Download Festival 2016

Photo: Ross Silcox

The UK’s premier rock and metal event, Download Festival, got underway at Donington Park for the 14th consecutive year under its latest moniker. TPi’s Ste Durham and Stew Hume broke out the waterproofs to talk festival production with some of the industry’s best.

Production Manager Neil McDonald has been involved with all but one Download, having jumped on board in 2004. Since then the arena has moved twice within Donington Park, from the old Monsters of Rock location, to the Sunday Market area, before settling in its current resting place. Despite this occasional flux, the planning process has begun to follow a regular pattern for McDonald over the time he has been at the helm.

He explained: “There are always changes to address, from the requirements of headliners to the introduction of new contractors, but generally the process starts early in the year, and is fairly steady throughout the next six months. I think improvements are always possible, but mainly I try to avoid making the same mistakes twice!

“While there are some mainstream acts that have large productions, rock and metal acts tend to bring a lot of equipment to Download – it seems to have become the kind of festival that the bands scale up for! Having said that there is an impressive camaraderie and respect between the bands that helps. We also have some world class stage managers; Chalkii White deserves a special mention here as, without him, the main stage doesn’t work.”

Download already has something of a damp history when it comes to the weather, but the festival’s 2016 incarnation certainly took a fine podium position. McDonald furthered: “It was sunny during the build but the heavens opened with a vengeance on Friday and it continued to rain heavily throughout the weekend. Witnessing the sheer tenacity and commitment of crew working in difficult conditions to get the job done was really gratifying for me. There are some pretty remarkable people in this business.”

During his time working on Download, McDonald has constructed a network of suppliers and crew that have become familiar with the venue, ethos and working environment – allowing them to maintain consistency throughout the event’s evolution. One notable change for this year has been the introduction of Festival Republic as promoter but, from a production perspective, it has been very much “business as usual”, according to McDonald.

Lightening The Load

A supplier that was very familiar to McDonald was Birmingham-based PRG XL Video. The company provided a comprehensive lighting and rigging package for the main stage (this year named The Lemmy Stage in honour of the late Motörhead frontman), as well as stages two (The Zippo Encore Stage) and three (The Maverick Stage), the TeamRock Plus zone and other VIP areas. Gordon Torrington, who oversaw the site for PRG XL Video, explained: “This year’s Download is a little different to previous set ups. The three headline acts are touring so much lighting and video equipment that there’s very little load capacity left for a basic rig. For the other stages, we provided a full system, though we had to scale it back on the main stage to cover audience lighting and a floor package for the daytime bands. Rammstein alone hung 30 tonnes from the roof, while Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden had a similar amount of kit.”

The main stage lighting system consisted of Martin by Harman MAC Viper profiles, MAC Aura LED wash lights, Clay Paky Sharpys, Philips Vari-Lite VL3000 spots and VL3500 washes, as well as a number of PARcans and 50 generic molefays around the perimeter of the stage working as audience blinders. MA Lighting grandMA2 lighting consoles were supplied as house control across all three stages.

The view from FOH.
The view from FOH.

PRG XL Video provided video technology for metal royalty Black Sabbath as they made their only UK appearance during their farewell world tour. The Saturday night headliners played in front of a 17 metre by 4.5 metre V12 LED screen, fed by two d3 Technologies media servers and a versatile camera package based on the PRG Europium system. The band used six PRG Bad Boy followspots on the front truss, and three PRG GroundControl followspot systems, with the specially adapted Bad Boys mounted on the back truss.

Iron Maiden, flown into nearby East Midlands Airport on ‘Ed Force One’ by frontman Bruce Dickinson, stopped off at Download to close proceedings on the Sunday night. The band used a substantial amount of PRG XL Video’s lighting technology to replicate their touring rig, including over 100 Martin By Harman MAC Aura LED wash lights. Martin By Harman MAC Viper profile lights and Vari-Lite VL3500’s were packaged in a PRG BAT truss for ease of transportation and hanging.

Account Director Yvonne Donnelly Smith, who handles Download for PRG XL Video, explained: “One of the biggest challenges of doing festivals is the overnight changeovers. Proper planning and preparation are essential, as is using the right equipment. BAT truss is perfect for one-off shows where time is tight, as the trusses have been pre-loaded with lights and cabled up in our Longbridge warehouse during prep.

“When we get to site, it’s as simple as connecting the truss and cables, and hoisting the trusses up. For the load-out, they are dropped back onto their wheels, disconnected and loaded onto the trucks ready for being stripped out back at the warehouse.” The company also provided Iron Maiden with a HD camera system consisting of a Blackmagic Atem 2 M/E switcher flypack, four Sony HXC-100 HD broadcast cameras, Canon 70x, 21x and 11x lenses, four HD POV drum cameras and six Atmos Blade hard drive recording devices.

In addition to the occasional on-stage video kit used for bespoke content, long time vendor for the festival, Ogle Hog, was brought in to provide live video content for the screens on the two main stages as well as facilitating the broadcast demands for the event. Ogle Hog sub-contracted Creative Technology to provide a total of three ROE MC7 IMAG screens for the main stage with two screens hung on the left and right of the stage and the third as an FOH relay. Two ROE MC7 screens were also used for the second stage along with cinema and projection systems in the campsite and eight backstage monitors. For both stages Ogle Hog deployed a Barco ScreenPRO-II switching system.

Ogle Hog also brought in CTV Outside Broadcast to film the festival. On site were seven-camera OB truck on the main stage, including a jib and tower-cam, a five-camera OB truck for the second stage, including jib, and all VT playback and graphics systems.

On site TPi spoke to Ogle Hog’s Technical Production Manager, Connie Glover: “Download is always a massive undertaking. There are so many things that could potentially go wrong. For example with the weather this year we have had to be on top of our game the whole time and be able to handle any issues that comes our way. But that is all part of the fun! The festival has become a staple in our annual calendar. Chris Saunders [Ogle Hog’s Managing Director] has worked Download for many years and Ogle Hog has got more involved and integrated into the blueprint every year, to a stage where we are the go-to company for video.” PRG XL Video’s Mark Scrimshaw looked after The Lemmy Stage’s FOH area during the day, which included looking after incoming LDs and operating the desk for LD-less acts. The lighting floor of the FOH structure was equipped with three MA Lighting grandMA2 full size consoles, one of which was linked to a WYSIWYG station for LDs to prepare their modified shows.

Scrimshaw explained: “Most LDs are familiar with this kind of set up beforehand so they can update their files, touch up anything they need to with WYSIWYG and they’re good to go. We primarily use an ArtNet network, with an MA network as a backup system and for the boards to talk. All of the consoles that come in are capable of running on it – we’ve had Avolites and ChamSys gear and software coming in, while Iron Maiden runs a High End Systems Hog 4 with ArtNet.”

FOH Operator Chis Scott was fulfilling a similar role for PRG XL Video on The Zippo Encore Stage, as well as helping to programme for The Maverick Stage and assisting with the WYSIWIG on The Lemmy Stage. As only a handful of the second stage bands brought their own LD, Scott was called on regularly during the festival to get stuck in and man the MA Lighting console, taking control of a rig designed by Crew Chief Sam Healey.

“It’s hard work, particularly to give all of the acts their own looks, but I’ve got a great rig to work with here,” he said. “There’s a lot of Clay Paky fixtures including the Sharpy Wash, as well as some Vari-Lite VL3000’s, PRG Icon Beams, GLP impression X4’s and plenty of generic molefays. You want the shows to look diverse but, at the same time, the more fixture types you introduce into the rig, the harder work it is for the incoming guys to run the show. We try to stick with a wash, a spot, a beam, a strobe and a molefay. That’s usually the ideal second stage rig.”

PRG XL Video also supplied an Ethernet link to stage right so the crews could connect their floor packages when necessary, though Scott only had to deal with a small amount over the course of the weekend. One such band was Friday headliner on The Zippo Encore Stage, All Time Low, whose extras were supplied by Leeds-based Zig Zag Lighting. The floor package was relatively similar to the one that the company provided for All Time Low’s recent arena tour, based around Elation Professional ACL 360 BARs and Robe Pointes. As well as this, ZIg Zag was brought in by Stage Audio Services to supply all lighting from The Dogtooth Stage downwards, which included additional music, entertainment and bar tents in the campsite.

The Dogtooth rig had a flown truss and four towers as a base, on which Zig Zag rigged eight Robe ColorSpot 575 ATs, six Robe ColorWash Zoom 575 ATs, and eight Showtec Sunstrip Actives, as well as 4-cell blinders, two PARcans, four strobes, smoke and haze machines.

The Great British summer on display at The Lemmy Stage.
The Great British summer on display at The Lemmy Stage.

Control for all of Zig Zag’s lighting fixtures came from ChamSys, which also deployed ChamSys Software Director Chris Kennedy to lend a helping hand on site. Zig Zag LD Paddy Sollitt commented: “Chris brought the MQ-80’s latest software so we can do a bit of beta testing on The Dogtooth Stage. We’re basically trying to find bugs but it’s going really well and new software is brilliant. We’ve always had a good working relationship with ChamSys and when they offered their services here we couldn’t refuse. There’s nothing better than having the guy that writes the code for the software standing next to you!”

Although the bulk of festival planning takes place throughout the preceding year, taking every variable into account, there really is no second-guessing British weather. Before the torrential downpour that submerged Donington arrived on Friday evening, Zig Zag had to load in at the mercy of 27°C heat. Add this factor to the sheer size of the site itself, and you have a recipe for hard graft.

Sollitt explained: “It’s quite a long way to and from the campsite – my phone told me I’d done 19 miles of walking on the first day, so no wonder I felt tired once I’d sat down in the tour bus! It all went well regardless of the weather and we installed all but one of the areas on the first day.”

The campsite opening for the most battle-hardened (or naive) Download-goers on the Wednesday morning, meaning Sollitt and his team were on site for the long haul. He said: “It goes to show that there’s more to a festival than the first couple of stages, particularly Download. There’s a fair amount of kit in each of these extra areas but because a lot of it is Robe there’s been no failures. I tour a lot and I definitely prefer this to some of the bigger festivals. It’s expanded so much but in a way that has given the fans more to see and do, all without taking away from why people come here – the music.”

Double Team

Audio duties on the four arena stages were split between two suppliers; SSE Audio and Stage Audio Services. SSE has a long tradition of providing audio for Download’s main stage, but this year the company pulled double duty – delivering a complete audio package for The Zippo Encore Stage as well.

Representing SSE on site was Project Manager Pete Russell. With over 10 years of experience on Download’s main stage, not to mention several stints working the site when it was known as Monsters of Rock, there are few that know the festival’s audio requirements better. “The main consideration from our perspective is to make the listening experience for the punter as enjoyable as possible and, as this is a rock and metal festival, this means quite a lot of volume! Over the years we have tweaked the design so that we have been able to achieve really good levels in the arena without it breaching sensitive sides of the site.”

For The Lemmy Stage, Russell explained how SSE made use of its stock of L-Acoustics products. The two main hangs each consisted of 14 boxes of L-Acoustics K1, six K1 subwoofers and four KARA per side, while the two out-hangs were made up of 10 K1’s, four K1 subs and three KARA per side. “The configuration for this year hasn’t altered to much from last year,” stated Russell. He explained that the left and right hangs are much closer to the centre then they have been, with a bigger gap between the on-stage and off-stage hangs.

“This meant we had to change the way we did the in-fills, which consisted of 12 KARA and four K2,” Russell said. In order to cover the vast distance up the hill facing the stage, SSE provided four delay hangs comprised of 12 L-Acoustics K2 speaker boxes, which Russell explained was a substation to the V-DOSC system used in pervious years.

Making its UK festival debut at Download was the L-Acoustics KS28 subwoofer. The latest release for L-Acoustics weighs 10kg less the former SB28 with an additional three db at its disposal. “They have worked so well,” he smiled. “They are noticeably louder and seem a lot more percussive than the KS2B with loads of headroom. I have been very impressed with them.”

The configuration of the subs included 16 KS28 at both stage left and stage right, with another 12 boxes in the centre. The entire system was powered by L-Acoustics LA8 and LA12 amplifiers, and controlled by two Avid Profiles at FOH under the supervision of Nick Pain.

Monitor control came courtesy of a Yamaha CL5, which succeeded the Yamaha PM5D – SSE’s long-running ‘go-to’ festival monitor console. “We used the PM5D because everybody knew it. Even if it wasn’t the first choice for some engineers, they had a show file for it and it was very straightforward to get a mix together on,” said SSE Audio Services’ Project Manager Dan Bennett. “Critically, it’s bulletproof. A console that everybody is comfortable with and also doesn’t break makes for a perfect festival mixer.”

Overseeing monitor world for The Lemmy Stage was Head Monitors and Main Stage Crew Boss, James Baptie, along with Monitor Engineer, Neil Heal. Completing SSE audio team was Head Stage Patch, Glen Little, and Stage Techs Beth O’Leary, Lewis Underwood and Ray Breen.

For The Zippo Encore stage, SSE opted for an entirely different system using its latest stock of JBL technology. The stage’s main hang comprised of 10 JBL VTX V25’s and four JBL VTX V20’s per side with an identical pair of out hangs to hit the wider areas of the crowd with the same power. The company also deployed 12 JBL VT4886’s for infill as well as left and right subwoofer stacks made of 12 JBL S28’s and nine JBL G28’s in the centre. All of the JBL gear was powered by Crown Audio I-Tech 12000HD amps, with a pair of Avid Profile desks at FOH and two Yamaha PM5Ds at monitors.

Russell discussed SSE’s first experience on Download’s second stage and the decision to use the company’s latest JBL system: “SSE invested in JBL last December due to our ties with Sound Image in the US. Many of their clients from America prefer the JBL system and we wanted to accommodate to their needs while they were in the UK.”

Although they have been taken out on the road regularly since the end of 2015, this was the first time the system had been used in an outdoor festival. “The system has been good and it goes together very easily,” enthused Russell. “It’s always a bit of a learning curve when you get your hands on a new system but we are working on it and so far its sounding great. One area the system has excelled in is the rear rejection, which is great from a noise pollution perspective.”

The audio team for the second stage consisted of FOH Head / System Tech / Site Crew Boss, Nick Lythgoe, FOH Engineer, Miles Barton, Head Monitors, Mick Eggett, Monitor Engineer, Rob McNeil, Head Patch Stephen Mottram and Stage Techs Ben Goulding Huckle, Gerry Parchment and Steve Alflatt.

FOH at the Zippo Encore stage.
FOH at the Zippo Encore stage.

John Penn, Managing Director of SSE Group, also gave his thoughts on the festival: “It was great to be invited back again and take control of two stages. Our guys had a tough job with this event, being really up against the extreme weather. Hats off to the whole SSE crew who, despite everything, pulled out all the stops to make sure the audience got the best that could be delivered to them despite the conditions. The fact we were able to keep everything together and working is a feat of arms.”

Also making a welcome return to Donington this year was Stage Audio Services, which supplied audio for the Maverick and Dogtooth stages, along with audio and staging elements at various other sections of the campsites areas. TPi spoke to Kevin Mobberley, MD of Stage Audio Services: “We have been involved in Download since its inception. We have grown as the festival has, to a level now where we provide all audio services for the festival, aside from the main and second stage.”

For The Maverick Stage the company provided an L-Acoustics V-DOSC system consisting of 16 V-DOSC for the main PA, with thee V-DOSC used for lip fills and four ARCS for in-fills. A total of 16 L-Acoustics SB28 subwoofers were also deployed. The company supplied an Avid Profile system at FOH and a Yamaha PM5D at monitor world. Side fills consisted of four L-Acoustics ARCS and four SB218’s with 12 L-Acoustics 115XT Hi-Q wedges on hand. On The Dogtooth Stage a smaller L-Acoustics system was provided with 14 L-Acoustics V-DOSCs with eight SB28’s, two L-Acoustics ARCS for in fills. A Yamaha PM5D was in place at FOH with a Yamaha M7CL-48 at monitors.

Mobberley said: “It’s rather commonplace these days for a festival to offer campsite entertainment but few do it quite like Download.”

Stage Audio Services provided all the audio for all the small stages within the Download Village along with other special events including the NTX Wrestling stage. Last, but certainly not least, the company provided the audio system that was used for the site-wide announcements that were critical for the festival’s health and safety action plan.

Mobberley concluded: “Festival Republic have brought a fresh look to the event but the change really has been seamless. The whole site was under a great deal of pressure due to the weather but, as always, Live Nation and Festival Republic have the people and the resources to deal with those situations. Although it was horrible and muddy, it didn’t cause any major problems.”

Getting Specific

STS Touring Services provided full backline for the bands at Download, from drum kits, bass guitars and wireless packs to individual valves and skins. STS’s Dom Hardy explained: “We can get quite specific when it comes to gear and bands like that. We’ve also got a big Mesa and Orange selection, which is perfect for this festival. Our drums also range from high-end DW stuff to more basic Pearl kits.”

While other departments had to do a certain amount of tweaking to accommodate for two acts – Architects and Ghost – that cancelled at the last minute, STS had to scramble to work from the ground up with the two replacement bands. Hardy continued: “We have what we have in the van to get us as close as we can to the bands’ riders, and we can have gear brought down from Manchester if need be. We had another band that had to deal with on the spot because they left their cymbals at a festival in Paris.”

Dom Hardy of STS.
Dom Hardy of STS.

STS had Hardy and monitor specialist John Taylor moving in vans between stages to transport gear and accommodate last minute changes, while Richard Knowles served as the company’s Stage Manger and Dan McKay as Backline Tech.

Hardy had nothing but praise for the stage teams, festival organisers and McDonald himself. He said: “This is my sixth year at Download and it’s definitely my favourite festival. Once you’re in the rhythm of how it goes here, things run a lot smoother and we know all of the crew by now. We’re quite self-contained in the way that we don’t have to get involved with the rigging side of things, but there are good teams on each stage that know us and know what we’re here to do.”

A Fitting Tribute

Serious Stages supplied staging and ancillary structures to Download for the first time, including the design and manufacture of the 25 metre by 30 metre Tower Roof for The Lemmy Stage. This was complete with a 6.2 metre cantilever to give clear audience sightlines from all angles and six posts to accommodate the large weight loading capacities required for the technical production equipment, with plenty of working area for band changeovers and incorporated raised VIP viewing platforms.

Serious Stages also installed two flanking 9.6 metre by 14.4 metre goalposts to hang screens and PA, along with three 15 metre lunar delay towers, ramps, steps, camera runs and camera platforms within the main stage area. For the main stage FOH structures, Serious installed a 7.2 metre by 7.2 metre clear span that housed the audio consoles and engineers, and a 4.8 metre by 4.8 metre tower, decked at 4.5 metres and nine metres, to accommodate the lighting engineers and an assisted viewing platform.

Elsewhere, the company provided the stage deck, PA wings and FOH structures for The Maverick Stage and The Dogtooth Stage and rigged the main stage totems, video and header scrims.

Serious Stages’ MD, Steven Corfield, commented: “We are delighted to have extended our relationship with the Festival Republic production team at this, our first year supplying staging to Download festival. Our Tower stages looked fabulous, accommodating many of the biggest names in rock and metal. By designing and building a custom Tower Roof for The Lemmy Stage, we were able to create an impressive spectacle; it was a fitting tribute to the late rock legend.”

The company supplied a 30-man crew for the majority of the install, headed up by Project Manager Nathan Kemp and supported by supervisors and crew chiefs. Serious Stages was on site for 19 days and had five standby crew at the ready for production and show days.

Corfield continued: “With three decades working on UK festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading we’re no strangers to the British weather, so our systems are designed and installed to be ready for whatever comes over the horizon – and our first Download was certainly a wet one. We always work to strict procedures, implementing safety measures to make certain that our working practices are as safe as possible.

“This is reflected in the guidance document we produced last year, in collaboration with other staging professionals, in a bid to help benchmark high standards in line with the CDM regulations introduced last year. We were constantly monitoring the weather conditions and wind speed from the beginning of construction through to the de-rig to ensure we were on hand to quickly respond if we needed to protect the integrity of our structures.”

Friday headliner Rammstein’s Download set and backdrop was created by Production Park-based company, Perry Scenic Creative, which has collaborated with the band on its explosive productions since 1999. Creative Director, Jon Perry, gave an insight into the key features of the set: “What’s really cool with Rammstein is that they don’t have any video. It’s all about the show, the set, amazing pyrotechnics and lighting! Firstly, we made a series of pods to house lighting in, which were all scenically treated and custom made. These rusty-looking industrial pods moved throughout the show like a coordinated ballet.”

He continued: ‘We created an A and B set, including two identical 3D backdrops that were printed, hand painted and appliqued. They measure 24 metres long, 10 metres high and one metre deep. A key feature of the backdrops are their ability to take light from the front, internally, as well as from behind. The character of the backdrops changes depending on how they’re lit, and when internally lit, the set achieves a fantastic sense of depth.”

Talking about some of the challenges the Perry Scenic team faced during the project, Perry explained: “There’s a long series of processes to get to the end product. We start off by seeing the designs, discussing them and producing a series of prototypes. We then take the prototypes into LS-Live’s Studio 001, light them in different ways, and take photographs and videos. Following feedback, we make adjustments and develop the backdrop in that way perfecting the vision of Production Designer LeRoy Bennett and Designer Peter Aquinde.”

As Download is a rock and metal festivals it was only natural that many of the bands made use of their fair share of pyrotechnics. Saturday night’s headliners, Black Sabbath, were no exception with Quantum SFX supplied the godfathers of metal with a complete package of flame bars, eight wireless spitfire flames and 16 G-Flames spread across the stage as well as six confetti blowers. Quantum also provided a 45 second display of ariel pyrotechnics, mixing in mines and comets as the band took their final bow.

The Download Dog

One of the most striking landmarks to be seen when wandering the arena site, standing at over six metres high and facing The Lemmy Stage, was a gigantic sculpture of a dog’s head. The sculpture was a 3D re-imagining of the festival mascot, The Download Dog, which was brought to life by UK design studio, NEWSUBSTANCE.

TPi spoke to Projects Director for NEWSUBSTANCE, Mungo Denison, and Creative Director, Patrick O’Mahony, to discover how the company got involved.

“Melvin Benn from Festival Republic first became aware of our work after he saw the structure we built for Mumford & Sons last tour,” said O’Mahony. “During our initial concept meeting, Melvin talked about bringing the adored mascot to life. The dog has become an iconic part of the festival and one of Melvin’s goals when taking on the project was to give something back to the fans that truly encapsulated the festival. It is all over the merchandise and many fans of the festival even have it tattooed onto their body – it’s rare to see that level of engagement with a festival icon. We wanted to make sure we did it justice!”

The Download Dog by day, kept on a short leash by NEWSUBSTANCE's Beau Wicks.
The Download Dog by day, kept on a short leash by NEWSUBSTANCE’s Beau Wicks.

Benn discussed the reason for bringing the beloved dog to life: “I wanted to celebrate the Download Dog, and build a proper piece of art to do that. The response from festivalgoers has been fantastic and vindication of our decision to create a new Download family member.” Benn went on to discuss why he thought NEWSUBSTANCE was the right company for the job: “NEWSUBSTANCE are a truly talented outfit – agile, creatively switched on and a pleasure to work with. Their pursuit of excellence in getting this project aesthetically right against tight deadlines and in challenging conditions was breath of fresh air.” O’Mahony continued: “Up until now he had only existed in 2D form and never existed as a 3D model. We had to create the structure and went through several 3D prints until we got it right.”

Denison took up the story: “A lot of festivals have certain landmarks, like the Spaceman at Coachella. We wanted to create something that was large and bold that could be photographed easily and would drive social media. We also wanted the structure to be immersive, allowing people to walk inside the head and into the mouth.”

The core structure of the dog was supported by an aluminium frame and then coated in a high tolerance plastic, broken down into 15 component parts and transported in two articulated lorries. Taking care of the structure on site during the festival was Beau Wicks: “The build took a good 12 hours then a few more hours the next day to do some tweaking and cushion the sharp edges to make sure it was safe for people to climb in and out of the structure.

“At the start of each day of the festival my job is to carry out a series of pre checks on the structure to make sure it’s safe and sound for people to come in and out of. Given the volume of traffic and conditions on site it is paramount that the structure is fit for purpose and ready to be enjoyed. Further checks were scheduled throughout each day to ensure everything was as it should be. The red lights in the eyes are cold slimline 50W red LED floodlights, so can be left on as long as required without getting too hot. Once the main arena was closed I power down and check the structure over.”

Denison gave his final thought on the project: “It’s been fantastic to add a new festival to our portfolio of work. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!” With NEWSUBSTANCE striking a deal for the dog to return for the next two years at least, this is surely not the last we have seen of Download’s new pet.

Delta One's Jim Gaffney.
Delta One’s Jim Gaffney.

Blood, Sweat And Ink

Director at Delta One Jim Gaffney’s previous employment with Mojo Barriers has allowed him to see the evolution of Download first hand, having installed crowd control systems on site since the days of Monsters of Rock. Gaffney explained: “There was a history of crowd movement being quite problematic here but that’s been resolved now. As it’s a metal show we have quite a dynamic audience who are very focussed so we have a large pen at the front. With Download we also have a secondary arm that cuts the field in half to allow security into the audience.”

Delta One provided barriers for all four arena stages, as well as the bars, campsite stages and the tents sponsored by Firestone, Kerrang! and TeamRock, respectively. The main stage alone required 1,320 metres of barriers, not including the extra 100 metres of step extensions, and eight crewmembers to install and maintain it. Delta One also decided to go without a main stage thrust in order to make the system “more functional”.

He continued: “It’s hard if you are the last one in and something on the staging is late as there is a the knock-on effect, but the doors are going to open at the same time regardless. This year we don’t have any changes to make once we’re set up, which is good because as soon as it starts raining the barriers just sink in!”

Although Delta One employed only small tweaks on the main stage, Gaffney implemented a stepped configuration down the hill at stage left on The Zippo Encore area. “We always had a problem with a build up of people at stage left, but the new arrangement stops the audience from falling down the hill, which is ideal when the ground is in the state it is.”

Eat to the Beat returned to Download for yet another year, setting up on the Thursday ready for three days of catering and catching up with many of the bands that it supports on tour. The team was led by Head Chef and self-confessed metal fan, Michelle Bearsby–Lewis, and David Lesh – now a tattoo fan after getting his first from the tent set up in the artist area!

Over 2,500 meals were prepared within the kitchen marquee – service was in a Tipi tent, which provided some much needed respite from the biblical downpour.

Until Next Year…

As the mighty Iron Maiden closed out their set on Sunday night, thus began the long and arduous journey home for tens of thousands of sodden metalheads – emerging from the mud and, somewhat begrudgingly, back to reality. While the average Download-goer’s biggest concern was how they were going to dry their socks, the hard-working crew was straight back into action to tackle the inevitable pack-down process. It’s always outstanding how, no mater what the weather throws at them, the crews responsible for our beloved UK festivals are still able to make these annual events a reality. Although many of the punters’ favourite band shirts may have taken a battering, the loyal Download congregation will, without doubt, be back in force next year.


Photos: Ross Silcox, Matt Eachus, Matt Rakowski