stages across the weekend, which is our most yet. One of our most exciting additions for 2023 is the launch of on-site camping for guests. We are just finalising the last bits of planning and hope to announce that over the next few weeks.

How will the move enhance the event?

JM: Last year’s event was a huge turning point for us, as we scaled up on the site to deliver headliners in Shaggy and Julian Marley, with over 60 artists across three stages. The event at Campbell Park was a sell-out, and we felt if we wanted to expand and bring in even bigger talent, then we would have to look at moving site.

BM: The biggest plus of the National Bowl is no doubt the space. We have four stages of music this year; The Main Stage, the Festival Big Top, our Carnival Stage and new for 2023 is the Fatty’s Yard hosted by Rompa’s Reggae Shack. The Bowl gives us the capacity to welcome up to 30,000 people over the weekend and the addition of weekend camping options for the first time. The Bowl has the scale to allow us to grow into the site.

How has the event evolved over the last few years?

BM: Just about everything has evolved. We’ve gone from 16 artists in 2021 to more than 80 for 2023. In 2021, we used UK-based talent, this year we are flying in some of the biggest Reggae artists in the world. A big change for us was that we started out as prominently a local festival for Milton Keynes showcasing good reggae music. Our ticket demographics now include buyers from all over the UK, Scotland, Wales, Spain, Netherlands, France, Germany and more.

Reggae Land 2023 will take place from 6-7 August, with a lineup including Sean Paul, Beanie Man, Barrington Levy and Shy FX.