In 2003, Donington Park had played host to music events for over 25 years when the Download Festival was first conceived. The spiritual home of rock was seen to be a perfect location for a 21st Century evolution of the rock event – Monsters Of Rock had been a staple of the 80s & 90s and in 2002 the Ozzfest proved that there was an appetite for a new event at the venue.
So the Download Festival was born. A 2-day event with 2 stages on the hallowed ground! With Iron Maiden and Limp Bizkit booked as headliners the bill was packed with the best that rock had to offer with Marilyn Manson, Audioslave, Disturbed, Ministry and many others, including little-known band The Darkness making one of their first festival appearances way down the bill. Download even hosted a skate/punk festival -Deconstruction – on its second stage for the second day featuring NOFX as a headliner.
Year two of Download saw a few changes and even more last minute hitches than the first year. Metallica returned to give fans who missed their impromptu second stage appearance a chance to see them, and they were joined in the headliners stakes by Linkin Park. 2004 also saw the addition of a third stage – the Barfly Stage – and a second event Download Scotland held in Glasgow Green and featuring a cut down bill of Main Stage bands.
In 2005 the festival expanded once again, gaining an extra day. The extra day had a bit of an indie flavour to it, seeing Garbage and Feeder headline the Main Stage. System of A Down were our Sunday headliners, with the band playing what would be their last show at Donington for 6 years.
2006, blimey what a scorcher! Baking hot summer weather saw the bowl of the infield become a bit of a sun-trap headliners tool, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses certainly dragged some of that Californian weather with them. Although not a fully fledged stage, the snickers bowl, a portable skate bowl with a stage at one end made a one time only appearance featuring skating during the day an a handful of bands in the evening.
In 2007, little did we know it but this was to be the last year in the infield before the infamous and (and unsuccessful) attempt to upgrade the site for Formula 1. Headliners this time around were Iron Maiden, Linkin Park, and My Chemical Romance, elsewhere on The Main Stage was the likes of Velvet Rovolver, Megadeth, Slayer, Machine Head, Killswitch Engage and Mastodon all having fine old days.
2008, a new year and a new site, looking good on paper, the area usually occupied the Donington Sunday markets became, for one year only, the new home of Download.
Another year, another new site. 2009 saw the Download Festival move to its current location in the fields south of the exhibition centre. The new site offered a much more open field with room for a second stage which was nearly the equal of the main stage and even allowed for a fourth stage – the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage.
30 years on from the first festival at Donington and Download soared to new heights in 2010. Attracting crowds of over 100,000, the site christened the previous year had no problem accommodating numbers. In fact the festival had got so big that it needed two Main Stages – though admittedly one was only for AC/DC who insisted on bringing their full stadium show. A major challenge for any venue and never before attempted at a major festival!
2011, this year’s surprise reformations were System Of A Down who came back to headline after a six year hiatus, and The Darkness reforming and performing at Download for the first time since 2003. The classic rock day made a move from Sunday to Friday with Def Leppard returning to top the bill for the opening night over such luminaries as Black Stone Cherry, Duff McKagan’s Loaded, Alter Bridge and a reinvigorated Thin Lizzy featuring former The Almighty frontman Ricky Warwick filling Phil Lynott’s shoes. Avenged Sevenfold, Skunk Anansie and Down gloried in the sun, with Bullet For My Valentine, Disturbed and Bowling For Soup having to contend with less than favourable conditions.
The tenth Download Festival started under a leaden sky, inclement weather showed the festival goers bulldog (Download Dog!) spirit in abundance and saw 30,000 take to the campsites by the end of Wednesday. After a wet start, The Prodigy lit up the clouds, Metallica brought their snake pit and played the ‘Black’ album backwards. If that wasn’t enough, Black Sabbath showed everyone that they are as relevant as ever.
In 2013, crowds of rock fans packed out Donington Park to headliners Slipknot, Iron Maiden and Rammstein plus a host of other bands across the weekend.
The eleventh year of Download hosted headliners such as Avenged Sevenfold, Linkin Park and Aerosmith’s penultimate Download performance.
Slipknot, Muse and Kiss. 2016 was indeed a rainy one but still not one to forget with the likes of Marilyn Manson, Rise Against, Five Finger Death Punch and A Day To Remember on the cards.
Ah Download 2017, the year we said Aero-Verderci to Aerosmith as they played their final Download Festival. Headlining alongside the likes of System Of A Down and Biffy Clyro, this year saw the Download family come together once again for a sunshine filled year of memories… and even a few proposals.
Download has continued play host to the UK’s largest rock and heavy metal festival. Throughout the years its spectacular line up’s have gone down in history, with tens of thousands of annual DLer’s rocking out in Donington Park to the likes of AC/DC, Kiss, Metallica, Linkin Park, Slipknot, System Of A Down, The Prodigy and so many more.