Even as the last notes of headliner’s set Biffy Clyro died away on Sunday night, plans were well under way for next year’s 20th anniversary Download festival celebrations. After a triumphant return after a three-year hiatus because of the Covid pandemic, Download is set to return in 2023 with a four-day festival – one day longer than normal.
It will start on Thursday, June 8 and end on Sunday, June 11. The four headlining acts have still to be announced although Andy Copping, the man responsible for booking the acts, said before the most recent festival at Donington Park that the main bands had already been booked for 2023, with some tickets already on sale.
When the festival was first launched in 2003, ironically one of the headliners – same as this year- was Iron Maiden – the other was Audioslave as the festival was initially held over just two days. This continued for two years before it was decided to turn it into a three-day festival in 2005, with headliners Feeder, Black Sabbath and System of a Down.
There is also no news of whether the 100 or so bands that have appeared this year will have to be expanded to fill four days over the traditional four stages.
For now the organisers are basking in the festival’s 2022 triumphant return, which was enhanced by the fact that for the first time in several years, the event was blessed with fine weather and the 85,000 fans who descended on the park, took full advantage of being able to laze in the sun instead of sheltering under obligatory ponchos.
Major changes had been made to the festival site, including the move to a hard-standing village in a brand-new location. Moving even closer to the Arena, the new location was also just 350m from the access campsite, meaning access customers were able to go freely from their camp to the village without leaving solid ground.
But this also resulted in some general campsites being further away and changes to parking, which threatened to hold traffic up as thousands of people arrived on Friday. A number of fans expressed their disquiet about the long distances involved in walking to and from the arenas, village and campsite. It’s likely that some of this may need to be looked at again, ahead of an enlarged festival next year.
There were also some problems at nearby East Midlands Airport with some flights diverted after drones were spotted in the vicinity. This led to warning notes being posted around the festival site warning of the consequences if anyone was found to be doing this.
On the whole, the general atmosphere was one of calm and relief that fans were finally able to be reunited at what is known as “the spiritual home of rock”. Festival organiser Melvin Benn said: “What a welcome back for all the fans who came back here this year. There have been a few gripes but everyone seems happy. The format we have now has worked well and is the way forward I feel.”
Other highlights of the weekend included the appearance of Kiss in their final UK appearance and frontman Paul Stanley flew above the crowd on a zipline suspended between the stage and sound tower during crowd favourites Love Gun and I Was Made For Loving You.
And for some fans it was particularly poignant or special being back at Download with one newly-married couple reported to have spent their honeymoon there, a husband and wife celebrating their 50th and 60th birthdays over the weekend and an instance of one group of fans scattering the ashes of someone who had passed away since the last event, which Download organisers said was allowed and does not require their permission.
Even the selling out of a very popular T-shirt bearing a skeletal hand failed to dampen spirits and many fans would have gone home sporting new tattoos after hundreds of them stood in a queue that never seemed to have less than at least 100 people in it throughout the festival.
A mass exodus of remaining fans was expected on Monday morning, possibly leading to more congestion and a warning to allow extra time for anyone hoping to fly from East Midlands Airport at that time.
Carrie Jones, from North Caroline in the USA, said she had had “a swell time”. She said: “I had always wanted to come here and it has been fantastic. Everyone is so friendly.”
And Jake Ashton, of Leamington Spa, added: “There have been changes and there have been some moans but they have been nothing really. We Download fans do what we always do and just got on with it. We are like a big family just glad to see each other again.”
Early bird tickets for 2023 are on sale here.