The bosses of Download have spoken to NME about the major improvements coming for this year’s event – as well as revealing that all three headliners have already been booked for the 2023 festival.
The legendary Donington rock bash has seen a two-year hiatus due to COVID – aside from 2021’s smaller scale Download Pilot to show that festivals could go on during the pandemic – and will return in its full form this June with headline performances from KISS, Iron Maiden and Biffy Clyro.
“It’s just over 50 days until we open the gates to the campsite, and there are many, many people counting down every single one of those days,” Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn told NME. “Also, it’s been nearly 1,100 days between Tool closing in 2019 and Heriot opening in 2022. That’s definitely too long without this festival.”
With the festival fast approaching, this week saw Download review major site improvements for accessibility, inclusivity and green issues – including moving camping area The Village closer to The Arena, bringing it closer to the Access Camping area for disabled fans, and a range of new more environmentally-friendly camping schemes.
“The Download community embraces fans with disabilities probably more than any other festival, I would say,” said Benn. “We’ve been listening to fans, and formerly the accessible campsite was a distance away from the campsite village and almost impassable during a wet year, so we’ve redesigned the campsite overall. The two are now much closer together and it’s nearer to the heart of the camping world.
“The walk from the campsites to the arena is now much shorter than it was before. It was a trek, but it’s much better now.”
Download Festival booker Andy Copping agreed that the new changes were the result of a close relationship with those who come back to Donington year after year.
“One thing that we’ve always had at the foreground, ever since we started, was to make the festival accessible to everyone,” Copping told NME. “We get a lot of positive comments from the audience on the fact that everyone is welcome and there’s a community spirit that no other festival has.
“People come and they’re completely loyal. We have so many Download regulars.”
“It’s probably the most urgent thing that the planet is facing,” he said. “We had the pandemic which took people’s attention from it, as has the terrible invasion of Ukraine, but it doesn’t take away the need to focus on the environment. At Download, as with all Festival Republic events, we’re very much focussed on it.”
He continued: “That’s an improvement in bio-fuels, getting rid of single-use plastic, having much more of a focus on upcycling, recycling and re-energising. We’ve much more focus on people taking their waste away. We just have to get it right. We have no choice. As festival organisers, we need to promote the need to do well.
“Of course some festival fans will always leave rubbish behind, but that’s something that we continually have to push hard against. We need to encourage people to act responsibly, because there is no planet for the future otherwise.”
Extending these concerns to his other festivals, Benn also pledged that all Festival Republic events would soon be publishing charters regarding their values on “environmental issues, inclusivity and more”.
For after-hours, Download also this week announced plans to host entertainment in the Village until 3am with silent discos and DJ sets from rock nights including Facedown, Black Parade and Ultimate Power, as well as Radio 1’s Daniel P Carter and Zoe London. Not only that, live recordings of podcasts from Sappenin’ and On Wednesdays We Wear Black will also be taking place on-site.
Copping said that these additions would “freshen up” the vibe of the festival, while Benn added that they were responding to requests from fans.
“We introduced the Silent Disco into the Download Pilot last year,” said Benn. “We’d never really done that at Download before, but it was hugely popular. The podcasts are something we’re excited about exploring too.
“On Wednesdays We Wear Black is a great podcast from women and non-binary people that has taken the media by storm, and Sappenin’ is from Sean Smith of The Blackout and music journalist Morgan Richards. That’s huge and has done over 200 episodes already. We’re delighted to have that.”
Benn and Copping said that bar for a few smaller acts on the third and fourth stages, the line-up was pretty much wrapped for 2022 – but that “hundreds” of conversations were taking place for next year’s bill, with the three main headliners already in place.
“We’ve already got all of our headliners booked for 2023,” Copping told NME. “It’s the first time I’ve booked all the headliners in advance ahead of the prior year’s event. That news will come out not too long after this year’s festival, hopefully.
“We’re way, way down the line – because next year is essentially our 20th year so we wanted to do something a little bit special. All I can say is that it will be very, very exciting.”
Asked about who might be lower down the bill but could rise through the ranks to headline Download in future, Benn wouldn’t name any names as he “didn’t want to put that pressure on”, but declared that he wanted “young, British Download bands to rise up, find their feet and go out and dominate the world in the way that UK metal bands of yesteryear used to.”
Copping meanwhile, listed several rising acts.
“Spiritbox, Loathe, Wargasm, Cassyette, Sleep Token – these are all bands that are really starting to make some good moves and could very easily be Download headliners of the future.”
Copping added: “As for now, I’m just really looking forward to seeing those fans come pouring through the gates. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.”
Earlier today, The Distillers cancelled their forthcoming UK and European tour dates, including their headline slot on Download’s second stage. Their replacement has yet to be announced.
Download 2022 takes place from June 10-12 at Donington Park, with performances from the likes of KISS, Iron Maiden, Biffy Clyro , A Day To Remember, Mastodon, Creeper, Shinedown, Black Veil Brides, Code Orange, Ice Nine Kills, Funeral For A Friend, Megadeth, Descendents, The Pretty Reckless, Rise Against, Skindred and Yonaka.