A History of Slam Dunk Festival

2016 marks the tenth year of Slam Dunk Festival. The festival has quickly become the UK’s premier touring festival, almost being likened as the younger British cousin of America’s massive Vans Warped Tour. To celebrate and to get you more excited for this year’s May bank holiday shenanigans, we take a look back at the festival from its inauguration in 2006 right up to what you can expect from 2016.

2016 marks the tenth year of Slam Dunk Festival. The festival has quickly become the UK’s premier touring festival, almost being likened as the younger British cousin of America’s massive Vans Warped Tour. To celebrate and to get you more excited for this year’s May bank holiday shenanigans, we take a look back at the festival from its inauguration in 2006 right up to what you can expect from 2016.

The festival started in Leeds in 2006, with a singular stage at the Millennium Square and a handful of artists, including headliners Fall Out Boy alongside The Academy Is, Capdown, Hundred Reasons, HelloGoodbye, The Hush Sound and Thursday. In 2007, the festival headed across the city to its new home at Leeds Metropolitan University again with a singular stage this time headlined by Reel Big Fish and featuring Paramore, Mad Caddies, Failsafe, Beat Union, Sonic Boom Six and Slam Dunk Records then rising stars You Me At Six.

2008 saw a rapid expansion of the festival with the introduction of three more stages. More stages, means more top names. This year saw Sonic Boom Six and You Me At Six return for a second year running and featuring the likes of We Are The Ocean, Zebrahead, The Blackout, Kids in Glass Houses, Attack! Attack!, All Forgotten, Twin Atlantic and several more seeing the festival quadruple in act numbers in just a year. 2008 was also the first year of stage sponsors, seeing Glamour Kills, Atticus Non Stop and UK Now! Lending their names to the stages.

The following year saw two more stages added, totalling six. With Slam Dunk stalwarts You Me At Six returning for their third consecutive year and first as main stage headliners. Previous Slam Dunk alumni The Blackout, Kids in Glass Houses, Attack! Attack!, Hundred Reasons and We Are The Ocean also returned for the second time alongside Sonic Boom Six who, like headliners You Me At Six, returned for a third consecutive year. The likes of Cobra Starship, Silverstein, Hollywood Undead, Young Guns, Anti-Flag, The Skints, Glamour of the Kill, Defeater and Save Your Breath also featured, expanding the genre catchment from mainly pop-punk to include rock, punk, emo, ska and even metal. Glamour Kills returned as main stage sponsors, Vans, who are main sponsor for the US Warped tour, lent their name to third stage and Oli Sykes’ Drop Dead company also sponsored a stage.

2010 saw a major expansion with the introduction of Hertfordshire hosting the festival, turning it from a one-day event into a two-day event. The festival then being known as Slam Dunk North for the Leeds date and Slam Dunk South for the Hertfordshire University date. Another two stages were also added with some more big name sponsors including the return of the Glamour Kills, Vans Off The Wall and Atticus stages alongside a Kerrang! Introduces stage. Sonic Boom Six and We Are The Ocean return for a fourth and third consecutive year respectively, The Skints, Save Your Breath, Me vs. Hero, Young Guns and All Or Nothing also returning for a second year. As the festival gained popularity among fans, it also attracted the attention of some of the industry’s big names with the likes of New Found Glory, Alkaline Trio and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly headlining stages. Capdown also return for the first time since the inaugural festival to headline the Vans stage. Other notable acts included Deaf Havana, Skindred, Blackhole, The Wonder Years, Breathe Carolina, Your Demise, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals, Against Me! and Rolo Tomassi. 2010 was also the year where DJ sets were introduced with the Babycakes Bar stage hosting DJ sets from the likes of The Blackout’s Sean Smith and Lags.

The stages were reduced from eight to seven in 2011 but that didn’t cause a drop in talent on show. Reel Big Fish returned for their second slot on the bill, again as main stage headliners. We Are The Ocean returned for a fourth consecutive year, The Skints for their third consecutive year, Attack! Attack! for their third slot, Anti-Flag and Hellogoodbye for their second appearances, Deaf Havana, Set Your Goals and Hit The Lights also returned for their second consecutive years. Slam Dunk debutants of the year included the likes of Less Than Jake, 3OH!3, Mayday Parade, We Are The In Crowd, Decade, While She Sleeps, Bury Tomorrow, Yashin, Feed The Rhino, Lower Than Atlantis, Don Broco, The Famous Class and introducing stage’s competition winners Blitz Kids. There was also an introduction of the acoustic stage, seeing the likes of Jimmy Holland and The Lion and the Wolf performing.

Stage wise, 2012’s festivals were downgraded, going from seven to four, however the names of those performing considerable upgraded with the likes of Taking Back Sunday, Funeral For A Friend, Of Mice & Men, Motion City Soundtrack, Everytime I Die, Cancer Bats, Architects, The Word Alive, I See Stars, Upon A Burning Body, Gallows, Marmozets, The Story So Far and Our Time Down Here making their Slam Dunk debuts and seeing The Blackout, Lower Than Atlantis, Capdown, Don Broco, Hit The Lights, Save Your Breath and Decade returning.

2013 saw the festival expand into a full weekend with the introduction of Wolverhampton Civic Hall as the third date and brought the number of stages back up to seven. Festival headliners All Time Low were joined by the likes of Sleeping With Sirens, Mallory Knox, Tonight Alive, Pierce The Veil, Memphis May Fire, Hands Like Houses, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk and Our Last Night. Previous alumni included Deaf Havana, Kids in Glass Houses, We Are The Ocean, The Story So Far, Bury Tomorrow, The Skints, Me vs. Hero, Cancer Bats, Yashin and Blitz Kids.

2014 saw the continuation of the three dates while also adding two smaller line-ups in Edinburgh and Newport (South Wales) either side of the main dates. Returning to the festival were the likes of We Are The In Crowd, Mallory Knox, Motion City Soundtrack, The Skints, Blitz Kids, Les Than Jake, Capdown, Zebrahead, Gnarwolves, Decade, Bury Tomorrow, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk, Kids in Glass Houses, Hit the Lights, Save Your Breath, Feed The Rhino, Marmozets and the return of the Acoustic stage saw the return of The Lion and the Wolf. Festival headliners were The All-American Rejects who were also joined by fellow Slam Dunk debutants Chiodos, The Ghost Inside, The Devil Wears Prada, Crown the Empire, Real Friends and Neck Deep amongst several others.

2015’s festival saw the smaller events in Edinburgh and Newport scrapped and Leeds’ event moved out into Leeds city centre. Slam Dunk favourites You Me At Six returned for their second headline slot and fourth bill appearance, the likes of Reel Big Fish, Don Broco, Lower Than Atlantis, Neck Deep, We Are The Ocean, The Wonder Years, Architects, While She Sleeps, Zebrahead, Gallows and special guests Bury Tomorrow all returned and Rob Lynch returned for the second consecutive year, however moving from the acoustic stage to the Fresh Blood stage. Debutants included PVRIS, Set It Off, Trash Boat, Thy Art Is Murder, Beartooth, As It Is, Roam, Knuckle Puck, Crossfaith, Patent Pending, Being As An Ocean, Moose Blood, Seaway, Fort Hope and Only Rivals. There were also DJ sets on the Uprawr DJ stage from the club nights resident DJs as well as Dani and Davyd Winter-Bates from Bury Tomorrow and The Algorithm.

So what does 2016 hold for the festival? A cracking line-up of some of the biggest names in the UK and USA with the likes of Mallory Knox, Mayday Parade, Young Guns, Moose Blood, Of Mice & Men, The Word Alive, The Story So Far, Real Friends, New Found Glory, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals, As It Is, Trash Boat, Hit The Lights, Zebrahead, Everytime I Die, Cancer Bats, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk and Rob Lynch all returning to the festival and not to forget Capdown who have made regular appearances throughout the ten years, including at the inaugural seven act event in 2006. Making their Slam Dunk debuts include the likes of Panic! At The Disco, Yellowcard, Issues, Memphis May Fire, The Amity Affliction, Roam, New Years Day, Creeper, Dead!, Boston Manor, Blood Youth and the likes of Grumble Bee, Away Days, Seafoal and Greywind joining Rob Lynch on the acoustic stage.

Elizabeth Birt

May 3, 2016

Band management assistant. Goth princess and lover of all things music and sport.


View all author posts