Download Festival is now one of the biggest rock events in Europe, if not the whole world. Chris Bowley from Brumlive.com went to the press day to see how the organisers are looking to improve the festival experience, engage with their fans, and deal with the growing need to diversify the music and acts on show.
Chris looks at the focus of the logistics for the site and had time to ask Andy Copping about their approach to the line-up:
So that time is upon us again where Download Festival brings masses of fans to one of the best Rock and Metal festivals ever. Download has been running for the last 15 years and growing throughout. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been without issues, with last year seeing a catastrophic bought of severe weather. Imagine if you can a deluge of 70,200,000 gallons of water within 45 minutes hitting the site. To mere mortals this is equal to 106 Olympic sized swimming pools.
With these issues, fans have given feedback through a number of forums and the Download team have acted, as have the festival booker and promoter, Live Nation. Importantly all have the full support of the “King of Festivals” Melvin Benn, Festival Republic Managing Director.
Melvin talks to us regarding the biblical weather and their efforts to cater for all as best as they can. To your average festival goer these things seem fundamental but the organisers still see need for improvement as a lot of frustrations were aired last time around. Some basics have been revisited. This has resulted in a ramp up for staples such as disability access. Initiatives like this should provide a far better experience. For example, the disabled car park is now hard standing and has a dedicated entrance closer to the site entrance and both stages. In addition the main and second stages have hard standing disabled platforms.
Common to everyone were the traffic issues. The festival is looking to provide alternative access routes into the site. Several unforeseen incidents on the M1 caused havoc for attendees last year. Dynamic updates on the Download app will help people work around any issues whilst they are en-route. Car parking was also addressed, with improved parking and hard standing for day festival attendees.
A key point was that previously security didn’t have enough real time information to help, so they have a new security team, who are fully up to speed with everything needed and required. In addition to this the crew have created a new initiative called the “Dog Squad”. This is a team of 400 strong volunteers. These will be armed with the same information as the security team with appropriate communication provision. They will be in the car parks, campsites and festival sites and will shift to the areas of highest demand throughout the day.
The final point was about the severe rain from last year. They made light of last year with stories of the promoters of Download festival from Madrid visiting the festival last year, with “shoes suited for Madrid”. You can guess the rest. For all that they were astonished how the fans just carried on and enjoyed the festival. But seriously this has led to a number of changes, to drainage in terms of scope and capacity, plus the addition of over a kilometre of new ditches to take water away from the site. Fans will be glad to know that this now quadruples the amount of efficiency of previous years.
Andy Copping talks to us saying “The Festival has been going for 15 years now and to see the changes that have been wrought by that man (Melvin Benn) shows how he has been the most important man for Download. He is the “Festival King” and to have that man working with us and showing what he can do is a great asset.”
Andy shows he is very passionate about what he does and is very grateful to have Melvin working with Download and as we see from the above that they mean business. I think we can rest assured that a number of things have been done to improve this year. We can also be sure that they will not rest on their laurels and they will look to continue these improvements in future years. Andy tells us that they listen to their fans and that Download is now becoming a worldwide brand, as well as a recognised festival. The brand inspires loyalty and Andy mentions that he does not know any other festival where fans have tattoos of the festival logo! It seems that every week he receives photos of a new tattoo from someone or other!
Speaking With Andy Copping,
BL: Are you excited about this year’s festival?
AC: I am very excited about this year’s festival, I can’t believe we’re into Download 15. I think this is exactly the same number of Monsters of Rock that happened back in the day. Hitting that milestone is very good indeed. We are super excited that from when we first started this thing back into 2003 we are still on an unbroken run and the festival is still growing and going strong.
BL: In the years that Download has been going, how do you see that it has developed since its earlier days? The bands on the Avalanche stage appear to be more pop punk orientated? Is that on purpose?
AC: What we wanted to do is keep the festival alive, and one of the problems with Monsters of Rock was that it got stuck in a rut and was only going one particular route. Back in the day the like of Faith No More, RHCP and Pearl Jam, or Nirvana; those bands would never have played Monsters of Rock festival. It was kind of stuck in a rut. With Download I wanted to push the boundaries a little bit more and we have done that. This was kind of helped with more stages and also one thing we knew was that we were probably missing a little bit is that younger element and we need to bring them through. Maybe somebody is into some hot young pop punk band today but if they come to Download and see some other artists from another genre that they wouldn’t necessarily dip their toes in, they might think “oh I like them.” It gives people a chance to venture into other genres that they may never have gone to see.
BL: What do you say to the traditionalists that still want the old style back and the classic rock Sunday of a few years ago?
If you look at this year actually the classic rock Sunday with Steel Panther, Alter Bridge, Airborne and Aerosmith its quite the old school classic rock flavour. But if we just stick to one specific genre of music and don’t push the boundaries the festival will just die. What I do say to those people is you do get all those bands, we are still at Donington; we are still Download Festival and the atmosphere is still super special, If they are feeling they don’t want to take the blinkers off then they should really give it a chance take a look at some of the bands out there. They’ll be amazed.
BL: You’ve hit the nail on the head; if we carry on with the classic rock, where will we find our headliners of tomorrow.
AC: That’s the thing, I mean We already know that Aerosmith are going, Black Sabbath have now gone and it’s only a matter of time where 1 or 2 others are going to fall by the wayside and we need to keep it alive as an industry. It’s not just as festival promoters. The media, the fans, everybody, we’ve all got to get behind bands and bring them through. Instead of saying that band doesn’t deserve to be a headliner, don’ t say that, get behind the band so they are going to sit at the top table, so festivals can pick from the best in the future.
Download Festival 2017 runs from 9th to 11th June at Donington Park. Tickets are available from the Download Festival site