The Download Festival was conceived as a follow up to the Monsters of Rock festivals which had been held at the Donington Park circuit between 1980 and 1996. The first Download Festival was created by Stuart Galbraith and Andy Copping in 2003 in the same location. Rather than run as a single day event Download was initially a two-day event, expanding to three days in 2005.
The name Download was chosen for the festival for two reasons. Downloading was a dirty word in the music industry at the time, due to file sharing, and rock is seen as a rebellious genre of music. Also Download was to be a Monsters of Rock for the 21st century and the internet would provide connectivity with its audience.
The 2003 festival tickets had a code on them, which would allow festival goers to download tracks from bands which had played. Although this idea has been dropped in subsequent years, the festival organizers have nurtured an online community through the Download Festival Forums. Initially a sounding board for the fans (and critics) of the festival, the boards have become an integral part of the festival organization with regular contributions from Festival Director John Probyn and Promoter Andy Copping. The forums also provide face to face feedback through the Fan Forum meetings (started in 2006) and organise the Boardie BBQ (2006 on) and the Boardie Takeover night (2009), football tournaments and a pub quiz for the R.I.P. campers who arrive on a Wednesday night.
When Download began, it took place on the Donington Park circuit infield as had Monsters of Rock. However in 2008 developments for Formula One meant that the infield was no longer suitable as a festival site. 2008 saw a move to the "Sunday Markets" site to the west of the circuit. Although adequate, numbers were limited and the location of the campsite meant that getting from tents to the arena was quite a hike. 2009 saw the festival move to a much more suitable location to the south of the circuit. Security for the festival has constantly been undertaken by professional crowd management specialists Showsec, although the campsite area has had various contractors throughout.
Since 2009 there has been on-site radio broadcasting from Rock Radio on 87.7FM. This RSL broadcast has aired music from festival bands, interviews and news to the festival site and the surrounding area, with the signal reaching as far as Nottingham.
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