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Updated June 2021: new recollections

This page dedicated to the memory of ALAN DICK (18yrs) and LANDON PETER SIGGERS (20yrs) who died at the festival..

Iron Maiden

David Lee Roth
Guns N 'Roses
Bailey Brothers

Neal Kaye

Castle Donington Raceway.

Derbyshire .UK.
August 20th 1988.

© Mark Peat

" don't fuckin' kill each other "

Axel Rose addresses the audience during the Guns N' Roses set.....

" We don't want anybody to get hurt at this festival we want everybody to go away and say they had a great time "

Bruce Dickinson at the start of Iron Maiden's set.

Its a sea of Denim ! © Karl Davies

       It was bound to happen eventually, it was odds on that audience members would be killed in the mosh during a UK festival .

    During the 80s crowd behaviour had become more and more " intense " , especially during hard rock events .That it happened at Donington and not at Glastonbury or Nostell Priory was probably due to the nature of the beast . Metal crowds tended to leap around a hell of lot more than other audiences, the numbers attending were greater than most festivals, the audience was probably younger, had a higher percentage of males and ( probably the most telling aspect of the day ) they drank far more than most other crowds .

    Unfortunately, 1988 was the biggest ever Donington ,107,000 turned up . Given dry conditions that would not have been a problem , however, the festival was marred by bad weather in the week previous to the event which turned the front of stage area into a treacherous slime bowl, it was hard to keep ones footing and once lost , the unprecedented crush of the crowd made it almost impossible to get up again . There were several collapses when Guns N' Roses began to play, due to surges within the crowd and tragically , by the end of their set, two fans were dead, suffocated in the mud under the weight of other bodies that had collapsed ( and in some cases, jumped ) on top of them.

  According to the head of security, whilst the density of the crowd at the front was not considered serious, the problems that unfolded as Guns and Roses played were twofold.


  One of the video screens had been blown down by high winds early in Helloween's set. People would not move from under the screen as it was still broadcasting images and was being partially held up by a fence. This distracted security during the band changeover and at the start of Guns N' Roses set as the debris was still not cleared when they took to the stage.

  During the first Guns N' Roses numbers there were crowd surges that flowed across the front of the audience and which led to a collapse in the crowd affecting about 15 people , Guns N' Roses were asked to stop and did so immediately, but unfortunately they began playing again before the problem was dealt with . Once the band began playing, the audience once again erupted into serious movement which led to a worse crowd collapse, this time involving around 35 or so people.

Black and white images taken from Gun's N' Roses set.

    Security attempted to clear the pile of bodies but were hampered by some people climbing onto their backs and jumping onto the pile of bodies apparently in an attempt to crowd surf closer to the band. More security people moved in, the band once again stopped playing , which allowed the area to be cordoned off and the situation was resolved, but not before two people had suffocated in the mud, which was four inches deep near the stage .

   The police initially wanted to call the event off but it was decided that may have caused more problems than it solved . Things were relatively calm until later on in the day, when, during David Lee Roths act , a security member flipped on seeing a girl in the audience faint . He climbed onstage and pleaded with the singer to stop the show, however , Roth was not aware that he was a security person and two of his bodyguards chucked the hapless guard back into the pit , which caused some anger in the crowd.

After 1988 the following measures were taken

My name is Stuart Knowles,I designed and supervised the construction of the stage for this event, also 1986 and 1987 for Stagehire Concert Staging (which I owned) so I have a great deal of knowledge of this event.The arena was indeed altered and levelled which meant that the back of the stage was 6m high from the original ground level and was constructed on a steep slope with the stage height at arena level appx 3m high.This was all filled ground (to level off the area in front of the stage) so large aluminium trackway pads were placed under areas of high loading (under the system supporting the roof structure)..there are some interesting photos of this system under construction in the first HMSO guide to health safety and welfare at pop concerts and similar events, which I assisted in developing.The stage by the way was always broadly in the same position and if my memory serves me right was aligned with the third tree to the left of the (now removed) Dunlop Bridge. I hope this info is of some use, I have constructional drawings etc which may be of interest and various other items probably the site schedules and rigging plots etc.


Stuart Knowles

"British crowds tend to be more hectic, more insane."


Duff McKagan : Well, eh, I think our performance is kind of secondary to what's happening in the crowd. They have casualties here. Were you out there at all? I think I saw a casualty happen. It was really weird. It was really strange. We had to stop the show. The P.A. system is kind of screwed up and you don't get time to have a good sound check so we couldn't really hear ourselves but we pulled it off. I think we did a good show. But I'm still stunned at the size of the audience and what was happening up front. It was real scary. We all went like, "woah!"

MS: What was actually happening up there? I couldn't see.

DM: It was kids piled on kids horizontal on the ground. They were unconscious. And more people kept on falling on them. I saw them!

It took about 20 minutes to get everybody out. We stopped the show and they finally pulled the last couple of people out and I think they were dead. It was really weird. I saw no life in those bodies at all.

Megadeth © Dave Ingham

   Of course there was more music ,Megadeth and David Lee Roth went down well, as did Kiss, but it was Iron Maiden, (perhaps energised by the events earlier on in the day ), who stole the day by delivering one of their best ever shows, This was an interesting period for Maiden, perhaps their most fertile , as they attempted to break their stereotypical sound when they released their 1986 album "Somewhere in Time". Although not a concept album, most of the songs used the subject as their theme. More importantly, the band sound changed, as they introduced synthesized guitars in the mix .The new sound was generally accepted by fans and the album sold well.

    The band followed this album in 1988 with "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". This WAS a concept album featuring a story about a mythical child who possessed supernatural powers. Synths were used in this release. Much of the Donington set featured material from this and the previous album , accompanied by impressive projections that visualised the narrative of the songs.

    The only video that seems to be circulating of Maiden's set is that which was projected on the remaining screen and is not of great quality , but it does show the band on more than solid form .

Can we get a witness ?

We need more info on this and the other Donington festivals, most especially more photos and personal recollections so c'mon head bangers, get yer photos out and fire up what's left of the aging brain cells .Send your recollections and scans to us NOW ! !! Contact us


Watch this space for more Monsters of Rock pages to be added in the next month or two - we will eventually go up till 1996, meanwhile if you have material from any years up to 1996 , send it along and we will add it as we build the pages.

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