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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Donnington’s history of rock and metal

 The Donington Rock Festival, also known as Download Festival, is one of the most iconic and revered rock music festivals in the United Kingdom. Since its inception in 1980, the festival has evolved into a massive celebration of rock and heavy metal music, attracting thousands of fans from all over the world. Held annually at Donington Park in Leicestershire, England, the festival has a rich history and has featured some of the biggest names in the rock and metal music industry.

The origins of the Donington Rock Festival can be traced back to the Monsters of Rock festival, which was first held at the Donington Park racetrack in 1980. The inaugural event featured bands such as Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Saxon, and April Wine, and attracted a crowd of over 35,000 fans. Over the years, the festival continued to grow in popularity, becoming a mecca for rock music enthusiasts.

In 1980, promoter Paul Loasby, along with Maurice Jones, planned a one-day festival dedicated specifically for bands within the hard rock and heavy metal genre. Loasby was an established and successful promoter working that year on the Rainbow UK tour and penned the festival as the final show of the tour for the band to headline. Jones knew the owner of the Donington Park race track, Tom Wheatcroft, located next to the village of Castle Donington in Leicestershire, England, and the site was chosen to host the event.[1]

(A year earlier, promoter Bill Graham’s July 1979 Day on the Green Festival at Oakland Coliseum in California was also dubbed "The Monsters of Rock" show. This concert featured AerosmithTed Nugent and AC/DC.)

Donington Park was unknown as a major location but its location in the East Midlandsnext to the M1 and A42 allowed for better transportation to the site from around the country. Additionally the site ground level sloped which allowed for a better viewing for the audience throughout the site.

The first Monsters of Rock line-up consisted of a mix of British and international bands and was a success with 35,000 heavy metal fans attending. Although only conceived as a one-off event, it was mentioned on the day the idea that the festival will return the following year and the first edition birthed what would become a regular festival for the next 15 years, becoming synonymous as a Mecca for fans of the genre and further establishing the Midlands as the home of heavy metal.[2]

Over the years, the attendance continued to grow, reaching 107,000 in 1988, when two fans died during the Guns N' Roses set. Initially the blame was thought to be the size of the crowd and a rush forward during the band's set but officially the cause was laid on the weather, causing muddy and wet conditions on the sloping ground. As a result, the festival did not take place in 1989, and it was replaced that year by a two-day festival similar to Monsters of Rock, the Moscow Music Peace Festival in Soviet Union, which included performances by several Monsters of Rock veterans Bon JoviOzzy OsbourneMötley Crüe and Scorpions.[3] Monsters of Rock returned the year after with a limitation to the crowd of 75,000.[4]

The festival had been held in parallel in West Germany from 1983 to 1991. In 1984 and 1986 the festival branched into Sweden. In 1988, the festival occurred for the first time in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. It was held as a one-time event in 1991 in Russia (one of the largest concerts of all time, with an estimated audience of over 1.6 million[citation needed]), Poland, Belgium, Hungary. In 1994, the festival was exported overseas to Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

In 1993 the Monsters of Rock radio show debuted in the United States with host Harlan Hendrickson. Guests on the show include everyone from AC/DCKISSVan HalenJudas PriestMotörheadCinderellaOzzy OsbourneBon JoviCheap TrickMötley CrüeRattDioY&TGuns N' RosesSlayer and Poison.

The Monsters of Rock festival continued on as the premier hard rock and heavy metal event in Great Britain in the 1990s but started to fall upon hard times as heavy metal became less popular, with another cancellation in 1993 due to being unable to find a strong enough headliner. In 1995 the festival found itself in a similar situation until Metallica agreed to play with the condition of the band having control over the event and naming it "Escape from the Studio". In 1996 Ozzy Osbourne and KISS co-headlined the festival and although there were plans to extend the festival into a two-day event in 1997, the promoters once again found themselves in a struggle for headliners and the event was cancelled and discontinued.

Donington Park remained event-less until 2001 when the Rock and Blues Festival and Stereophonics held events at the site. In 2002 the Ozzfest tour returned to the UK using Donington Park as their only British event and the following year Live Nationpicked up the reins as Monsters of Rock's successor in the name of Download Festival. An outstanding success from the offset, the festival continues to this day having increased to a three-day event with five stages, though as of 2008 the event has been relegated outside of the track.

In 2006, the Monsters of Rock name was revived and held at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes, England, for a one-off event headlined by Deep Purple and with Alice Cooper as a special guest.

In 2012 Harlan Hendrickson & Monsters of Rock Worldwide partnered with Larry Morand and Mike London to launch the inaugural Monsters Of Rock Cruise.

The line up from 1980:


August 16, 1980


Judas Priest


April Wine




In 2003, the festival was rebranded as Download Festival, reflecting its diverse lineup that now includes not only rock and metal acts but also punk, hardcore, and alternative rock bands. The festival has expanded to feature multiple stages, offering a wide range of musical performances to cater to different tastes. In addition to the music, Download Festival also features a variety of attractions, including a circus, comedy tent, and a wide selection of food and drink vendors.

One of the defining features of the Donington Rock Festival is its passionate and dedicated fan base. Fans from all over the world travel to Donington Park to experience the electric atmosphere of the festival, forming a vibrant and inclusive community of music lovers. The festival has become a place where people can come together to celebrate their shared love of rock music, forging lifelong friendships and creating lasting memories.

Over the years, the Donington Rock Festival has hosted some of the biggest names in the rock and metal music industry, including Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Guns N' Roses, and many others. The festival has become a platform for both established and up-and-coming artists to showcase their talent and connect with their fans on a deeper level.

The Download Festival was conceived as a follow-up to the Monsters of Rock festivals which had been held at the Donington Park circuit between 1980 and 1996. The first Download Festival was created by Stuart Galbraith and co-booked by Andy Copping in 2003 in the same location.[1][2][3] Download was initially a two-day event, expanding to three days in 2005.

The name Download was chosen for the festival for two reasons. Downloading was a dirty word in the music industry at the time, due to file sharing, and rock is seen as a rebellious genre of music. Also Download was to be a Monsters of Rock for the 21st century and the internet would provide connectivity with its audience.

The 2003 festival tickets had a code on them, which would allow festival goers to download tracks from bands which had played. Although this idea has been dropped in subsequent years, the festival organisers have nurtured an online community through the Download Festival Forums. Initially a sounding board for the fans (and critics) of the festival, the boards have become an integral part of the festival organisation with regular contributions from festival director John Probyn and promoter Andy Copping. The forums also provide face to face feedback through the Fan Forum meetings (started in 2006) and organise the Boardie BBQ (2006 on) and the Boardie Takeover night (2009), football tournaments and a pub quiz for the R.I.P. campers who arrive on a Wednesday night.

When Download began, it took place on the Donington Park circuit infield as had Monsters of Rock. However, in 2008 developments for Formula One meant that the infield was no longer suitable as a festival site. The festival moved to the "Sunday Markets" site to the west of the circuit. Although adequate, numbers were limited and the location of the campsite meant that getting from tents to the arena was quite a hike. 2009 saw the arena move to a much more suitable location to the south of the circuit and has remained there every year since. In 2019 the capacity was 111,000.[4]Security for the festival has constantly been undertaken by professional crowd management specialists Specialized Security, although the campsite area has had various contractors throughout.

From 2009 to 2019 and returning in 2021, there has been on-site radio broadcasting from Rock Radio on 87.7FM. This RSLbroadcast has aired music from festival bands, interviews and news to the festival site and the surrounding area, with the signal reaching as far as Nottingham.

The Download Dog


The Download Dog is the official mascot of the Download Festival[5] and appears on a wide range of material related to the festival, such as tickets, stage banners, merchandise, marketing, and the official Download website.

The first Download was held on 31 May – 1 June 2003. The original headliners were Iron Maiden and Limp Bizkit, although the latter pulled out and were replaced by Audioslave. Metallica attempted to step in as headliners, but were unable to do so, owing to headlining that year's Reading and Leeds Festivals. Instead, having performed an exclusive club show in London the night before, they played an unannounced "secret slot" in the afternoon on the second stage, with no soundcheck. "Sunday belonged to Metallica," wrote Mick Middles in Classic Rock. "At 3.15 the band were fired into the heart of the festival. Before me, a nonplussed, earplugged infant was held aloft. Somehow it seemed historical. Debuting selections from St. Anger, Metallica swept into a 90-minute frenzy so irresistible that even the Hells Angels were seen clapping in wholehearted appreciation at the end. The coup was complete."[8]

Chevelle were scheduled to play the Scuzz stage on Sunday but pulled out at the last minute. Instruction, playing their second set of the festival, stepped in as the replacements.

Saturday 31 May
Main StageScuzz Stage

Iron Maiden
Marilyn Manson
Funeral for a Friend
Stampin' Ground
Shadows Fall
Murder One

Reel Big Fish
The Hellacopters
3 Colours Red
From Autumn to Ashes
Violent Delight
Arch Enemy

Sunday 1 June
Main StageScuzz Stage

Less Than Jake
Stone Sour
The Darkness
One Minute Silence
Raging Speedhorn

The Bouncing Souls
Strung Out
The Real McKenzies
The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
Brand New
Fabulous Disaster

In conclusion, the Donington Rock Festival holds a special place in the hearts of rock music fans around the world. With its rich history, diverse lineup, and dedicated fan base, the festival continues to be a premier destination for those who love rock and heavy metal music. As the festival continues to evolve and grow, it will undoubtedly remain a cornerstone of the rock music scene for many years to come.

Info sources: Wikipedia and Ai

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